• The high rate of religious killings in many parts of the country is worrisome. In this piece, ROSEMUND OFOEGBU CHINEDU examines the controversial issue and captures views by some Nigerians.

It is ironic that a good number of religious devotees often practice the opposite of what is being preached. Holy and sound religions admonish faithfuls that “thou shall not lie?”, thou shall not kill?” What about the famous quote: “love your neighbor as yourself?” If all these are true, why are people being killed because of their religious beliefs? Haven’t we already lost enough innocent souls from politically motivated crises in Nigeria? What about people who died from starvation? Do we also have to die for religious intolerance?

The inability of individual person to accept or accommodate other people’s different religious beliefs is a deadly social disease. This religious vice arises when the followers of most religions feel that their beliefs are true and that the beliefs of other groups are at least to some degree false. Faithfuls have always boasted of religious flexibility and tolerance for many years or tried to. But recently, it seems to have been shelved as gruesome stories relating to religion rear their ugly heads frequently, causing loss of lives as a result of insecurity in the country.
Religious intolerance usually originates from the perceived superiority of one religion over the others. Nigerian religious system is saturated with fanatism, which can either be intra-religious (between the same religious sects) or inter-religious (between different religious sects).
Conflicts pertaining to one’s faith can be highly attributed to over exaggeration of a particular religion. It is usually fuelled by teaching of wrong doctrine, misinformation and hatred. All these result in a faceoff or religion-related crises that may lead to death.
When the custodians of a particular faith fail to educate their followers properly on sound doctrines that promote spiritual, social and moral health of the society. Some clerics are of the view that there is a need for Christians and Muslims to exercise caution, especially on issues that are controversial or sensitive to the interest of members of respective faith.
Some religions deliberately unleash hatred on other members of the society that are not members of their fate or share similar views. Thus when they are faced with opposition, they resort to violence which is often fatal.
Take for instance the death of Bridget Agbahime in Kano, who was murdered for alleged blasphemy against Islam and also Mrs Eunice Elisha of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Kubwa, Abuja, who didn’t know she was going to meet her end when she went out for her usual morning cry. Legal opinions have it that, while the above examples may be considered criminal acts, there are largely considered to have religious undertones.
The religious sector of the country has always highlighted and emphasized the need for religious tolerance, compassion, compatibility and peaceful co-existence amongst one another. Nigeria is a secular country going by the constitution. What’s more, the multiple religions in the country give every citizen the right opportunity to choose which faith is convenient. It is equally true that the two major religions in this country rob off on each other. For example, the Cherubim and Seraphim church in Osun graciously offered their church premises for Muslims to observe their Ei-del Fitri festivities that just occurred. Similarly, Muslims show kindness to their Christian counterparts in many parts of the country.
“Religious intolerance cannot stop if those in charge of the two major religions do not stop this craze of trying to make people believe they are the saints while others are devils. I mean people keep associating killings with Islam. It is not true. Which religion will out rightly tell its adherents to go and be killing people? That’s absurd. I’m a Christian and I know we are getting killed every day, but we can’t just say it is because we are not Muslims. I have Muslim friends who I comfortably discuss religion with and actually enjoy doing it. I believe those people killing for religion are just brainwashed by someone more knowledgeable than them. The heads of every religion should let their people know that there are other religions in this country and everyone has the right to choose the religion to practice”, said Mr. Kola David.
Another concerned citizen, Mr Abdul said “This has been going on in this country for years and Christians have always been the victims. Personally, I think we need a revolutionary government that should make stringent laws for religious practices. I mean, most times these people go scot free and that is not fair at all. Some rational Muslims, like me, do not like how our religion is being dragged into the mud, always associated with violence. Islam does not preach violence so those extremists should stop putting us in a bad light”.
Another person who simply gave her name as Cynthia told her story of how her cousin was a victim of religious crisis. In her words, “My cousin died in the hands of some Hausa men because he confronted them when one of them tried to make a pass on his sister. He was killed because he told them they were not alike. That statement cost him his live at 24. All I have to say is, Muslims should accept that their religion is not the only one around and try to be more accommodating. People are not cows that you can kill anytime simply because they hold different religious views.
“Religious heads should come together and find a permanent solution to this. That the other religions are not retaliating now does not mean they can’t retaliate tomorrow. We are seeking for peace and coexistence irrespective of our religions. A lot of people carry out these atrocities with confidence because it has to do with religion, so they believe they are doing the right thing. Re-educate those ones that shows signs of fanatism in them and appropriate punishment should be duly meted out to culprits”, he said.
Another embittered Nigerian, Sam, gave an emotional statement saying “Can somebody out there tell me how many more souls will have to play victims to these foolish actions of some poorly informed religious extremists? This should stop. We have enough problems facing us already. People can hardly eat. And when they resort to their religion for help, you kill them? Haba! Gakisya, I’m a Christian from a Muslim home, but my parents never taught us to resort to violence when people speak against Islam. If he did, I think I would be a dead man by now”.
Quoting some famous persons on religious intolerance like Federico Mayor, he said “It is intolerable that the world’s religions – founded on the values of love and compassion – should provide a pretext for the expression of hatred and violence”. Also Blaise Pascal said “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction” and lastly, Adrian Rodgers said “Never, never, never join a movement that persecute people because of their faith”.
Stakeholders are of the view that there is a need for religious authorities both in the church and mosque, as well as law enforcement agencies to put their foot on the ground in this delicate matter with a view to tackling the situation.

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