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Dialogue on Civilizations, Religions and Cultures
in West Africa held at Abuja (Nigeria)
15-17 December 2003
Educational, In the framework of UNESCO’s Scientific and Cultural Organization Inter-religious Dialogue Programme Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue
Compiled and Edited By Ikeogu Oke Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Proceedings of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilizations, Religions and Cultures in West Africa
held at Abuja (Nigeria) 15-17 December 2003 In the framework of UNESCO’s Inter-religious Dialogue Programme Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue
Compiled and Edited by Ikeogu Oke Department of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Disclaimer Dialogue on Civilizations, Religions and Cultures
in West Africa held in Abuja, Nigeria The authors are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this book and for the opinions expressed therein, wich are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Published in 2005 by the United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organization 7, Place de Fontenoy, 75352 PARIS 07 SP Composed and printed in the workshops of UNESCO © UNESCO 2004 Printed in France
he International Congress on Dialogue of Civilizations, Religions and Cultures in West Africa that took place in Abuja (Nigeria) from 15 to 17 December 2003 was the ﬁrst interreligious meeting organized by UNESCO in that part of the world in the framework of its Interreligious Dialogue Programme. Launched ten years ago, this programme is intended to bring together religious leaders, academics and people of goodwill, believers and nonbelievers alike, who share a body of ethical and humanist values and an aspiration to peace. Globalization too is now leading people from around the world to borrow from one another’s cultures and ways of life. And while fast communication systems are helping people to become acquainted with the Other, yet ignorance of the Other’s cultures and beliefs tends to persist. Hence the importance of dialogue in bridging the gap of misunderstanding and misconception about the Other and adapting to a new international context. The West African region accordingly welcomed the third conference of the cycle which had commenced in the Mediterranean and Central Asian regions. The aim was to examine, through the lenses of interreligious dialogue, such speciﬁc topics as sustainable development, situations of conﬂict or tension, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. While these themes are not speciﬁc to West Africa, they are none the less of dramatic importance in the region. The scourge of HIV/AIDS and the threat of multiple ethnic conﬂicts are hindering sustainable development while they decimate the continent. The congress was an opportunity for the participants to discuss these difﬁcult questions openly yet with feeling in the context of UNESCO, home to all cultures and civilizations. The Report of the meeting is a further encouragement to engage in genuine dialogue. It comprises the contributions of the speakers, opinions voiced from the ﬂoor, and replies and recommendations, while the Final Declaration reﬂects the experiences exchanged in the course of the proceedings. The document sets out the concrete action that should be envisaged if cultural and spiritual diversity is to beneﬁt multicultural societies rather than hamper them. It favours the promotion of local and regional meetings between religious leaders who should be regarded as mediators and agents for better education in order to contribute to conﬂict prevention and peace building. Their role and inﬂuence in society in this part of the world should not be underestimated.
Dialogue is a key to peace and sustainable development. Mounir Bouchenaki Assistant Director-General for Culture . Seen in these terms. not only to the region. but to the entire world. the success of the Abuja meeting has sent a message of hope. hence its fundamental place in UNESCO’s overall strategy.
........... • Man’s representation of God on earth............................ the unique creation of God – Mr..... Elisée Soumonni ................ Mohammed Kabir Kassim .......................... • Religious tolerance and conﬂict resolution: a comparative study of the Nigerian and Benin Cases – Prof........................................... • Address delivered by Prof............... • An example of the resolution of an intra-national armed conﬂict through intercultural dialogue: the rebellion in northern Mali – Ms............................ or presentation......................................................................................... cultural and religious conﬂicts and tension? Presentations: • How religious leaders can contribute to solving problems in times of conﬂict – Prof..........................Table of Contents1 The Opening Ceremony ..................... Rosa Guerreiro ....... Christianity and Traditional African Religion – Prof... atoumata Bintou Sanankoua ............. • How to improve the relationship between Islam.................... 9 10 14 17 23 25 29 35 37 39 43 49 52 57 64 67 1... Round Table Number One (First Part) Theme: How religious leaders can contribute to defusing ethnical...... Wande Abimbola .................. the word speech also stands (in varying contexts) for address.. Michael Abiola Omolewa ............................................. as in other sections of this documentation.... • Keynote Address delivered on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo by Chief Ufot Ekaette ............ Hubert J........................................................................ • Conﬂict and tolerance: the religious Yoruba leaders during the 19th and 20th century – Prof......... • Promoting religious tolerance and cooperation in the West African Region: the example of religious plurality and tolerance among the Yoruba of south-western Nigeria – Prof........................................... • Abolishing the one-way street – Bishop Alexander-George Gianniris .. ................. Lateef Adegbite ....... Charles ............... Finagnon Mathias Oké .. the human being.... • Address delivered by Ms................. Mariza C.............................. Soares....... [Editor’s Note] In this table...... Round Table Number One (Second Part) Theme: How religious leaders can contribute to defusing ethnical................... • Address delivered by Ambassador Frank Nchita Ogbuewu ... Speech delivered by Mr. Ade Ajayi ............... paper................... • The role of religious leaders in conﬂict resolution – Dr........ cultural and religious conﬂicts and tension? Presentations • Managing conﬂicts in the African context: the role of religious leaders – Monsignor Denis Isizoh ....
....... Kaine Nwashili .................. Rosa Guerreiro’s response on behalf of UNESCO .................................. • The Role of the Church in the Fight against HIV/AIDS – Rev................................................................ • Religious values in the light of HIV/AIDS: Challenges – Ms.... FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS from the Round Table on the Role of Religious Leaders and faith-based Organizations in the Fight against HIV/AIDS.............................. Counselling and Support in the Church: A Paper from the Evangelical Church of West Africa AIDS Ministry (TEAM).................. • Training of Priests and of Members of “Instituts de la Vie Consacrée” in Africa facing the challenge of HIV/AIDS – Fr................................................................................................................................) Jean-Emile Ngué ............................Responses and contributions from the ﬂoor (I) ..... Mohammed Kabir Kassim ........ Responses and Contributions from the Floor (III) .............................. Round Table Number Two (First Part) Theme: The role of religious leaders and faith-based organizations in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS in West Africa .................................How religious leaders and faith-based organisations can contribute to the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS Presentations: • How Religion has assisted People with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria – Mrs......................................Best practices and case-studies Presentations: • Building an Interfaith Coalition against HIV/AIDS: A Nigerian Experience – Rev... Oundogni Aligbononnon .............................. • Pastoral close Support for People living with HIV/AIDS – Rev.............................. Ms................. • HIV/AIDS Prevention.... Katumi Mahama ................... Responses and Contributions from the Floor (II) .................................... Round Table Number Two (Second Part) Theme: The role of religious leaders and faith-based organizations in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS in West Africa ...................................................... • Strategies of prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS among the leaders of traditional religions in Benin – Mr........ Nigeria – Rev............................. • The Role of Religious Leaders and faith-based Organisations in the Fight against HIV/AIDS – Mr. • Religion and HIV/AIDS – Mr............ 71 77 81 82 83 86 89 91 94 98 101 107 111 116 118 ...... Isa Farma Bello ................................... Godson Lawson-Kpavuvu ................. (Dr................... Chukwuma Jumbo .................. Ibrahim Doma ...... T...... Léon Diouf ...............................
.. Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai ..................................................Round Table Number Three Theme: How religions in the region can work together towards common goals: the well-being of local people and sustainable development on the basis of the best local practices? Presentations: • Towards a forum of religious intellectuals in West Africa – Prof.......................... Afolabi Ojo ..........................G.......... Round Table Number Five Theme: How religious leaders can bring together women............. • Nigeria’s experience in peacekeeping missions: an overview and reﬂection on Nigeria’s role in the West African sub-region – Rear Admiral A....... FINAL DECLARATION: The Abuja Statement................. Round Table Number Four Theme: How religious freedom can enable women to have a greater proactive role in Africa’s traditional society? Presentation: • Promoting gender equality through religion – Prof......... Jean-Paul Ngoupandé . • Advocacy of religious tolerance: solution of ethnic................................. R.............................................................................. Pierre A........................... Wole Soyinka .......................................................................... Kipré .......... Agboka .... • Islam and women’s/men’s expectations and realities – Ms...... Akinwumi Isola ............................. • Religion and our common human consciousness – Archbishop John Onaiyekan .. • A case for religious tolerance – Mr.... • Harmonising through faith – Prof......... Adedeji................................... • The challenges of engendering cultural power in women: the Oya example – Prof................... The Closing Ceremony 120 123 131 136 141 146 151 157 166 169 176 . Japhet L................... cultural and religious conﬂicts – Dr............. children and youth in common educational programmes to learn to respect each other and coexist peacefully? Presentations: • From the quest for individual well-being to the quest for collective well-being: religions in the African crisis – the Ivory Coast case since the 1990’s – Prof... Katumi Mahama .
.................................. Annex I: List of Speakers.............................................. 180 184 187 189 191 .............. Appendix II: The role of religion in the dialogue among civilisations – Dr...................................................... cultural and religious conﬂicts – Mr. Mamadou Traoré . Annex II: List of Participants ......................... Appendix III: How religious leaders can contribute to the prevention of ethnic...........Appendix I: DECLARATION FINALE: Déclaration d’Abuja ..................................... William Vendley .............................................................................
