INTERNATIONAL DAY COMMEMORATING THE VICTIMS OF ACTS OF VIOLENCE BASED ON RELIGION, BELIEF OR FAITH
22nd August, 2019
POLITICS OF RELIGION: ROOT OF NIGERIAN CRISIS
On 28th May, 2019, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Document A/73/L.85 and passed a resolution approving 22nd August as International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Base on Religion, Belief or Faith. The advocacy for an International Day for Religious Freedom was started by Ms. Ewelina Ochab, a legal researcher and human rights advocate.
In compliance with the UN resolution, Christian Social Movement of Nigeria, in collaboration with leaders of Islam and Traditional Religion in Nigeria, wish to commemorate this Day of International Religious Freedom to celebrate our shared humanity and re-affirm our commitment, as citizens of Nigeria, to peaceful coexistence of all religions. We affirm that every citizen of this country has the fundamental human right to freely express religious conviction and no one should be persecuted, intimidated, or marginalized on account of differing religious belief.
We acknowledge, very sadly, that our country has been thrown into needless conflicts and bloodshed due to religious intolerance. A lot of innocent lives have been lost, an atmosphere of insecurity pervaded the nation, ethnic rivalry and suspicion has escalated to the point of threatening to disintegrate the country. After observing the situation, we have come to the conclusion that the problem of Nigeria is not Muslims versus Christians, North versus South, Military versus Civilian, neither is it unemployment, illiteracy or desert encroachment.
The crisis of Nigeria is fuelled by the manipulation of religion for cultural and political domination. Nigerians are not fighting one another but a small group within the country is using religion to divide and weaken other component parts so that it can retain absolute control. We condemn this attitude and we urge all Nigerians to rise and resist this manipulation of religion to promote ethnic supremacy.
Today, the promoters of the doctrine of hate have subverted the National Ideology of Liberal Democracy and gave us a Constitution with dual conflicting ideologies. It is the tension between Democracy and a religious ideology that is at the root of the bloodshed, insecurity, economic recession, ethnic suspicion and disfunctionality at all levels of Governance.
CSMN therefore recommends that Nigerians should arise and demand a NEW Constitution based on Parliamentary system of Governance. Nigeria was established as a country on the basis of Liberal Democracy as the National Ideology with a Parliamentary system of Government. This was the Constitution that our founding fathers negotiated and agreed upon. It is time for us to return to the 1963 Republican Constitution as the first step to restore orderliness back to Nigeria. Fortunately, with minor amendments, which would be to increase the number of Regions, the Republican Constitution should be adequate.
CSMN urges Nigerians, particularly the men, to borrow courage from 15 years old Leah Sharibu. This young girl has taught us that standing for one’s belief is more important than seeking one’s comfort and convenience. Nigerian men should use every legal and peaceful means available to dismantle the dual conflicting ideologies in the imposed 1999 Constitution and ensure that the Constitution alone remains as the source of Legislation in Nigeria and no other.
We condemn the increasing trend of totalitarian system of governance in Nigeria. We condemn the harassment of Nigerians who in the course of demonstrating their freedom of choice are clamped into detention for demanding better governance. The arrest of Omoyele Sowore is not Democracy but the manifestation of Sharia ideology. We call for the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore. Nigeria was not designed to be run as a religious theocratic state. It was established as Democratic country with freedom of choice, worship and association.
We thank our Muslim brothers and our brothers in Traditional Religion for their support for Democracy in Nigeria. We ask that we all continue to work together to build a country where no one is oppressed and though tribes and tongues may differ in brotherhood we stand. We thank the United Nations for declaring today the Day of International Religious Freedom so that humanity can always remember that religious conviction is an individual choice. We thank our partner, the International Christian Foundation for Democracy (ICFD) for their support as well as appreciate the Voice of Christian Martyrs (VOCM) for the great work it is doing to succor persecuted Christians in northern Nigeria.
Permit me to conclude as Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the late President of Ivory Coast told us, “from African Archbishop to the most insignificant Catholic, from the great witch doctor to the most insignificant Moslem, from the Pastor to the most insignificant Protestant, we have all had an animist past.” (Pg 67 Culture Matters) We were not forced to become Muslims or Christians. Many of us converted by choice from African Traditional Religion therefore no one has the right to oppress any Nigerian on the basis of religious belief. In addition, no one has the right to seek to impose his religion on Nigeria in order to establish political domination for his ethnic group.
All men are born equal.
Solomon Asemota, SAN
22nd August, 2019