When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was prepared by the Commission on Human Rights of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations after the World War II, the main objective of the intervention was to make different peoples of the world live and let live. This objective was actually aimed at emphasising the basic freedoms that human beings must have in normal and desired circumstances in order to promote peaceful coexistence, including their rights to their chosen religious beliefs.
In spite of this provision and against the teachings of the revealed religions, the world has witnessed a lot of religion-motivated violence in recent times that it is now simple for the simple-minded and the simpleton to conclude that religion is the problem of humanity. This thesis formed the basis of many works since the beginning of this century, especially Richard Dawkins’ “The God of Delusion” (2006) and Christopher Hitchens “God is Not Great: How Religions Poison Everything” (2007), among many others.
In two clear cases of terrorism within the last two months for instance, deadly attacks were launched on Muslims during Friday prayers in New Zealand on March 15, 2019 while during service, coordinated attacks were launched on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday on April 21, 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, leaving behinds trails of blood, tears and losses. Those behind the attacks are terrorists, criminals and enemies of God and humanity!
But is religion actually the enemy of peace and peaceful coexistence as some would want to believe or is our reality borne out of the failure to imbibe religious values? It was in an attempt to answer this question, especially within the Nigerian context where religion is a contentious issue, that the Gladdened Point Foundation (Al-Mubashiruun) in partnership with the Universal Peace Federation organised an important workshop on “National Peaceful Coexistence: Using ‘the Cross’ and ‘the Crescent’ as Great Assets” at the National Merit Award House, Maitama, Abuja, on Sunday, April 14, 2019.
As I said at the workshop, where I spoke on the theme, the fundamental principle of all religions, especially Islam and Christianity, referred to with their metonyms, “the crescent” and “the cross”, is love as well as doing good. It is love that makes people respect, understand and accommodate others. Those without love in their hearts cannot be followers of revealed religions.
However, love does not just sprout in an arid heart, it requires fertile soil nourished with enlightenment or understanding. Without understanding or education, the purpose of religion is defeated; without knowing and applying the teachings of Islam and Christianity, people are vulnerable to being manipulated by the enemies of God who often appear in religious garbs to indoctrinate and incite their followers against others.
The Golden Rule in the Bible states that you should do to others as you would like them do unto you (Matthew 7:12). Everything one resents or detests should not be done to another person, regardless of his face or race, creed or breed, region or religion. The Qur’an avers that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Q.2:256) and that “to you is your religion and to me mine” (Q109:6). Everyone should just be good and goodness will cover the entire society.
There is no religion in whoever does not correlate conviction with conduct. Nigerians have to let the teachings and values of “the crescent” and “the cross” reflect in their character, especially how they deal with one another across ethnic, religious and political fault-lines. We should live and let live and we should love others as we love ourselves because this is what our religions teach us.
What are the religious values we have in our religions that Nigerians need to be embrace? These are Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility. Others are Generosity, Gratitude, Contentment, Courtesy, Purity, Good Speech, Respect, Wisdom, Tolerance, Justice, Truthfulness, Mercy, Dignity, Courage, Hope, Repentance, Patience, Perseverance, Discipline/Self-restraint, Balance/Moderation, Prudence, Unity, Frugality, Sincerity, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Honesty, Fairness, Sincerity, Spirituality and Faith.
All these translate to righteousness, one overarching virtue many of us Nigerians lack, in spite of our dubious claim to religiosity. It is high time we practised religion with righteousness. It is high time we all imbibed the philosophy of live and let live.