Hubert Charles – UNESCO Representative in Nigeria • Mrs. Then.The Opening Ceremony T he Congress started on 15 December 2003 with a colourful ceremony held in the Ladi Kwali Hall of the Abuja Sheraton Hotels and Towers – the venue of the entire proceedings. were necessary “to avoid losing momentum. Lateef Adegbite – A representative of the Muslim Community • An anonymous Representative of the Anglican Community • An anonymous Representative of the African Traditional Religions • An anonymous Representative of the Pentecostal Community • Prof.30 a m. of the Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue. Then. The ceremony commenced at 10. President of the General Conference of UNESCO and Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. Aldo Landi – UNAIDS Country Co-ordinator in Nigeria • Dr. Wande Abimbola – Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Culture and Traditional Matters • Mr. since Chief Ufot Ekaette. President’s representative. Esohe Molokwu – A UNESCO Consultant on Culture The Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism. Mr. with the MC. UNESCO Headquarters. Okpa – A Representative of the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) • Ms. inviting the following dignitaries to the high table: • Dr. Rosa Guerreiro. he said. Guerreiro – Programme Specialist – Inter-religious Dialogue Programme. would speak before Mr. UNESCO • Mr. Paris. U. R. Hubert Charles intervened to announce some amendments to the day’s programme. He therefore proposed to make the ﬁrst speech in the place of Mr. the representative of Mr. Michael Omolewa. which. would read an address from UNESCO. after which Ms. Mr. President. President’s representative. B. The Opening Ceremony 9 . Francis Duru. Prof. was yet to arrive to deliver the opening speech”.
T 10 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. religion and culture. and certainly across Africa. They have demonstrated their capacity to engage young people in a new movement – a movement of engagement. In fact. and certainly to build peace. Machiavellian issues have to be pushed aside and we have to allow values to be much more prominent in decisionmaking. a movement of building and faith. NESCO Office. are going against the trends in the rest of the world. Abuja his is the third in the series of meetings organised by UNESCO within the context of its programme of civilisation. Young men and women are being called to engage in community work. If you look at Latin America. UNESCO’s role in this mission is not just to design something afresh. But we want to suggest that such a capacity be related to more mundane issues. You have something special to offer in the resolution of problems that can be regarded as temporal. particularly in the First World. Of course. This is the West Africa meeting. Charles UNESCO Representative in Nigeria and Director. Religions and Cultures . but to simply capitalise on a movement. It is the ﬁrst meeting in the series. Religious leaders and religions have become respected elements in civil society. We have tried various approaches to decision-making and they have not always turned out right. and certainly in Africa. This is the context within which we welcome the religious leaders across Africa to this activity. religious movements in Latin America. there are challenges abroad. where people are actually moving away from organised religion. But we want to suggest that an input by the religious authorities is actually timely and probably very important at this stage. But it is certainly not going to be the last. They are being called to engage in a different type of political enterprise. which religions across the world now espouse. has been on the way for quite some time. We want to celebrate the progress being made by religious leaders by giving them an opportunity to assist in the resolution of problems. We want to engage religious leaders towards the resolution of problems that have been proving difﬁcult for the traditional leadership for quite some time. I am sure you all agree. It is clear that we mean to inject values and considerations dealing with faith into our decision-making. We do not want to suggest that the African region is a region of turmoil. We wish to capitalise on these movements and recruit the leadership acumen for a new set of issues to increase democratisation.Speech delivered by Mr. you will ﬁnd that religious movements are forging ahead. In other words. Hubert J. We want to build on the successes of religious leaders. which. dialogue.
This meeting is about dialogue. It is essential to ﬁght for common goals. The agenda shall seek practical solutions to prevent conﬂicts by impeding their evolution beyond the point of no return. and for the alleviation of poverty and ill-health. How religious people can contribute to defusing ethnic. peace – peace being vital to the material well-being of all peoples in the future. we feel that the large number of women who have been part and parcel of the religious movement can also be engaged in social issues. However. The Congress will develop the following topics: 1. such as policy development. in Central Asia and in Europe. In addition. to work hand in hand for the people. respectful of the principles of cultural and spiritual diversity. cultural and religious conﬂicts and tension. which are real social challenges. The Opening Ceremony 11 . it should construct a path for peaceful coexistence. coexisted peacefully. At least. in fact. This Congress was proposed in 2001 by the Nigerian delegation to the UNESCO General Conference. of course. But that is not going to happen until we bring women from the periphery to the centre of social action. We want to propose that their skills be recruited. from where it is difﬁcult to establish trust and conﬁdence among different communities. The West African region is one where many cultures. It is about mundane issues. grassroots social workers and policy-makers. How religions in the area can work together towards common goals: the well-being of local people and sustainable development on the basis of the best local practices. religions and spiritual traditions meet and interact. It is. I hope they will no longer be considered as mundane after this meeting. Above all. and follows similar meetings and seminars that took place in other regions around the Mediterranean. It will be the Inter-religious Dialogue Programme’s closing activity for the 2002–2003 biennium. thereby providing a framework for an inter-religious dialogue. and that they be shifted from the periphery to the core of governance and leadership. women empowerment and respect for children. for the most part. We would also like to engage the assistance of the religious leadership towards the reform of education that focuses on peace building and inter-ethnic harmony. The ﬁnal objective is to seek and encourage other meetings of this nature to take place in Africa in order to root intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in reconciliation and peace processes.We know and we do not challenge the principal orientation of religious leaders towards the afterlife. Ways must be sought to bring together religious leaders of all denominations. scholars. it is the ﬁrst conference of such scope to take place in Africa. the crossroads of diverse civilisations. which transcends theory. education that engages young people in a new orientation towards tolerance and. though they experienced conﬂicts and tensions between their communities from time to time. It also aims at raising awareness among young people who are the agents and the beneﬁciaries of this dialogue. 2. the result of a millennial exchange and mixture of peoples who.
5. and the Orthodox Bishop of Lagos. teach and transmit mutual respect and peaceful coexistence to children and young people through education. as well as other religious leaders that belong to traditional spiritualities from countries that form part of West Africa will attend the Congress. peacekeeping missions and reconstruction in West Africa: a cultural experience. the Nigerian Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. We want to welcome you to this event. is a co-sponsor of this event. mainly from Liberia and Sierra Leone. An organizing committee was set up by the UNESCO Regional Ofﬁce in Abuja to handle the logistical aspects of the Congress. such as Archbishop John Onaiyekan. Religions and Cultures . Nigeria. Numerous NGOs have shown great interest in this Congress. and with the intellectual and ﬁnancial support of UNESCO’s Inter-religious Dialogue Programme. This resulted in a survey that examined answers and gave perspectives for the production of pedagogical tools with the aim of bringing together communities from different cultural and confessional backgrounds through reciprocal knowledge and mutual respect. principally. as well as women’s inter-faith associations that operate in West Africa. The World Conference of Religion for Peace. We want to ensure that we have a listening ear to your views. A round table or workshop could take place in the framework of the Congress to consider the best ways of applying the didactical aspect of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue to the needs of Nigeria and the other West African countries. especially among young people. It is worth noting that Nigeria and its neighbouring countries replied to a UNESCO questionnaire on the teaching of inter-religious dialogue. The follow-up will be the establishment of the Chair on Intercultural and Inter-religious Dialogue. But. together with health agents. This NGO has strong ties with UNESCO and will bring together local inter-religious councils. In fact. Cardinal Francis Arinze (Nigeria). A congress on religions and the HIV/AIDS issue will take place in Bangkok in 2004. Wole Soyinka. can better address important health issues such as HIV/AIDS. Bishop Alexander-George Gianniris. which is a signiﬁcant cause of death. whose former Secretary-General. and outstanding religious leaders from the region. and a follow-up could be the establishment of a UNESCO Chair on Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue at the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Prof. will send its representative responsible for the African Desk of the Holy See.3. The Pontiﬁcal Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. Topic number 3 is a preview of the next biennium. Mediation. we want to make sure that you 12 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. an important NGO. the Congress is jointly packaged by the Nigerian authorities. is eager to participate. How religious leaders. 4. How religious leaders and women can ensure religious freedom. This Congress is an activity decentralised to UNESCO’s ofﬁce in Abuja. Participants such as the Nobel Laureate.
Francis Duru. Charles announced the arrival of – and invited to the high table – Chief Ufot Ekaette. Thank you very much. Mr.take advantage of this meeting to advise us on how we can shift the gears to build peace and promote interest in harmony. The Opening Ceremony 13 . Midway into his speech Mr. the Head of Service and Secretary to the Nigerian Government. invited Ms. Afterwards. I welcome you to this meeting and hope your deliberations are successful. representing President Olusegun Obasanjo. Rosa Guerreiro to read the address from the Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Culture. the MC.
among whom the Assistant DirectorGeneral for Culture and the Director of the Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue. I t is customary to keep thanks for the end. Rosa Guerreiro Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue. of course. UNESCO. this event demonstrates the kind of work that can be done between Headquarters and the Regional Ofﬁces. several of my colleagues. who performed a feat in overcoming the numerous logistical obstacles to ensure its organisation. inform you on the whys and wherefores of this meeting in these troubled times for all of us. However. are sorry not to be here today and have asked me to extend their warmest wishes for the success of the Congress. therefore. Religions and Cultures . President of the General Conference of UNESCO. Ms. Indeed. The aim of UNESCO’s Inter-religious Dialogue Programme is ﬁrst and foremost to promote dialogue among people of various religious denomina- 14 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. especially Ambassador Michael Omolewa. My dear Colleagues. and his assistant. To represent them all at once is. The statements already made have said the essential. Similarly. Helena Drobnà and Ms. The Conference Secretary. Paris The Honourable Minister. This is a decentralised activity. who proved their goodwill and efﬁciency. but also all those who believed in this project. I am here with two colleagues to inform you that the Inter-religious Dialogue Programme within the Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue sets out to accomplish interdisciplinary work with other colleagues. I can only. but it does not mean that UNESCO Headquarters should not be concerned with its implementation. Your Excellencies. a great responsibility. Mr. I do not forget either my colleagues who have remained at Headquarters and who participated in the organisation of this Congress with much patience. who are present here and are in charge of the Programme on the cultural dimensions of HIV/AIDS. This project could not have been achieved without the help of UNESCO’s Abuja ofﬁce and its Representative. Ms. and his team.Address delivered by Ms. That we are here today is a credit to that team. Ladies and Gentlemen. but I will set aside such formalities and thank all those who have made it possible to hold this very important event on African soil: the authorities of this country. indeed for me. Hubert Charles. Angela Chukwyunyem. Cécile Mazzacurati.
