We Need One Another To Survive – Asogor Ruth Likita
“Hatred and intolerance are destabilizing when Governments crack down on religious expression, when politicians or public try to use religious bigotry and cause discrimination based on religious identity, they embolden extremists and fuel sectarian strife. It is therefore, our core conviction that religious freedom and respect for religious diversity is an essential element for a peaceful society. And it’s an element of successful democracy as well, because people who see that their rights and dignity are respected are more likely to have a stake in the success of their country and their society” (Susan Johnson, 2011)
The prohibition of religious discrimination is enshrined in all core international human rights treaties. States have the duty to refrain from discriminating against individuals or groups based on their religion and belief (obligation to respect); they are also required to prevent such discrimination, including from non-State actors (obligation to protect); and must take steps to ensure that, in practice, every person in their territory enjoys all human rights without discrimination of any kind (obligation to fulfill it).
Religious tolerance is the ability to hold in high esteem, respect, and value someone’s religion or allowing other people to think or practice other religions and beliefs.
Religious tolerance can be promoted if people respect and tolerate each other. Children should be taught from a young age that Christianity and Islam for instance attest both common human heritage and the responsibility of each individual to purse his/her own spiritual course with all sense of responsibility, while showing love to neighbors and promoting the well being of humankind.
Intolerance runs counter to the law of love and hinders common good. If tolerance is rooted in love, intolerance is often rooted in the cultural and historical antagonisms associated with religious traditions. Antagonisms are often born out of ignorance and limited understanding.
If we all know this, where is there widespread violence and devastation in the name of religion in the North East?
Incomplete teachings on reciprocity are one reason; most faith groups have done a poor job conveying the range of the ethics to their followers. In practice, congregations often interpret the Golden Rule as applying only to fellow believers. It is often seen as not extending to followers of other faith groups within the same religion, to followers of other religions, and to secularists such as agnostics, Atheists, humanists, etc.
The attitude of exclusivity by some religions is an issue as well. Most religions teach that they alone are the sole true religion and that they uniquely possess the only true knowledge of god. This implies that followers of other religions are in error, and are worshiping a false god. Some faith groups even teach that followers of other religions worship Satan or demons.
Many (public) schools do not teach the rudiments of world religions, perhaps because of a misunderstanding of the principle of separation of church and state, or out of fear for negative reactions by parents. Faith groups generally do not include meaningful studies of other religions in their youth education classes, perhaps out of the fear of legitimizing other religions or out of concern that their children might discover another religion to be more attractive.
Seeing the world through the prism of dualism can be a problem as well. Dualism is a major tenet of religion but the concept that antagonistic forces of good and evil rule the world can be very limiting. Religious subscribers often take on the us vs. them stance, believing that anyone not of their sect and religion is bad, while they are good. This lack of knowledge is a major source of conflict around the world, not just in Nigeria.
Finally, inferring that collective punishment is just is a major source of violence and large-scale strife amongst religions. It is also a major source of intolerance everywhere. One expression of collective punishment is that if a person commits a crime, it is fair to retaliate against an entire community who share some common denominating factors with the perpetrator. These factors could be religion, skin color, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. The devastation in the North East amongst other factors can be traced to insurgents punishing entire communities for embracing Western education, for instance.
Embracing and imbibing the golden rule is critical to building a culture of tolerance and acceptance in our communities and states. We say charity begins at home; parents are responsible for the doctrines their children live out, and must show leadership by teaching understanding and empathy for other religions. They must encourage openness and curiosity of the mind, providing safe spaces for their children and wards to learn about other religions and counter any extremist assumptions.