An attached list of attendees indicated that almost every Who’s Who in the Northern religious and political establishments – Muslim and Christian – was there. But despite the massive temptation to mention names of the big ones, it may be subjective as many others, equally important, may have to be omitted. Suffice it to say that dignitaries from all the flashpoints in the North were there, as well as many leading Islamic and Christian clergy from the South to ‘help’ the North along this Dialogue Road.
Professor Baikie had said last week: “Meaningful dialogue happens when, first, the conversation turns to our religious differences…[and] we cease to be embarrassed by the particular;…second, interreligious exchanges become compelling when my colleagues…give expression to their religious passions…[and] share with me their deepest beliefs and strangest customs, no matter how radically other they are from my own…third, when we can discuss what we all know to be true, but which we rarely say: that, in some ways at least, we all believe in the exceptionalism of our own traditions.
Or, as Professor Tabiu added: “For how long can we watch human beings being slaughtered in hundreds, whether by insurgents, or by communal and religious bigots or indeed by the security agents of the State – recurrent negation of the compassion and humaneness that we stand for as religious people? Wouldn’t all these violence and destruction one day engulf all of us? How do we assure ourselves that we, our families and our loved ones are immune? As religious people we are not helpless. Our religions have equipped us with the values, knowledge and skills and guidance to change the situation.
Then a few days later, the Column got a rather long but substantial rejoinder on the Conference from a senior academic colleague Professor David Irefin (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Department of Economics at Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State. For space, the reaction had to be excerpted, but the main gist is here presented. Enjoy.
An examination of the content of Bala Muhammad’s article on ‘The Sultan, The Cardinal…’ reveals one obvious fact, that Nigeria is in dire need of peace. It has also shown the genesis behind the Federal Government of Nigeria’s support for the establishment of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in September 1999 as a response to the absence of peaceful coexistence among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Prior to the election of Pastor Oritsejafor as CAN President, it can be inferred from the article that members of NIREC were at least organizing meetings including inter-faith conferences to resolve their differences and lay foundation for sustainable peace.
At fourteen, NIREC has failed woefully to lay the foundation for sustainable peace and religious harmony among its members and their followers. The question now is this: Are these Kings and Priests recognized by the angels, spirits, and the celestial bodies? Are we also ignorant of the fact that these earthly Kings and Priests appointed by man are the cause of the tribulations, sorrows, hatred, envy, wars and covetousness which have filled the world of man? They cannot rule the flesh and the spirit and are not the custodian of peace.
In the midst of this failure, The Sultan and the Cardinal appeared not to be tired but have rather revived the machinery for peaceful coexistence by initiating a mini interfaith conference ahead of the general elections in the year 2015. We thank God for this bold move which is timely in our attempt to build a just and equitable Nigeria.
For the purpose of this rejoinder, let us assume that the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1999 had a correct diagnosis of Nigeria’s problem; that is, absence of “peace”. Let us also assume that a problem may have a unique, multiple or no solutions. Let us further assume that in the Nigerian case, there exists a unique optimum solution. The question to ask is where lies the solution to Nigeria’s problems?
The most unfortunate thing for Nigeria is the fact that peace is not a commodity to be bought in the goods market. It can also not be found in arrangements or institutions built on falsehood and deceit. No man or institution of man, not even the United Nations, can give peace. It has not been recorded in history that man, religion or institutions and government organized by man ever gave peace. Do not forget that the history of man has been the history of misfortune, oppression, deprivation, misery, woes and what have you. This shows that peace cannot be earthly but has its origin in the heavens.
Peace simply put is God. And God is peace. If Nigeria desires peace, we must go beyond NIREC and the organization of interfaith conferences. This is because no man or government in history has been the custodian of peace; not even the powerful Pharaoh, or the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, was able to give peace. Furthermore, no religion had ever been known with sustainable peace since Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden.
Communal society, slavery society, feudal society, even democracy are not known to have sustainable peace. Peace eluded man since our first parents Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden.
There is a wise saying that ‘when a woman delivers in the market place, there is no need to ask her to close her legs’. The current state of the Nigerian nation requires her to seek for the black goat while it is still daytime because the night cometh when no one can see.
Presently, all the countries in the world have no peace. It does not make sense for us to seek for peace from man, United Nations or the mighty America. The question is where will they find peace? It is a known fact that one cannot give what he does not have. What is the implication of this conclusion? Do we then say the Nigerian case is a hopeless one? God forbid!
Let us seek God. Let us set aside pride, arrogance and self-deceit and embrace the Truth. There is a big gap between what you preach and what you do. It is obviously ironic that politicians, traditional rulers and religious leaders, who by implication are the cause of our current woes and miseries, are now turning around to provide solution. What NIREC failed to achieve for these 14 years will definitely be possible with God! He did it for South Africa when armed struggle failed. He did it for the blacks in America by making Obama President and, of recent, He ordered peaceful resolution to the Syrian chemical weapon crisis.
Forget about your ego, religion, tribe, position, arrogance and seek His face so that it may be well with Nigeria. Let the peace of God abide with the good people of Nigeria now and forevermore, Amen.