is both compulsory and necessary. and I feel somewhat at home here. to know history for me. etc). but throughout the world. build a future that should also be shared. To acknowledge our common roots and what we owe one another enables us to share a common heritage and. a major cultural and spiritual contribution to other continents. The teaching of inter-religious dialogue is a priority for UNESCO in order to instil in young people values of closeness and respect for the other. That is the reason why meetings have been held in the Mediterranean region. Moreover. The region. sociologists. Even if we have been unable to include the entire continent. because our destinies are linked. philosophers. the General Conference has decided to convene a meeting for the Asia-Paciﬁc region. This is why the Declarations. anthropologists. in order to acknowledge the closeness of their spiritual values as well as their commitment to inter-religious dialogue.tions and spiritual traditions in a world where intra. and is still playing. It was most important to convene urgently a similar meeting in Africa. The regional History of Africa and the publications concerning the “Slave Trade Route” should be on the shelves of all universities not only in Africa. the Organization has always made efforts to bring together as many distinguished religious personalities as possible coming from monotheisms as well as from the spiritual traditions of the world. This teaching was founded on two The Opening Ceremony 15 . The regional setting of inter-religious dialogue is fundamental as it is within a common geographical and historical context that memories of conﬂictual and convivial relationships are interlaced. I say “our” because I come from Brazil. which emphasizes the interactions and reciprocal inﬂuences between religions and spiritual traditions. which are necessary to coexist in plural societies. through the huge and indescribable tragedy of the Slave Trade. for instance.and inter-religious conﬂicts take an increasingly important part due to ignorance or misunderstanding of the other’s spiritual traditions and cultural backgrounds. at the same time. and as an historian. the ﬁrst time. Indeed. it is important to point out that West Africa is of great interest because of its potential to rise to the numerous challenges facing it. the Americas. an important role in our cultures and spiritualities as well as in our way of living and thinking. This Diaspora played. during the next biennium. Indeed. UNESCO’s initial approach aimed to bring together different religions and spiritual traditions through the adoption of formal Declarations. cradle of civilisations. Proposals and Final Documents adopted during the meetings on inter-religious dialogue emphasized the necessity to promote the educational and pedagogical dimensions of this dialogue at a time when ignorance and misunderstandings have become the norm. indeed. who are acknowledged for their thinking and their research studies on religion (historians. It is. together with secular intellectuals. in Central Asia and. has made. and the necessity of promoting reciprocal knowledge in order to attain respect for religious and cultural pluralism. the programme is conceived as an essential dimension of intercultural dialogue.
taking into account the issues at stake in the world today. The MC. Thank you. The practical details of this teaching will vary according to the country and its education system. that are known for their experience in this ﬁeld. Francis Duru. I would like to emphasize that UNESCO is a platform for such dialogue. I sincerely hope that this meeting will result in the creation of one or several UNESCO Chairs on African soil to develop our reﬂections on a long-lasting basis and set this dialogue on the basis of African solutions grounded on your expertise. at the same time. because it is necessary to be aware of the different experiences in this ﬁeld worldwide in order to produce suitable pedagogical tools. who are as well as being specialists of the history of religions in all its multidisciplinary aspects are involved in inter-religious dialogue. We. Michael Omolewa to deliver his address. 16 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. invited Prof. In the light of the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and the continuing conﬂicts in certain regions of the world. from a comparative and multidisciplinary viewpoint. multi-religious and intercultural education. including those who are destined to lead a religious life. Similarly. reciprocal knowledge through the apprenticeship of religious and spiritual traditions. is a fundamental means of responding to the issues at stake in society and in the international arena. It does not want to propose solutions coming from the top but encourages communities to consider themselves capable of ﬁnding solutions to their problems by respecting traditions and. then. which should be understood as a very important dimension of dialogue between cultures and civilisations. The networks thus established will allow students mobility. Religions and Cultures . so that they may enjoy a secular. it appears that UNESCO has a predominant role to play not only by providing a forum of dialogue and exchange through meetings. This is the challenge we all face. but also through a long-lasting and in-depth action on the geo-strategic issues of the world. it was decided to create a network of UNESCO Chairs in universities. In this regard. the showing of their interactions and the processes of mutual inﬂuences in the past and present. In conclusion. which were adopted during the inter-religious meetings organised by UNESCO. The results of this survey have led to a study from which it will be possible to identify educational policies at the international and inter-regional levels. expect you to propose recommendations to be addressed to UNESCO in order to root intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in your regions for the beneﬁt of your communities. inter-religious dialogue. and bringing together teachers and researchers. on the basis of the Recommendations of the Declarations. The survey is in your possession and it would be useful to have a discussion on it. therefore. That is why UNESCO has distributed a questionnaire on this teaching approach. secondly. Mr.concepts: ﬁrstly.
Dialogue among civilisations transcends dimensions of culture and heritage. Therefore. scientiﬁc and cultural relations of the peoples of the world. it is in the minds of our brothers and sisters in Benin. language. in Cape Verde. We must learn that ignorance.and postconﬂict situations. throughout the history of mankind. sex. or religion. UNESCO has pledged to consolidate a culture of peace in pre. UNESCO was created for the purpose of advancing the educational.Address delivered by Prof. It is inﬂuenced and driven by the dynamics of contemporary creation and its inherent range of expressions. The Constitution of UNESCO. to the impressive audience gathered here to deliberate on the topical subject of how to learn to live together. and to contribute to pluralism and intercultural dialogue by safeguarding any heritage threatened or damaged by conﬂict. dialogue is meant to highlight the realities of our cultural diversity and the pluralism of our common heritage from both historical and modern points of view. declares: “Since wars begin in the minds of men. have all too often led to wars and conﬂicts. in Gambia. in Nigeria. in Liberia. my brothers and sisters. liberty and peace are indispensable to sustaining the dignity of man and constitute a sacred duty The Opening Ceremony I 17 . The objectives were laid for international peace and for the common welfare of mankind without distinction of race. Religions and Cultures in West Africa. in Ivory Coast. as well as intercultural values and inter-religious responsibility among the peoples and countries of West Africa. in Mauritania. Thus. That the wide diffusion of culture and the education of humanity for justice. to this International Congress on Dialogue of Civilisations. and affects all areas of UNESCO’s competence. Koichiro Matsuura. religious bigotry and ethnic chauvinism ravaging our sub-region. Dialogue has become imperative in the face of civil strife. in Niger. coupled with suspicion and mistrust between peoples. in Burkina Faso. that we must construct “the defences of peace” and build from within and among us a culture of tolerance. in Senegal. and from the chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO. in Guinea Bissau. as it is today. their immediate neighbours and the whole world. in Ghana. it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. Michael Omolewa President of the General Conference of UNESCO and Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO t is with great pleasure and an honour that I welcome you all. HansHeinrich Wrede. I bring warm greetings from the Director-General of UNESCO. It is to enable us to promote intercultural co-operation. and as it was endorsed in 1945 by the governments of States on behalf of their peoples. in Sierra Leone. in Mali. and in Togo.
now referred to as The New Delhi Declaration. which also proclaimed 21 May as World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. to promote the free ﬂow of ideas by word and image. Consequently. Religions and Cultures . and inter-religious differences through dialogue. individually and collectively. the main aim of the resolution is to promote dialogue between our various and diverse religions. war is made possible by the denial of the democratic principles of dignity. at the 31st session of its General Conference. acknowledge and promote the usefulness of the closeness and diversity of our civilisations. through ignorance and prejudice. it has consistently laid emphasis on cultural issues raised by globalisation and the need for Member States to ﬁrmly support the very principle of diversity. at the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference. while also giving fresh impulse to popular education and the spread of culture. and between our spiritual traditions in a world in which intra-religious and inter-religious conﬂicts are on the increase due to ignorance or lack of understanding of religions. as may be necessary. traditions. since many of the problems faced by today’s world have arisen as a consequence of differences within nations. in my capacity as President of the General Conference of UNESCO. we have a moral obligation. which designed the future orientation of UNESCO activities in regard to dialogue among civilisations. Since UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity was adopted by acclamation on 2 November 2001. to make our nations a better place to live. but rather of revitalising 18 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. and communication technologies. We have agreed to adhere to the development of our nations. including the role of traditional and local knowledge systems. Please allow me to emphasise that. Therefore. I wish to thank the people of Nigeria.that all nations must fulﬁl in a spirit of mutual assistance and concern. We are gathered here to concretise. As stated in the Constitution of UNESCO. and in recommending such international agreements. It is. UNESCO has remained loyal in collaborating in the work of advancing mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all mass communication media. equality and mutual respect of men. of the doctrine of the inequality of men and races. and by the propagation. • Cultural diversity in all its dimensions. not a matter of identifying and safeguarding every culture in isolation. is indisputable. • The media and information. especially through the pursuit of the six EFA goals and efforts to promote quality education. • Science and technology. and of our respective cultures and civilisations. therefore. for having reinforced this initiative by proposing this Congress with a view to meeting the recent resolution adopted on 16 October 2003. spiritual values. This was conﬁrmed when the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. including world heritage. Let me recall the following key elements of the resolution: • Education.
