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Interfaith Dialogue ( 12 Jul 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Misuse of Religion in Nigeria


By Chiedu Uche Okoye

July 11, 2014

Man is a religious being. And, he seeks for explanations for phenomenal happenings on earth through religious inquiry. When we see the endless repetition of sunrise and sunset, we are filled with awe. The development of human embryos in the women’s wombs and the nature’s orderly systems of doing things are reasons why people believe that a supreme spiritual being created the earth. So, millions of people on earth today believe that the existence of God is a reality. In Nigeria, we’ve closet atheists. But, they risk being called unprintable names if they reveal their religious beliefs.

Nigeria is filled with intensely religious people who believe that a transcendent being is overlooking and overseeing human activities on earth. Nigerians are predominantly Christians and Muslims; however, we’ve practitioners of African traditional religion in Nigeria who are the custodians of our native cultures. But, the colonization of Africa by white imperialists nearly obliterated African traditional religion.

Every religion is a way by which people try to reach their God or gods. All religions are good as they do not preach hatred and blood-letting. But, some people feel that their religion is superior to others. Then, they will embark on winning converts to their religion through coercive ways. Now, religious bigotry and intolerance cause tension between Muslims and Christians in cosmopolitan cities where adherents of Islam and Christianity live together.

Our nation has a sad history of religious violence that claimed thousands of human lives in the past. The memories of the maitatsine religious uprising are still fresh on our minds. One Akaluka was decapitated and his head hoisted on a pole for allegedly desecrating the Quran. Muslims and Christians still clash in northern states of Nigeria.

Again, Boko Haram  insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country is linked to their misinterpretation and twisting of the Quran. They want to Islamize Nigeria and enthrone Islamic theocracy in it. Consequently, the Boko Haram members who are with sanguinary proclivities have embarked on a killing spree, and our security personnel cannot rein them in. But, do the Islamic religious codes and laws encourage and support bloodletting and violence being perpetrated by Muslims?

It is sad that Nigerians are intoxicated by imported religions. But, the doctrinal teachings of these religions are based on love. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, brought the message of love to us. Did Prophet Mohammed, the messenger of Allah, instruct his followers to kill non-Muslims or infidels? Sadly, owing to nuances or differences in the teachings of the Muslim sects of Shia and Sunni, the Muslims in some countries are killing one another. And, some Pentecostal pastors in Nigeria with warped minds have twisted the teachings of Jesus Christ to achieve their ends.

Some Churches have commercialized and monetized Christianity. They reduce the entire teachings of Jesus Christ to one thing: a means of making money.  So, some Christians that have indoctrinated their members with prosperity message and teaching about miracles believe that pastors are vessels through which God can visit them. Many who believe are deceived.

Today, women whose hairs are muffled in scarves are a common sight. They do visit pastors for prophecies and prayers regarding their childlessness. As our health system is dysfunctional, women with the problem of infertility are seeking solution to their problems outside the hospitals. Often, we are regaled with tales about how some ladies slept with prophets and pastors so as to become pregnant. These female desperadoes risk contracting STD in their bid to meet societal expectations and fulfill a cultural imperative.

But, it is an indisputable fact that religion has been put to bad use in Nigeria. No religion is bad, but the practitioners of diverse religions have distorted and twisted the teachings of their religions to achieve their selfish ends.

The onerous and cardinal duty of Muslim clerics and Christian ministers is to re-mould the character of people. But, are they performing this cardinal responsibility? No. While some Muslim clerics are radicalising and brainwashing their members to become suicide bombers, some pastors are hoodwinking naïve people in order to fleece them of their wealth.

Our current security challenges and economic backwardness are partly caused by the failure of religious leaders to lead by good examples and effect moral regeneration among us. Consequently, Nigeria is going to the dogs. Religion can be a force for national development in Nigeria, if our religious leaders can turn a new leaf, re-think their bad ways and play the roles we expect them to play.