German economist Karl Marx’s celebrated dictum, “religion is the opium of the people” still resonates more than 170 years after it was made in 1843.
Religion has remained relevant, though sensitive and intoxicating.
“In the world, organised religion remains the most powerful force in society: more than 4.5 billion people (out of 7 billion) identify with one of the world’s four biggest religions, and that figure is rising,” says Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
In Nigeria, the volatility of religion has compelled governments at every level to find means and ways of dousing tension and ensuring peaceful co-existence among adherents of Islam and Christianity-the dominant religions.
African traditional religion, which has lost most its followers to Islam and Christianity, still creates its conflicts but these are dwarfed by Christian/Muslim dichotomy.
In this regard, inter-religious dialogues between Muslims and Christians have been established.
Regular dialogue between them has created a platform for representatives of the two major religions to meet and agree on how to ensure lasting peace and harmony in the country.
There is even an administrative office of Senior Special Assistant on Islamic and Christian Affairs at the Presidency, with the responsibility to constantly explore the call for peace through organising seminars, symposiums and conferences.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhamadu Sa’ad Abubakar IV, who is also president of The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), and the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, constantly dialogue and issue joint statements on pressing religious issues in Nigeria.
Lieutenants to the presidents of CAN and NSCIA are not left out in dialoguing as a way of proffering solutions to religious crises in Nigeria, more so with the advent of the militant Boko Haram sect that has been terrorizing some parts of Nigeria, bombing public places, including mosques and churches, under a grim blood-letting insurgency.
The Nigerian constitution entrenches the freedom of worship for every Nigerian and maintains secularity.
But, has the dialogues been effective in creating the needed atmosphere of being “ones brother’s keeper?”
Most. Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), says Nigerians should embrace peace, irrespective of their different religions.
Kaigama says that peace can only be achieved through personal orientation and cultivation.
“Multiplying security agents on the streets can only bring about artificial peace. Even if we supply five soldiers to every family in Nigeria, peace cannot be achieved in total.
“Peace is neither enforced nor decreed. It is cultivated in the heart, inspired and taught at home, schools and places of worship,” he adds.
The Director of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Msgr Gabriel Osu, says that until the identity of members of the Boko Haram sect is known, every call for dialogue and ceasefire in the raging insurgency would be a mission in futility.
He says every religion preaches peace and the sacredness of human life.
“It is one thing to dialogue about peace, it is another thing to be sincere in our intention and approach.
“It is the duty of religious leaders to continue to preach and uphold peace among their followers.
Also, the Spiritual Head, Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, Olumba Olumba Obu, urges Nigerians to give up ideologies, and abstain from self-indulgence.
He wants Nigerians to always show love to other human beings and pray for peace in the country.
“If we must achieve peace, we must give up hatred, strife, self- seeking, condemnation and hypocrisy.
“If we shun selfishness and embrace selflessness, we will surely become one with God, and it is only then we will become the salt of the earth.
“No nation can prosper and develop without love, tolerance and peace among its people,” he says.
Contributing, Imam Mustapha Adebello, an Islamic Studies lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), says it is only unity that would put an end to the challenges of insecurity facing the country.
“There is power in division of labour—‘united we stand, divided we fall’; every religion teaches love, harmony, and peace. Without love, there will not be peace in the country,” he says.
Also, the Amir, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Dr Mashhud Adenrele, says Nigerians should make dialogue a positive agent for the attainment of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence for the attainment of national development.
Adenrele urges Christian and Muslim leaders to promote and enlighten the masses on the need for a united front against the nation’s problems.
“God accepts the prayers of brothers who are at peace with one another. We should realize the imperative of mutual cooperation to promote social justice and equity,” he says.
Mr Bola Agboola, Director of Lagos Operations, Federal Radio Cooperation of Nigeria, says dialogue is an undisputable vehicle to national peace, security and sustainable development in Nigeria.
He notes that in view of our peculiarities as a nation, harmonious co-existence is essential to the realization of the dreams of the founding fathers of the nation.
“It is high time Nigerians truthfully practiced the principals of love, peace, sacrifice, honesty and selfishness as preached by the two religions.
“Nigeria is a gift from God; every Nigerian has an obligation to treasure the gift. This is perhaps what the founders of inter-faith groups thought when they initiated dialogue,” he says.
Dialogues makes for better understanding, even within a family or mere friends.
In history, almost all bitter wars have ended on agreements preceded by dialogues.
The Nigerian experience will not be an exception. Hence, inter-religious dialogue must be sustained and even expanded.

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