cultural entrenchment and marginalization. Therefore. rulers. to enhance acceptance and tolerance and combat violent confrontations as well as encourage communities and conditions in which dialogue and diversity can. political. For instance – and I must beg the indulgence of my Malian brothers and sisters before saying this – I noticed. We are happy that President Olusegun Obasanjo and the government and people of Nigeria remain committed to the ideals of UNESCO and to the attainment of world peace. and our tribal marks and attires. UNESCO is delighted by the important contribution ECOWAS makes for the promotion of dialogue among the peoples of the sub-region. and of such great historical importance that it was designated a World Heritage Site in 1988. and chiefs noted for their contributions and research in various ﬁelds of learning and other endeavours. historians. traditional leaders. the diversity of our languages and dialects. education is a vital weapon in achieving our goals. old people The Opening Ceremony 19 . economic and traditional structure of our society. We know that cosmogonal myths are believed to play an important role in West African societies. religions and cultures is meant to boost our quest to prevent conﬂict and misunderstanding in addition to discovering the utility of our rich West African cultural diversity. ﬂourish. and must. should. Then. are eminent religious ﬁgures.them in order to avoid segregation. redeﬁne and reappraise the main lines of emphases on our cultural lives. Contemporary educationists should. We must not be sceptical or afraid to ask or learn from one another so as to enable us to understand. This is necessary for cultivating a balanced culture of peace and pluralism based on identities rooted in multiple afﬁliations. at a tender age. philosophers. that Timbuktu was widely used to describe a place extremely far away and regarded by many as a myth. We would all agree that our West African historical myths are fascinating. We are conﬁdent that we shall continue to work in close co-operation with all Member States. to create linkages between our various cultures and facilitate capacity-building and the sharing of knowledge. religious historians. sociologists. Among us. Yet. highlight the reciprocal interactions and multiple borrowings from which contemporary culture stems. while studying history. and mutual understanding. and must. today. As we all know. great and renowned West African intellectuals. the most extreme forms of Afro-centricism can distort and confuse the truths of history. our cultures and religions. and must. at both the regional and sub-regional levels. As demonstrated by the enthusiastic response to the current conference by the governments and peoples assembled here. our cultural diversity and pluralism. teachers. They set up the framework of the social. tolerance. which is why this dialogue can pass for an avenue to reintroduce us to one another. This dialogue of civilisations. incorporate traditional and alternative educational methods. I realised that it was actually a city in Mali in West Africa. anthropologists. Our children are to be taught and introduced at a very tender age to the many different ways of looking at our society.
especially extreme poverty. exchanges and diversity. but also of a viable future for humanity. and quote: “Cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for culture”. particularly as regards the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. and the rehabilitation of historic centres and religious monuments in the Balkans. and its protection and conservation of cultural sites secured through further implementation of the International Campaign in Tyre. and the cultural monuments of Ethiopia. complement the principles contained in other instruments. A similar thing can be said of UNESCO’s effort to support the activities of the Palestinian Antiquities Department. to comprehend the principle of cultural diversity in its broadest sense and. the custodians of traditional know-how and transmitters of culture. including those related to human rights. in the formulation of strategies for the protection and development of their cultural heritage. Educational activities should reﬂect and induce a closer link between tradition and modern culture. into their projects and advocacy programmes. Our efforts continue to consolidate a culture of peace in situations of recent or continuing conﬂicts. in view of our mission to eradicate poverty. We must use this rare opportunity offered by UNESCO to reformulate our national cultural policies through intercultural dialogue. It is the guarantee not just of mutual enrichment. creativity. and implement other activities to beneﬁt Jerusalem. by recognising and preserving the principle of cultural diversity based on respect for human rights. by ensuring inter-community protection of national monuments in BosniaHerzegovina and Kosovo. We all agree that cultural diversity and dialogue of civilisations and religions are a source of innovation. and join in the implementation of standard-setting instruments in the cultural ﬁeld in which UNESCO has an important comparative advantage. These initiatives have enabled the Organization to identify courses of action for encouraging full participation of local communities. West Africa has come together to begin a dialogue and take up this challenge to reﬂect on WHO WE ARE. Gorée (in Senegal) and Angkor. Intercultural dialogue now holds a key 20 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Afghanistan and East Timor.and women. the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge and surrounding historic buildings in collaboration with the World Bank and the international community. as well as the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation. Iraq. as well as oral traditions and values. Nor should one fail to mention UNESCO’s launching of projects in Africa. Hebron. and ﬁght the HIV/AIDS pandemic ravaging our sub-region. thus. May I recall one of the Round Tables of the Ministers of Culture convened under the auspices of UNESCO. UNESCO has demonstrated its competence and capacity in its actions and involvement in the management of global conﬂict through dialogue. among others. in the promotion of pluralism and dialogue between cultures and civilisations. especially in Nablus. Gaza and Jericho. Religions and Cultures . especially on preventive educational projects and programmes. for instance.
indigenous peoples and their representatives.and post-conﬂict situations. we favour dialogue to respect and accept the equal dignity of all cultures and all religions without distinction. Trade and commerce are not new to you or to your civilisations. which intrudes on creativity and cultural innovation. and to create conditions in which a range of cultural expressions can ﬂourish. It has. West Africa exported goods across the Sahara to Europe and beyond. As afﬁrmed in the Declaration on Cultural Diversity. inter-regional and inter-state reconciliation. Cultural goods and services are. through and with the UNESCO Chairs Network linked to intercultural programmes. We must work to encourage co-operation both at national and local levels with parliamentarians. ideas and traditions to embark on this challenge of the new world. exchange of knowledge. and secure inter-communal. civilisations. another essential vehicle of both diversity and dialogue. agencies. and intercultural and religious pluralism. Our cultural and religious diversity shall not prevent us from attaining the millennium development goals. religions and civilisations of others. We must join hands and heads to create productive cultural diversity for sustainable development and an atmosphere conducive to peace. we must gather both ancient and modern knowledge. tribalism. As it is known. We must combat new and old forms of ignorance. this dialogue is meant to bind our ties to create better grounds for peace. ethno-phobia. On the contrary. as well as improve local capacity in every ﬁeld. It is a fact that dialogue has taken on a new meaning in the context of globalisation and of the current international political climate. regional observatories. methods. co-operation and development for the rehabilitation of our cultural heritage in pre. So. new and old forms of literacy and illiteracy. become a vital means of maintaining peace and world unity. and the best practices in the ﬁeld of cultural pluralism. Between the 11th and 15th centuries. embark and build on the richness of our pluralism through regional and sub-regional approaches. and renew ties with our rich West African cultural diversity and heritage for a prospective and healthy future. therefore. through indigenous peoples. We. international and non-governmental organisations. but also exposes the most vulnerable to the risk of marginalization. globalisation is a real challenge to cultural diversity because of the risk of standardisation and the impoverishment inherent in increasing commercialisation. and must. are of a multicultural background in which our respective cultures and religions must retain their own identities while respecting the identities. We shall. We shall The Opening Ceremony 21 . We are here today to celebrate and revive our cultural diversity. contributing in this way to West Africa attaining the MDGs goals. Globalisation not only offers brand new possibilities for expression. therefore. and civil society. communities.position on the international agenda. UNESCO is making efforts to help developing countries and countries in transition like ours to establish viable and competitive cultural industries from the national and international perspectives. municipalities. But West Africans are equal to the task. West Africans.
We shall. and must. xenophobia. sub-national and international consultations. dialogue and sustainable development through the formulation of appropriate methodologies. Religions and Cultures . learn and work under the ﬂagship of the Slave Route to which the history of West Africa is strongly linked. racial discrimination. national.promote. show our willingness to live together. We must. and create various pilot projects to suit our needs. particularly to the Inter-religious Dialogue Programme. We must identify and analyse our national and local policies and practices. and to all the participants without whom this dialogue will have had no meaning. take on sensitising decision-makers both in the public and private sector to the link between cultural diversity. embark on precise dialogues and actions against racism. 22 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. I express my sincere gratitude to the UNESCO Cultural Sector. and other attitudes related to intolerance. UNITED WE WILL STAND AND DIVIDED WE WILL FALL. studies. and must. We shall. Thank you. above all. learn together and grow together harmoniously enough to deserve inclusion in this global village.
the return to dialogue by the The Opening Ceremony I 23 . The Secretary-General of Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM). Members of the National Assembly here present. Mr. Religious Leaders of our Land. and. Central Asia and Europe. following similar meetings and seminars in the Mediterranean. which was a major outcome of the UNESCO General Conference of 2001. Hubert Charles. Honourable Ministers here present. we remember the role of dialogue in achieving relative peace in such international conﬂicts as the one between North and South Korea. Ladies and Gentlemen. Maria Katagum. will be the last activity of the Inter-religious Dialogue Programme for the biennium 2002-2003. It is our hope that more of such meetings will be held in Africa in order to sustain and promote a culture of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in reconciliation and peace processes and. As long as we are human beings. Chief Adolphus Wabara. The Speaker. to promote harmonious living and respect for the principles of cultural and religious diversity. above all. The UNESCO Representative in Nigeria. Mr.Address delivered by Ambassador Frank Nchita Ogbuewu Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mr. the recognition of dialogue in resolving human conﬂicts remains the key to peaceful human coexistence. GCFR Your Royal Highnesses. The Director-General of UNESCO. From the global perspective. Gentlemen of the Press. President. The Senate President. a collaborative effort of the Nigerian Government and the United Nations Educational. This Congress. House of Representatives. there are bound to be conﬂicts. of course. Alhaji Aminu Masari. This is the ﬁrst time a congress of this nature is taking place in Africa. Distinguished Guests. the current peace initiative taking place in Liberia. Religions and Cultures. However. Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Sierra Leone and Sudan. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. t is with utmost joy and pleasure that I welcome you all to the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the dissolution of the apartheid system in South Africa. Mrs. Koichiro Matsuura.
