Religion is quite a volatile phenomenon which must be treated with every sense of respect and sensitivity and especially in a multi-faith society like Nigeria where there is a fusion of three different religious worldviews in Nigeria. With the exception of a few sector of the Nigerian populace who identifies themselves as atheist, the Nigerian populace is greatly affiliated with one religion or the other in which they hold a firm belief in the supremacy of a Divine Being who they regard as holy, sacred and numinous. These beliefs in the spiritual is often accorded with various several objects of faiths or values which holds to the various religious adherent a great deal of significance. And when these items of faiths either tangible or intangible are toyed with or abused in any way which is not in wholesome with the tenets of their respective faith system.
Within the African cum Nigerian realities, religion is more than an association of people, it is an institution; an identity which people clings to for many reasons, many of which cannot be understood through reason.
The Nigerian society has been plagued with various forms of religious violence since its inception as a sovereign state which has seen to the destruction of properties, the loss of lives which in the long run result to the underdevelopment of these areas. There have been various cases where little and seemingly insignificant issues within people of different faiths in Nigeria resort to fighting and other form of violence act with one another.
It is as a result of this that it is been encouraged that people of different faith must come to respect one another and not engage in any activities that may or will instill violence.
The news of a certain Nigerian who came to the limelight as a result of his chosen profession, porn star, Tobiloba Jolaoso and five other were arrested in Ilesha Correctional Center over the alleged shooting of ‘sex movie’ at Osun Osogbo shrine.
The police prosecutor, ASP John Idoko told the court that all the defendants person and others now at large on July 25, 2020, at about 12:30 PM at Osun-Osogbo shrine contrived among themselves, act lewd spectacle which seemed on the face of it to bear pornographic pictures of young girls who were half-naked and circulated same with the understanding that the possessors of Osun Osogbo traditional ground or any other class of persons especially within Osun State will consider an affront to their religious belief.
He further indicated that they collaborated amongst themselves to commit an offense, causing a break of the peace at Ataoja Estate Police Station by damaging a window.
The aforementioned case is a typical example for the disregard of the shared values identity of a group of people which must be avoided at all cost. In other areas within the Nigerian realities where the religious sensitivity of people living in such areas is high, acts like this has the capacity to incite a strong and hard to solve religious crises.
In the words of the late J.S Mbiti, he stated that Africans are religiously and notoriously religious; this description of the African people which includes the Nigerian society is a pointer to the fact that religion plays a vital importance in the daily affairs of the African man. The belief that there is an unseen supreme and divine power that watches over the affairs of men and dictates the course of their existence is a strong one. Any attempt to disrupt or undermine this or abuse anything that has to do with these religious beliefs or anything that pertains to it is always met with stern faces and is strongly advised against.
In the light of these, it is often important and pertinent that we as humans respect the religious beliefs of others as the Nigerian constitution makes it a lawful for Nigerians to have the freedom of religious association. There are certain highway codes which must be employed by all and sundry to ensure that people of different faiths living together in a multi-faith society are expected to imbibe these highway codes for the sake of peaceful living and harmonious co-existence.
One of these highway codes is respect which has been explained earlier, when relating with people of other faith, it is important that you respect them and also respect any other thing that has to do with their religion. The mentality of religious exclusiveness or particularity must not come to play. Any attempt to go against these principles has a higher degree of potency to cause or instill violence. Furthermore, there are other principles or highway codes which people needs to embrace to ensure a peaceful co-existence, these are openness and empathy. While the major emphasis is on respect or reverence, Nigerians must come to the proper understanding that religion and religious phenomena are not only spiritual and powerful, it is also sacred and people must not use them for any other debasing activities. We must bear it in mind that religion is highly volatile especially if badly managed by the various institution which is meant to administer it.
By Marcus Amudipe