In ideal country, religion is a veritable instrument of peace, love, morality, justice, unit and social control, but in Nigeria, it is the reverse because those in political class blend religion with politics and the ignorant masses follow the same step in creating havoc in the name of religion.
If we hope for continue existence of the Nigeria, there is need for the re-orientation of the masses on the content of the constitution, politics and religious beliefs to enable them distinguish between right and wrong,
Above all, political and religious leaders should encourage national development by placing the nation above any selfish interest. This can be done by championing the course of peaceful co-existence for the interest of national development, because peace is an asset, which commands international respect for the nation wherever it exists, moreover, no meaningful development can take place in an environment of bitterness, rancor confusion as a result of so called religious conflicts.
Religion: Suggestions for Unity in Diversity in a Multi-Religious State-Nigeria
The strives for sustainable development in Nigeria is ideal but will remain a mirage if the issues of religious conflicts are not diplomatically addressed as they remain cogs on the wheel on the national development. For unity in diversity, these steps can be taken:
- Dialogue: Dialogue should be used to resolve any form of misunderstanding among the religious bodies in the country. It will help to improve the understanding of the people on the issue of disagreement. Ezeme (2007) corroborated this view as he stated that mutual discussion called dialogue is the surest means of addressing the issues, which divide us. The importance of dialogue on the issue of religious intolerance cannot be overemphasized, this is why the Vatican secretary for non-Christians in (Chukwulozie (1986, p. 135) noted that:
Dialogue makes us look on others in a new light. We must not consider them as enemies, we have to overthrow, nor as disciples we have to teach or indoctrinate …, but as companions with whom we wish to share as friends and as equals.
Definitely, dialogue in religious issues will help Nigerians understand themselves better and of how best to develop the nation.
- Religious leader should exhibit great maturity in handling issues that may degenerate to religious crises as they command great respect from the congregation, as such, they should advice their subject not to be involved in violent actions whenever there is any disagreement. This is why chidli (2006) noted that if Imams and custodians of Islamic faith eschew bitterness and expound positive practice enshrine in the holy book to their ward and children, peaceful co-existence with other races and religion will be enthroned. In the same manner, they should emphasize the areas of similarities in religions rather than the areas of differences, which often mislead the followers.
- The Ministry of Religious Affairs should be established in the country both at federal and states levels, to oversees the matters concerning religion. (Ezeme, 207) noted that such ministry will monitor religious nip in the bud sensitive issue before they escalate to uncontrollable heights. The ministry should be manned by peace loving Nigerians and notable religious leaders who are not biased on religious principles and dogmas.
- The Center for Ecumenical Studies should be established at least one in every geo-political zone of Nigeria. The curriculum should incorporate the major teaching and principles of beliefs of the three major religions in the country. when our children from religious groups are trained in the centers, it will greatly improve our understanding on religious issue and consequently ameliorate religious conflict.
- Religion should not be taken as a criterion for appointment into political positions, promotion in the places of work, admission into various institutions of learning, transfer of staff, award of scholarships and contracts to contractors. Rather the principle of meritocracy should be our watch word.
- As religion is one of the aspects of life incorporated in the fundamental human right of the citizens, there is need that it should be treated as private affair and the citizens should be allowed to enjoy the privilege. This calls for both federal and state governments to take off their hands completely in support of any religious group rather they should uphold the principle of secularity of our dear nation by creating a favourable environment for every religious group to practice their faith freely.
- The perpetrators of religious crises should be brought to book accordingly to serve as deterrent to others who may still have the intension to do same in future. On this, no person should be spared as longs as the persons contributed to the crises irrespective of the social class.