to ignore any difference in our social backgrounds and leave this hall richer that we were at its inception. I see it as one of those contributions Nigeria has made in conﬂict resolution in West Africa in particular and in the world at large. The use of dialogue in resolving religious conﬂicts remains the best option since it guarantees peace and. in Nigeria. cannot be overemphasised when viewed against the backdrop of the colossal underdevelopment plaguing the region. build bridges across communities of faiths. is synonymous with peace. Mr. The social effect of ethnic and religious crises. it may be necessary to remind ourselves that human passion for religion has often led to intense violence among people of different faiths. by implication. wherever they manifest themselves around the globe. even though no religion preaches or endorses violence as a culture. Religions and Cultures is an honest global effort to promote genuine development in the affairs of men. at this point. God bless you all. to deliver the keynote address on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo. especially in Africa. The resolution of religious conﬂicts. and increased morbidity. and so on. should always be by recourse to dialogue rather than military might or the spate of armed conﬂicts and insurgencies currently being witnessed in some parts of Africa and the rest of the world. the increased rate of HIV/AIDS infection. implore us. Francis Duru. in current usage. the phenomenon of child soldiers. Following the above address. Once again. 24 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the MC. progress. At this point. development. not to mention the ongoing dialogue between Nigeria and Cameroon. I welcome you all to this Congress and hope you will seize this opportunity to savour the rich and diverse cultural and tourism potentialities that abound in Nigeria. participants at this Congress. Religions and Cultures . promotes civilisation. invited Chief Ufot Ekaette. Thank you.Irish Republican Army after an earlier spate of violence. The International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. I wish to thank UNESCO for giving Nigeria the opportunity to host this Congress and for collaborating with Nigeria in its hosting. arbitration and resolution of conﬂicts. and seek practical solutions to prevent conﬂict. And civilisation. Culture is civilisation. the cultural ethos of our people generally provides the platform for mediation. Its attainment is the utmost desire of every nation. Refugee and amputee cases are also some of the major consequences of these ethnic and religious crises. and here. May I.
tolerance. The sublime nature of religion makes it mandatory that man exhibits the ﬁnest character traits without which the impact of religion on man will be inconsequential. I believe that spiritual bonding with our maker must have material and requisite commensuration with the actions we take in our daily lives. because it is the aggregate of the behavioural patterns of society that symbolises its civilisation. for they have left permanent legacies that are both timeless and enduring to the world. because civilisation represents the highest level of man’s social progression in terms of values and the ﬁnest form of cultural manifestations.Keynote Address delivered on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo by Chief Ufot Ekaette Head of Service and Secretary to the Nigerian Government Your Excellencies. Worship without duty and responsibility is in more ways than one spiritual indolence. civilisation. The Opening Ceremony I 25 . Honourable Ministers. temperance and understanding. The art of writing persists till today and embalmment in medical science is yet another legacy from those ancient civilisations. We all have a duty to ourselves and to the world at large to leave this world a better place than when we met it. who is unable to be here in person on account of other state matters and has mandated me to represent him and deliver his address to this august gathering. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. the noblest of human values. The Greek and Egyptian civilisations are perfect examples. form the cornerstone of civilisation. bring you greetings from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. and intercultural dialogue. Ladies and Gentlemen. I now proceed to read his address: I am pleased to welcome you all to this very important conference during which we will be discussing a most topical issue that touches the very existence of our beloved continent. piety. On the issue of religion. However. Would you say this is wishful thinking because conﬂict is as old as man and unavoidable so long as there are interactions between human societies? Civilisation teaches the contrary. Our worship of the Supreme Being must inhere in our actions with our fellow human beings. My Lords Spiritual and Temporal. such as humility. Distinguished Delegates. religions.
this brings us to the situation in our beloved continent where man has been reduced to the level of bestiality. This matter calls for sober reﬂection and deep thinking from some of us leaders and all members of civil society. which states inter alia: 26 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. We have failed to extinguish the vestiges of intolerance. so much so that brothers physically brutalise brothers. provision of housing and basic amenities to create the enabling environment for people’s creative instincts to be released. We cannot ﬁnd an excuse in putting the blame on some imaginary external foes. This should be our article of faith. the deﬁned essence of man is the ability to exercise complete restraint and controlled temperament in all circumstances such that the one who exhibits these traits is referred to as a cultured man. Here. and attempt to extinguish their being by assaulting their culture. This is very unAfrican and a great disservice to our sub-region. injustice and greed from our consciousness in our sub-region. Therefore. The ship may rock from side to side and face strong weather but must remain rock steady and solid to endure the negative fallouts of development and the challenges of globalisation. In all cultures. we ﬁnd these precepts to be present and a recurring decimal in the teachings of all religions. are basic to man’s existence. The most worrisome phenomenon at this stage is the spate of intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic tension that has taken hold of our socioeconomic life. As the saying goes. Our guiding philosophy should. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. therefore. hope and steadfastness. as it was fashionable to do in the past forty years. integrity. we talk of intercultural dialogue without which the much-sought partnership would not be feasible.Religion goes beyond the ritual of attending our places of worship and carrying out our religious obligations. “The fault is not in our stars up there but in ourselves”. transparency. This must stop. therefore. It is only when these imperatives are met that the dawn of a new era will be ushered into our continent. And we should now be able to be the captains of our ship. NEPAD. damage their psyche. Indeed. be to constitute acts of the African Union and the development programme. the bestial instincts still predominate and get the better of us. Every man of religion and culture should be visibly seen as the hallmark of dignity. The challenge of poverty reduction is one that we need to face in order to fulﬁl the expectations of our people. These expectations are imperatives and date back to the beginning of civilisation and. Religions and Cultures . The lynchpin of these initiatives is encapsulated within the framework of the objectives of the constituent Act of the African Union. It is for this very reason that NEPAD was conceived as a concerted and multi-dimensional panacea to underdevelopment in Africa. They include food security. It is my sincere belief and hope that this century will be the century of the African Renaissance.
Mr. respect the sanctity of human life. promote democratic principles and institutions. The Opening Ceremony 27 . Our religions. promote gender equality. for his unﬂinching support of the noble ideals of UNESCO as a leading light in the quest for peace. We must truly be our brother’s keeper. popular participation and good governance. the pains and agonies of the heinous tragedies which the continent has known in the past years would be put behind us. distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. security and stability on the continent. For. consider assassination and killing with impunity as acts of terrorism and subversive activities. I sincerely hope that these intentions will not be sacriﬁced on the altar of grandstanding. an act of benevolence for the greatest good of the greatest number of people. We felt like matching intention with action by providing a window of opportunity for the people of Liberia to regroup and give meaning to their political and socio-economic life. political expediency and narrow national perspectives. Thank you all. let me express my appreciation to the Director-General of UNESCO. That was. religions and cultures. I would like to say that our recent act of reprieve for the good people of Liberia was done with all noble intention to solve the human tragedy that was assuming an alarming proportion in that country. I wish you a most fruitful deliberation. if we do unto others what we expect them to do unto us. respect economic development. civilisations and cultures are triple harbingers of dialogue and we must go beyond the constraints of constitutional engineering to build the processes of our hearts and show uninhibited love for one another.The Union shall promote pe ace. Lastly. consider and reject unconstitutional change of government. interpersonal understanding and co-operation. Our heritage of brotherhood must be passed from generation to generation. for us. Ladies and Gentlemen. Your Excellencies. It is my hope that the Organization would continue its support in his regard. promote and protect human and people’s rights in accordance with the African Charter and other relevant human rights instruments. I believe that discussions at this Conference will provide an adequate platform for a veritable dialogue of civilisations. Koichiro Matsuura. which should serve as a ﬁrst step to enduring global peace and harmony. Your Excellencies.
Prof. Michael Omolewa to chair the session.Round Table Number One (First Part) Theme: How religious leaders can contribute to defusing ethnical. took place on 15 December 2003. having accepted the invitation. Yai invited Monsignor Denis Isizoh to make his presentation. standing in as a facilitator. It started with Dr. or Round Table Number One. Olabiyi Babalola Yai to moderate the session. Prof. After a short acceptance speech. proceeded to invite Prof. Esohe Molokwu. inviting Prof. Omolewa. . cultural and religious conflicts and tension? T he ﬁrst session of the dialogues.
Religious leaders were respected. and also by the mentality and worldview of the colonising nations. thanks to improved means of transportation. if not in seconds. Three major religions – African Traditional Religion. but by colonial languages. They had the last word. My context is Africa. I am grateful to the organisers for inviting me. traditions. that make up the region. The result is that one ethnic group is spread across two or three or more countries separated not physically by border control posts. But the countries. Moreover. customs and traditions. The progress of these religions is occasionally associated with conﬂicts because some of them propose – sometimes with much insistence – that aspects of their religion be accepted by all in a given area. have people of the same language.Managing conflicts in the African context: the role of religious leaders by Monsignor Denis Isizoh Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in the Vatican t is signiﬁcant that the focus of this Congress is on West Africa and that the deliberation today is on how religious leaders can contribute to preventing or resolving ethnic. lived in more or less homogenous societies. I would like to speak on the role of religious leaders – the role they can play to prevent or resolve conﬂicts. But I have chosen to address this distinguished assembly not on the causes or the nature of these conﬂicts. precisely West Africa. culture. As they travel. All that seems to have changed in today’s world. divided by artiﬁcial boundaries drawn not by themselves. Islam and Christianity. of which three exist in West Africa. cultural and religious conﬂicts. They were not contradicted when they spoke. The African society in which some of us here were formed is different from the one we live in today. control of natural resources. cheap labour. but by those who had other interests in mind – large market. most of these groups could have been existing as independent nations. Their decisions on many issues were not challenged. The availability of radio and television today means that information circulates very fast and that news of events from any part of the world can reach every person in minutes. Islam and Christianity – operate in the region. Instead. They spoke with authority. customs. who were fortunate to grow up in villages. Some people say that West Africa has potential for conﬂicts. religions and languages. Some of us. It is inhabited by over three hundred ethnic groups. they take with them those values that help to deﬁne them as people from a particular geographical area – their culture. people are always on the move. This is true of African Traditional Religion. The result is that there is hardly Round Table One (First Part) I 29 . Elsewhere in the world.
