Atheist Society of Nigeria

We seek a Nigeria where public policies are based on rational reasoning and critical thinking and not influenced by religious beliefs

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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Violence Hath Risen: Minor Exegesis on Religious Intolerance in Nigeria

According to Leadership, one of the major sources of troubles within Nigeria society, increasing in the current period, is the religious intolerance pervasive throughout it.

As noted by the reportage, there is a high rate of killings, of murders, due to the level of religious intolerance within the nation, which is seen as “worrisome.” Some might see this not only as worrisome but also as life-threatening intolerance.

The insurgency of Boko Haram has been and continues to be a significant source of discontent and religiously motivated violence in Nigeria.

“More than ever before, contemporary Nigerian society is beset with religious conflicts that continues to threaten the fabric of the country’s unity,” Leadership reported, “To a large extent one can say that Nigeria of the past could boast of religious flexibility and tolerance for many years but all that is lost, after gruesome stories relating to religion continue to rear their ugly heads, resulting in the loss of lives.”

With this rise in violence and fall in tolerance, the conclusion about religious conflicts is multiple, of which the solutions need to be numerous as well. We simply have too many issues surrounding fundamentalist ideologies leading to violence.

But they have multiple sources; it is not a situation of a single cause. However, a significant cause comes from the religious, texts, disagreements between communities, and the penchant for violence in the history of the faiths. These cannot be ignored as factors.

Leadership stated, “One can say that a curious feature of today’s Nigerian society is religious intolerance, most especially in the north and the middle belt regions of the country. In these places, religious fanaticism has been hidebound and its spread is unbridled.”

This “fanaticism” is bound to interpretations of faith informing the practice of the religion. Now, several innocent Nigerian civilians or citizens have been caught in the midst of the violence as it is “unleashed.” Bauchi, Benue and Gombe, Damaturu, and Maiduguri are embroiled in this for the last 4 years, which is a non-trivial amount of time for the violence to be occurring.

It is the activities of extremist and terrorist interpretations that produce the terrifying activities and actions of extremists and terrorists like Boko Haram. People are becoming less and less patient with the religions of their neighbors.

In that, the extremist versions of religions not only have the direct terrible effects with the murders of innocents, or the torture and so on of them, but also the influence on the ordinary religious Nigerian citizenry to become less and less tolerant of one another.
This is the basis for the second wave of intolerance falling out from the centralized activity of the true extremists and terrorists found in fundamentalist religious groups.  

“In the face of this, the national president, Two-faith Interreligious Organisation, Mr. Hillary Iheanacho, believes that the future of the country which is in the hands of the youths, has to be redirected to healthier ways of looking at issues to ensure the survival of the country,” Leadership explained.

Mr. Iheanacho is working with the campaign in the secondary schools in order to make the young more sensitive to the real concerns of the society in addition to the need for more peace within it.

Leadership argued for freedom of religion and freedom of belief as important values to uphold in this work to prevent extremism, stating:

...whether one is religious or not, every human being should be interested in the protection of religious freedom since religious intolerance poses a great threat to human rights. Human rights apply to all irrespective of colour, gender, sex, religion, health status, dress, socio-economic status, etc. This threat is not simply because of the specific acts of fundamentalist groups which may be recognised as concrete violations of human rights standards; the real threat comes from the political aims or the political project that is at the heart of fundamentalisms, which is essentially to transform the way identities are ascribed and negotiated.

The respect for the religion of one’s neighbor, and the freedom from religion for other neighbors is a crucial and, indeed, fundamental human right and freedom, and, as noted, among the most important as this has been such a central aspect of so many people’s lives for centuries.

For Nigerians, as with all nationalities, it becomes no less important to uphold these values as universal human values, regardless of one’s background. With the fundamentalists, the humanity of someone is limited to full humanity for those within the fundamentalist group and then declining human status for the other interpretations of the religion as not pure enough or of the other religions as simply misguided and wrong, so much so as to need to be punished by the pure: them.

“Professor Abdelfattah Amor, special rapporteur on religious intolerance, of the UN Commission on Human Rights, considers that ‘no religion is safe from violation.’ It is quite likely, then, that intolerance and prejudice are commonly faced by some religions where you live,” Leadership reported, “Confirming these fears, the director of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, United Kingdom, observed: ‘All evidence points to the conclusion that religious intolerance is increasing rather than decreasing in the modern world.’”

The perceived superiority of one’s religion over others, or non-religion or others for that matter, becomes the basis for the fanaticism and intolerance that leads to the horrific acts seen in the history of and in the current period of Nigeria society, where the increase in communication, respect, tolerance, and unified identity as human beings become the basis for combatting it.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

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