Dialogues, negotiations needed to curb religious crises – Dons

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Experts have called on religious bodies in Nigeria to embrace inter-faith dialogues and negotiations as a means of curbing ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.

According to a statement released by Veritas University on Tuesday, the experts made this known at a round table organised by the Centre for Peace and Development, Veritas University, and the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.

Speaking during the event, a professor of Islamic thoughts and gender studies, University of Abuja, Rafatu Abdulhamid, reiterated the need for religious leaders to preach peaceful co-existence among their followers.

He said, “Since it is practically impossible to coerce the citizens to practice only the same religion, the only option available is to face the reality on ground, which is to learn to live together in peace and harmony. The way to achieve this is to open the door to dialogue with commitment.

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“Without peace, there cannot be stability, progress, and prosperity, all of which go a long way to make a nation take its pride of place in the committee of nations.

“The conclusion now becomes urgent that the government should develop more political will to ensure that peace is achieved in the country. Further, religious leaders should sensitize their followers on the need for peaceful coexistence. Religious groups should be made to lay more emphasis on the common denominators among them rather than their differences. For instance, moral teachings are largely similar in both Islam and Christianity. Government should make necessary sacrifices and take the required steps to improve the quality of life for all citizens.

Also speaking at the event, the Head of Department, Religion and African Culture, Adekunle Ajasin University, Professor Benson Igboin, noted that Nigeria is currently undergoing a destructive mode.

“In the destructive mode that Nigeria is presently undergoing, talk is important at the political and religious levels. The position that the unity of the country is nonnegotiable is self-serving and does not reflect the reality and demand for talk. On the religious plane, talk is also indispensable. But who talks and how the talk takes place are pertinent because talk can bring about peace or aggravate intolerant reactions.

“We have argued that many conversational encounters have been confused with dialogue in Nigeria. In a ‘talk to’ situation, listeners are perceived as active receptors and passive respondents.

“Taken into a religious conversational mode, one religious leader may assume that he or she must be listened to, and everything said taken as true.

“In reality, the talker is not always correct; he stands on a portal that is not entirely free from subjective mode. Debate and argument regard others as opponents who must be won or convinced to shift the meaning of what is being discussed.

“In some instances, so-called inter-religious dialogue is characterised by debate and argument that leave people more hurt than healed. The forceful language with which religious leaders sometimes express their experiences depicts the tone of debate and argument. This is more so because dialogue should not only be thought of in its formal arrangement.

“Negotiation also has its inherent limitations as a form of conversation. While it does not regard participants as brothers, it also has recourse to power and politicking that have been the bane of a fruitful dialogue in the country.

“A sense of brotherhood is urgently needed in Nigerian interfaith relations and dialogue.”

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