Religions and Cultures . Such is the case when a professor of Christian or Islamic theology sits in a church or mosque to listen to the sermon of pastors or imams who are supposed to lead their communities. there is a growing tendency to ignore speculative subjects. It is becoming increasingly difﬁcult to say which is correct. some of whom have profound knowledge of the sacred books of their religions.any part of our world that is not affected by some aspects of other people’s culture. deemed subjective. the expressions of religious leaders are seen as less valuable than other opinions. Among the followers of some religions. As human beings make advances in science and technology. In truth. Occasionally. they are called upon to lead their co-religionists from time to time. Either some politicians have inﬁltrated the ranks of religious leaders or some religious leaders have politicised their functions. I do not know. Among the followers of different religions. so much so that the spiritual and impartial roles of religious leaders have become compromised. yet. Today’s religious leaders must take into account the changes in their societies. More and more people in Africa can read and write. There is the need to understand better the role of people sometimes regarded as “marginalized” in society. The result is that there are occasions when these religious leaders are challenged and their teachings contested. the interpretation of some religious groups is put to vote. We live in a democratic world. Religious leaders face tougher challenges than their predecessors and. They are seen as judgements about society and. New challenges have appeared. According to Karen Spiher: The theory of our modern age that knowledge can only be acquired through scientiﬁc methods rather than through metaphysics and theology has led to a change in authority wherein the expressions of theologians and philosophers are counted as just another opinion among many. objective way. accepted position. The same applies to new diseases. because the opinion poll suggested a revision of a long-standing. This does not only happen in the political arena. Opinion polls inﬂuence decisions taken by leaders. because they do not adhere to the methods of acquiring facts in a detached. there are many university graduates. But the result is that there is excessive government interference and political manipulation in some countries in Africa. a number of doctrines have been reinterpreted. new social ills. therefore. The demand of these calls is even stronger in Africa than anywhere else. etc. including such learned members. and can relate with or interpret the contents of such books better than some of the specially prepared religious leaders. 30 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.
etc. The traditional African follows these ways from the cradle to the grave. However. determine our behaviour towards others – whether we regard them either as objects to be used and exploited. Religious leaders can get involved in educational programmes. and a way of growing up. or humans to be valued and respected like ourselves. in virtue of their dignity as persons. have an inalienable right to education. on a daily basis. Religious leaders proclaim moral truths and help their co-religionists to apply them to real life situations. a way of weaning a child. it is sometimes done Round Table One (First Part) 31 . They must address political. or religiosity. and natural and cultural traditions. a way of eating. a way of giving birth.Religion plays a central role in the life of most Africans. It is always an oversimpliﬁcation to treat any conﬂict in Africa from only one point of view. sex. or yet to be ignored or rejected as if they were never integral to the vision of life. the meaning of the present life and the future. They penetrate the depths of human beings and give meaning to human existence. there is a long list of potential martyrs lined up along the pathways of history. Indeed. a way of walking. and how people can relate with God and with their fellow mortals. including their personal lives and life in community with others. For Africans. these elements are not isolated. They are not to speak only on religious matters. a way of dancing. condition or age. socio-economic. their functions as religious leaders have expanded in their own time. It teaches what is good and what is bad. True education is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his or her ﬁnal end and the good of the society to which he or she belongs and the duty of which he or she will have a share as an adult”. In some countries of West Africa. adapted to their ability. Religion itself is a way of life. This education should be suitable to a particular destiny of the individuals. Where religion is taught. Their words go beyond passing information to their co-religionists. social and cultural issues as well. who are ready to die for their religion. A look at writings on lorries and busses all over Africa reveals a lot about Africans’ inclination to piety. The tendency in many of these schools is to reduce the importance of teaching religion to children. in turn. To quote a document of the Vatican issued in 1965: “All human beings. While many people are not prepared to die for mathematical theorems. even a way of dying. schools have been taken over by governments. ethnic. religious leaders are still being listened to. and should be conducive to fraternal relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world. It shapes and deﬁnes values and attitudes which. and their words and actions have tremendous impact on their followers. Religion teaches people about their origins. Almost all conﬂicts have multiple causes – political. of whatever race. cultural.
René Descartes. Only an impartial arbiter can go to both sides in dispute to initiate an exchange of 32 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. therefore I am”. therefore. “Religious leaders can help emphasise the need for social responsibility”. Religions and Cultures . the abuse of religion that causes conﬂict in society. Religious leaders should help to create an environment in which all members share their joys together and mutually accept their vulnerability. then. but a community of love that cares for its members. The deﬁnition of the African person is. namely: “Cogito. peace in society and integral development for all. which we are going to talk about later – and other conditions that may make them unacceptable in the larger society. (“I think. go alone to this heaven? I prefer to stay with my ancestors. They are to supervise programmes for religious education in schools. indeed. The deﬁnition of the African person is not in the terms used by the 17th century French philosopher. An African elder was once told that if he did not convert to African Traditional Religion. Each encounter with the adherents of their religion is a great opportunity to promote peace and harmony in society. therefore. because a human being thinks. in relation to community. It is not just any type of community. Religious leaders can also get involved in preaching peace and harmony in society. where members know one another. but care must be taken not to use schools as fertile grounds for sowing the seeds of hate against people of other religions or ethnic backgrounds or political orientations. As a Singaporean Minister for Community Development once said. a person exists. a place for people living with different kinds of problems – even a disease like HIV/AIDS. he would go to hell. He asked if the conversion was an absolute condition to go to heaven and got an emphatic “Yes” as an answer. They have the unique privilege of having committed large audiences in many African countries. In resolving conﬂicts. Religious leaders can also involve themselves in creating a community of love. The three dominant religions in West Africa teach love for one’s neighbour. Religious leaders have a role to play in insisting that religion be taught to children. he retorted. where there is solidarity at difﬁcult moments of life. where there is communal celebration of joyful occasions. It is. ego sum”. people who change from one religion to another just to ﬁnd the community where the individual counts. No education is complete without putting into consideration the proper place of religion in the overall formation of a human person. religious leaders have a responsibility to act as impartial arbiters of truth and justice. There are. An African will rather say: “I am related to community. therefore I am”. The ﬁrst step towards the resolution of any conﬂict is to bring the parties together to talk with one another. I’d rather go to hell where I’ll meet them”. Why.) That is.by someone who has no faith commitments. The preaching carried out by these leaders must be such as to stimulate love for one’s neighbour and encourage collaboration among people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Then. “It means that all my ancestors never made it to heaven.
its inter-religious council mediated between the government and the rebels. During his meeting with Nigerian Muslim leaders on 22 March 1998. The following bodies of religious leaders are known to be active in conﬂict resolution in West Africa: the Inter-religious Council of Guinea. many examples in West Africa of religious leaders intervening to reconcile parties involved in a conﬂict. They should draw attention to the anomalies in society and encourage all their followers to show solidarity with the weak. and that the intention is not to serve the truth and the common good but to defend particular interests at any cost”.communication and ask questions such as: What is the cause of the dispute? What can be done to redress the perceived injury? How can reconciliation be achieved from the perspective of the aggrieved parties? And. they are sad proof that force and not democratic principles has prevailed. One only needs to look at the various initiatives taken by various national inter-religious councils. the Regional Inter-religious Rebels’ Consultations. then. in particular. There are different groups of people marginalized for various reasons. our Lord. Religious leaders can get involved in resolving conﬂicts by acting on behalf of the marginalized and as the voice of the voiceless. for the cause of justice. should apply to all religious leaders: ”Our duties as moral leaders oblige us to do more than express sympathy and compassion. the World Conference of Religions for Peace. As innocent victims. There is so much injustice in our world today. which. indeed. During the war in Sierra Leone. Pope John Paul II said: “It is a disquieting reﬂection of the state of human rights today that in some parts of the world people are still persecuted and imprisoned for reasons of conscience and for their religious beliefs. the Inter-religious Council of Ghana. etc. The Catholic Bishops of Zambia once gave the following testimony of their roles as religious leaders. We feel compelled to speak out on behalf of the poor. Religious leaders must become the voice of the voiceless. the poor and the oppressed. the Forum of Religions in Ivory Coast. for instance. the sick. We are mindful of the words of our Leader. who warned us that we would be Round Table One (First Part) 33 . ask in an attempt to ascertain the steps and modalities for reconciliation: How can the parties be reconciled with one another without humiliating any side? Who takes the ﬁrst step towards reconciliation? Is there any guarantee that there will be reciprocity in accepting to go the way of reconciliation? There are. I think. The same thing was witnessed during the war in Liberia. the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone. the Inter-religious Council of Liberia.
and corruption. commended Monsignor Isizoh for shedding light on the issues at stake from several perspectives. you always provide for all your creatures so that all may live as you have willed. and defenceless. said by all Catholics in Nigeria and in many other countries of Africa. It is a sign of common dependence and common desire for the good of society. It is not the role of the Church to make decisions concerning the type of political system to be adopted by any nation. Lateef Adegbite to make his presentation. invited Dr. whose names can be substituted for Nigeria in the prayer: “Father in heaven. He promised to convey the main points of the presentation to UNESCO Headquarters as appropriate. and commitments made to work for a better future. then. Raise for us God-fearing people and leaders who care for us. Let me conclude with a prayer composed by the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria. apologies are rendered. Praying together has a bonding effect on believers.judged in accordance with our behaviour towards the needy. as a result of which many of our people are hungry. We ask this through Christ our Lord. It is also the beginning of a healthy process in which causes of conﬂicts are identiﬁed. You have blessed our country Nigeria with rich human and natural resources to be used to your honour and glory and for the well-being of every Nigerian. We beg you to touch our lives and the lives of our leaders and peoples so that we may all realise the evil of bribery and corruption and work hard to eliminate them. Prof. Religious leaders can get involved in praying for people and teaching them how to pray. I thank you for listening. Father. the moderator. He. prosperity and progress. bribery. We are deeply sorry for the misuse of these your gifts and blessings through acts of injustice. 34 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the Church insists that it has the right to pass moral judgement even on matters touching the political order wherever basic personal rights make such judgement necessary”. sick. Amen”. Religions and Cultures . It is an acknowledgement of oneness before the Creator. you alone can heal our nation and us of these sicknesses. Yai. ignorant. and who will lead us in the path of peace. However. After the above presentation.
tumult. a careful study of the teachings of the great religions of the world would show that they all have many values in common. without ignoring other social. has sent to Mankind appropriate guidance that regulates human intentions. nationally. Religion is all about this divine guidance. Religions and Cultures. Therefore. nation. Indeed. They all emphasise the pre-eminence of God. and internationally. community. I also extend to you the fraternal greetings of the entire Muslim community in Nigeria. It is refreshing that UNESCO has decided to focus on the indispensable role of religion in achieving peace and security in the world from the lowest to the highest level of Mankind. it is not the fault of the adherents of these diverse religions. and particularly justice and tolerance of group differences. is bound to result in peace locally. Yes. or colour. charity. tribe. most. through His numerous Prophets. I hasten to submit that the diversity of faiths does not destroy the potency of religions.The role of religious leaders in conflict resolution by Dr. It is relevant in this short presentation to identify the counter-forces that have stood in the way of inter-religious harmony and have gone on to frusRound Table One (First Part) I 35 . be it village. state. and it is the neglect. We commend the initiative of UNESCO in convening this Congress. love. whose doctrines apparently differ. if not all. our own position as Muslims is that God. We appreciate the unrelenting efforts of UNESCO and other agencies of the United Nations in the promotion of peace and development worldwide. Therefore. international organisation. if these values are honoured. economic and political entities. good neighbourliness. the disregard and. the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the [Nigerian] Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido. in some cases. if correctly followed. It is possible to challenge the thesis that I have put forward by arguing that we do not have one religion but many. war and terror that we are witnessing across the world. I bring you the fraternal good wishes of His Eminence. more in breach than in observance. UNESCO would need to redouble its efforts in highlighting and disseminating those common values to ensure that they become ingrained in every individual and group. respect for the law. with the various groups often at loggerheads. if we return to religion. whether of creed. the total rejection of religion that are largely responsible for the disharmony. Lateef Adegbite Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs t is an honour for me to participate in this International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. which. of the social ills that plague Mankind will disappear. corporate body or multinational.
This is the path to the creation of a noble and peaceful realm in our universe. Adegbite’s presentation to UNESCO Headquarters.trate our common resolve to promote the peaceful coexistence of peoples and faiths. it must be imparted correctly. oppression and exploitation.as well as political and social leaders to desist from linking Islam with terrorism. attention must be drawn to the attempt to impose religious uniformity in the world. The moderator. Muslims are ever ready to cooperate and collaborate with other faiths on the basis of mutual understanding and respect for the diversity that the great religions represent. let each religion teach its faith fairly without offensive references to other religions. and. The quarterly meetings of NIREC have provided a veritable platform for top Christian and Muslim leaders to interact and exchange views on common problems as well as iron out any differences between both groups. To ensure proper understanding and respect towards other religions. Islam insists on its own social. He pointed out the need to listen to a representative of Traditional African Religion. They include distortion of religious teachings. discrimination. Yai. Indeed. invited Prof. The way religions are presented is important. This is what tolerance is all about. The establishment of the Nigerian Inter-religious Council (NIREC) is contributing signiﬁcantly to fostering better inter-religious understanding and harmony in our country. and favouritism in ofﬁcial quarters and private institutions. Islam is a religion of peace and can never be pro-terror. So. all citizens must be taught the elements of their own religion as well as those of other dominant faiths in their community. Wande Abimbola to make his presentation. political. 36 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Islam imposes a responsibility on its adherents to resist injustice. In this regard. This is a practical demonstration of the essence of dialogue. Religions and Cultures . At the same time. the Council has succeeded in settling both ethnic and religious communal disputes in the last four years that even political leaders could not resolve. legal and economic concepts and systems to which it adheres tenaciously. Any attempt to forge a universality of faith will meet with difﬁculties. We must proceed on the basis of multi-civilisation and a multi-cultural world. Prof. promised to convey the main points of Dr. whether they are directed against Muslims or non-Muslims. Muslims would certainly not welcome the attempt to force Islam into a particular mould on the pretext of seeking unity. Of course. aggressive evangelism. having listened to representatives of Christianity and Islam. prejudice. Those who are labouring for globalisation in the sphere of human endeavours should note this admonition. since people tend to be afraid of what they do not understand. But to use religion effectively. bias. which should reduce fear. and I must urge the media – local and international . then. I would like to end this address by saying that religion is the solution to the many social ills that face society today.
In addition. I tell you. think Dr. Adegbite. to talk about Islam and Christianity. he was mindful. Christianity and Traditional African Religion by Prof. at least on two or three occasions. we have within each country many different ethnic groups. Respect for all the cultures. and that is what has eluded all of us. Plural societies must practise tolerance. each with its own culture. We need to cultivate the culture of tolerance for one another. It is the stock-in-trade of the leaders of Islam and Christianity in Africa to put down Traditional African Religion. the very ﬁrst requirement is for the leadership of Islam and Christianity in Africa to accept the validity of Traditional African Religion. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. and not accept it as a valid religion. As a matter of fact. common sense should teach us that we should be tolerant.How to improve the relationship between Islam. while making little or no mention of Traditional African Religion. I stand to be corrected. I think that is the very ﬁrst thing I wish to observe. the representative of Islam at this meeting. I do not even know if the inter-religious dialogue includes a representative of Traditional African Religion in Nigeria. all the ethnic groups and all the religions of Africa must also include respect and recognition for Traditional African Religion in Nigeria. has spoken my mind. There is hardly any African country in which we do not have all three religions that we are talking about. Wande Abimbola Special Adviser on Culture to President Olusegun Obasanjo Thank you very much. I will take serious offence if someone comes in front of my house to preach intolerRound Table One (First Part) I 37 . Mr. So. Chairman. values and language. We probably need to ﬁnd a way whereby people cannot openly preach against the religion of their neighbours without jeopardising the freedom of speech. I think this needs to change. I think if we are really serious about religions and ethnic and cultural harmony and peace in Africa. except for one very important area. The other point spoken of by the last speaker that I would like to comment on is in respect of tolerance. When Dr Adegbite was speaking. to look down on it. It is easy for us to talk about it but very difﬁcult for us to practise it. Evangelism seems to have gone haywire. I do not think it will be out of place to have laws enacted by our parliaments making it an offence for someone to preach or speak against the culture or religion of his fellow men or women. and in so many other West African countries. especially in our country.
the point of view of Traditional African Religion is quite easy to state: we do not look down on anybody’s religion. because if we do not do so. Elisée Soumonni to make his presentation. I do not think you will encounter anyone preaching against Islam or Christianity. We plead that we practise what we preach. Abimbola and. there is the need for us to regulate such conduct so that we do not invite street wars and riots in our communities. “the most traditional of all the religions practised today in Africa. or saying that anybody who does not follow his or her religion will go to hell. the moderator. There may be a way to put into practice some of the things we are talking about. In an apparent reference to the relationship between Traditional African Religion. So. the one before the arrival of colonisation. those who planned this event did not deem it necessary to invite any practitioner of Traditional African Religion in Nigeria. He said the proverb summarised the points made by Prof. the Chairman. Among those of us who practise Tradition African Religion. Such things can be regulated by law. are valid. antedates both Christianity and Islam”. All the religions of the world. let us be tolerant and respectful to all religions of Africa. He observed that Christianity and Islam are seen as the traditional religions in Africa though. to deliver a paper or to speak.ance and put down the worshippers of Traditional African Religion as we notice in television and radio on a daily basis. 38 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. If we preach tolerance and respect for all religions. except for the Voodoo religion from the Republic of Benin that is on the programme. Following the above presentation. where this Congress is taking place incidentally. I think. All such remarks are reﬂections of evangelism-gone-haywire today in the African continent. to enact them into laws so that people will respect the religious points of view of other people. we probably run the risk of having related problems escalate with more serious consequences. according to him. afﬁrmed that no religion should be excluded or marginalized. Islam and Christianity. invited Prof. has called on me to ﬁll that vacuum. It is probably for that simple reason that. but the practitioners of other religions do not seem to see the need to extend the same courtesy and respect to Traditional African Religion. then. We acknowledge any religion practised by others. he quoted a Yoruba proverb. Prof Yai. So. Religions and Cultures . being observant and considerate. as far as I know. which says that true support in cooking a soup need not jeopardise the cooking pot. Thank you.
which starts from my childhood. because it does imply that that religion or culture is simply static. you will notice that the singing and dancing borrow many features from Traditional African Religion. I went to Ife and it happened that I got my ﬁrst degree from the hands of Prof. from this experience. The little bit I know of African history has largely been enriched by the readings of the works and publications of Prof. I must say that they are not basically at variance with one another. but they also share many features – a fact many people seem to ignore because.Religious tolerance and conflict resolution: a comparative study of the Nigerian and Benin cases by Prof. and the little I know of African history. the Islamic. I am a teacher and a student of African history. in many respects. I came to an African institution to improve my knowledge about African history. I must say right from the beginning that I share the experience of three religions. Ade Ajayi. who is. that our so-called African religions have remained today as they have been at all times. I would like to let you know in particular that. and the African. I come to learn and share my own experience on the topic of this gathering. from my family background to the Western-type formal education I received. in the present case. I am not here to teach you anything or to bring any important message. a teacher of many of us. I consider myself as an ordinary participant. Wande Abimbola who is here among us. I would like to draw on my experience. whereas everything in society is changing. is being transformed with time and space. I learnt it from eminent teachers and scholars some of whom are participants in this Congress. I must say that I am not a religious leader. I am always cautious in using the term “traditional” to refer to any religion or culture. especially the new ones developing not only in Nigeria but everywhere else. I was brought up in the framework of the experience of the three major religions I mentioned earlier. This is very important. after my initial training in France. Elisée Soumonni A Delegate from the Republic of Benin Thank you very much. I am happy to have the opportunity do so after listening to the representatives of the major religions – the Christian. Not only do they share many values in common as we have just been told by those who preceded me as speakers. and. And. must confess that I am embarrassed to be introduced in this Congress as a professor. to make my own comments and offer my reﬂections on the topic of this meeting. if you go to any church today. So. I was born in a family whose activity was closely Round Table One (First Part) I 39 .
related to iron, blacksmiths and hunters. And, as you know, Ogun remains the popular deity in this tradition. I was brought up in this kind of environment before being converted to Christianity and baptised in the Catholic denomination. Then, I went to primary school, during which I was brought up by my uncle who was a Muslim. In my family, there are many members belonging to the three major religions, and some of them, who are Christians and Muslims, sometimes take part in ceremonies that do not necessarily reﬂect their own religious beliefs. I do not think that what I have said about my experience is unique, and I am sure many of you have experienced the same thing, including religious leaders, whose many members belong to different religions. I am happy to say that, on many occasions, in Benin, my country, I am happy to meet Muslim leaders, Christian leaders, and practitioners of Traditional African Religion. I will try to avoid repeating those who have spoken before me, including the keynote addresses you heard this morning at the opening ceremony. Emphasis has been laid on the topicality of the conference, that it is a dialogue on civilisations, religions and cultures. I have to say that this subject is topical because the interaction between the three religions has existed right from the beginning of these religions. The problem is that we only realise the need for this kind of dialogue when we face situations of crisis and conﬂict. Probably the time has come for us to consider that we need it on a permanent basis. We probably need to give it a kind of institutionalised framework so that we are not called upon just when the ﬁre has started. So, we need to prevent, which is more important than to cure – which, sometimes, is too late. I want to make the point that education remains a keyword in this necessary dialogue, education in the broadest sense of the word. I must say that education, whether we take it as learning to read, to write, and so on, has been started in virtually all societies by religion. Religious schools, as we all know, have been the pioneers of education, and education stands generally within this framework. But education is a continuous process. Many religious leaders are scholars in their own discipline, but they should consider themselves in the task of educating their followers as students themselves. That means the need to learn more, not about their own religion, but also, and more importantly, about the essence of the religion of others. Without this continuous education, the search for learning, for knowing more about other people’s religion, dialogue becomes an empty word. This is very important and why I think that the suggestion made this morning by the representatives of UNESCO about the need to establish a kind of Chair of Education in Religion in Africa is a welcome development. I myself have some time ago suggested that we needed a Ministry of Religious Affairs everywhere in our sub-region and elsewhere. But, as you know, it is not the end of the problem. It is not because you have a Ministry of Religious Affairs that problems of conﬂicts deriving from different religions will be solved. I did suggest some time ago to ﬁght pollution in our environment.
Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations, Religions and Cultures
Maybe we needed a Ministry of Environment. So, we set up a Ministry of Environment in Benin many years ago. Yet, our environment has never been so polluted since we established such a Ministry of Environment. So, the problem is not solved by the establishment of a ministry, but by what is being practised within the ministry. This leads me to the second and probably the last point I will make, because I do not want to take too much of your time. It is about the relationship between religion and power, between religion and politics. This is very important. If we do not say this, if we do not call a cat by its name, then we will continue to conduct a meaningless dialogue. Many who spoke before me have stressed what is common to all religions, a common denominator of all religions, which is that all religions preach harmony. They also preach tolerance, which is true even from my own experience. But what we are witnessing today seems to be completely different. The reason is that religion, in many countries, not just in Nigeria, is being manipulated by partisan politics. And, sometimes, states pretend to show that religion should be different from politics, but nothing can be farther from the truth: religion is a reﬂection of culture, and politics too is a reﬂection of culture. I was brought up and educated in France, a country that proclaims secularity in everything. This is precisely the country now engaged in religious dialogue in various ways in its society. We should not pretend that religion is not part of politics or power, rather derive from it the necessary clues for preventing conﬂicts that occur in our midst along ethnic or cultural lines. Religion is an essential component of all culture. To talk of diversity of culture, we must include religious diversity as well. So, we have to address this problem. The way politicians go about it is to make religious leaders, whose audience is sometimes greater than that of the politicians, be their agents, help them in winning elections, and convince their followers to vote for them. Religions cannot play the role we expect of them if they allow themselves to be used in this way. This is very important. In my country, the Republic of Benin, we had an important and interesting experience in this regard. As you know, between 1972 and 1989, we went through what has been known as a Marxist-Leninist revolution. During that period, our political leaders proclaimed that all religions, including the traditional ones, were obscurantist in nature, and that we should not consider those religions as the driving force in our society. So, socialism became the order of the day. During that time, we launched a war against traditional religions in particular. We know its result – the so-called Marxist-Leninist state collapsed in 1989 and, in the popular imagination, the failure was the victory of the gods and deities. We are now back to the former situation whereby not only are all religions accepted and respected, but the same political leaders who were preaching Marxism-Leninism before are now preaching Christianity and Islam. The point to be deduced from all this is that all religions are traditional or should be traditional. What I mean is that they should remain faithful;
Round Table One (First Part)
they should remain consistent with the basic values entrusted to all religions, including African religions. Take any religion. Each has integrated many traditional religious values. This is true of Christianity. This is true of African religions. Today, African religions are not limited to the continent of Africa. In the Diaspora, in the Americas, ethnic cultural identity has borrowed many basic features from our African religious values. We should not allow ourselves to be diverted from the objective of creating a fairer society for all of us, and religion should not be the pretext for dividing us and creating chaos here and there. The common values should be the basis of our education, of any programme of religious studies. I think that teaching religion either in schools or at other levels should leave room for practitioners of different religions to come and talk to our students about what they think is the essence of their religion. If the teaching of religion in schools is the responsibility of the practitioner of one particular religion, I am afraid that the problem we want to solve will become more serious and protracted. I think I should end with this point. Thank you.
After Prof. Soumonni’s presentation, the moderator, Prof Yai, described Benin as “a reference point in matters of religious diversity and tolerance”. He remarked that Prof. Soumonni amply demonstrated that matter in his presentation and, then, invited Prof. Ade Ajayi to make his presentation. Prof. Ajayi started by announcing that he was happy to be speaking immediately after Prof. Soumonni, but would rather speak of Traditional Yoruba Religion as a component of Traditional African Religion, unlike Prof. Soumonni, who spoke of Traditional African Religion in a rather holistic context.
Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations, Religions and Cultures
Promoting religious tolerance and co- operation in the West African region: the example of religious plurality and tolerance among the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria by Prof. Ade Ajayi
Emeritus Professor of African History
eligious tolerance and pluralism are usually discussed in the context of a major politically dominant community having to tolerate and extend religious freedom to a number of minority religious groups. The Western historical experience is to move from the exclusivity of eius regio, cuius religio and to seek to create a secular state where politics and religion are kept apart. Examples of two major religious communities inhabiting two different regions of the same country such as we ﬁnd in Nigeria and the Republic of Sudan call for a different approach. The goal is to secure for each community the freedom to practise their religion and educate their young ones in the practice of religion. As stated in the Nigerian Constitution, the state “shall not adopt any religion as state religion” and “every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom to manifest or propagate his religion or belief in worship”. The balance of power between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is such that each should see clearly that the dream of one or the other becoming or remaining dominant is not to be easily realized and that the cultivation of tolerance and cooperation is, therefore, necessary to secure the freedom of worship that we all seek. In practice, however, this balance of power seems to be an intensiﬁcation of confrontation and conﬂict. The Constitution prescribes for a secular state, but neither Christians nor Muslims believe that a secular state is feasible in Nigeria, or capable of providing the environment of freedom to practise religion and bring up children in the practice of faith. Muslims believe that Islam is the total way of life and that Islamic law, the Sharia, is a fundamental right of every true Muslim. Christians, on the other hand, have repudiated the rationalism of the 18th century in which the secular state was conceived. Evangelical and Pentecostal revival, especially in the United States of America, is now emphasizing that humanism and the Renaissance view of man derived more from the Bible than from Greek philosophy, and that the biblical view of man is not only compatible with freedom but has, in fact, proved to be the most effective guarantee of freedom in human society. Muslims and Christians alike have thus repudiated the secular state. This conference needs to consider other approaches. We require policies to promote religious tolerance and cooperation as a way of life.
Round Table One (First Part)
Therefore. the Yoruba regarded religion as an aspect of culture that required no controversy. The Obas and Chiefs. Religion is regarded as part of the makeup of the entire society. Every man is a part of society and every man has a role to play in achieving the goals of society. since disobedience carries sanctions from the deities. nevertheless. which became the summation of Yoruba beliefs. Each individual.As in most traditional African societies. the most important unifying structure of the different deities is Ifa. who hold political ofﬁces. The oracle is their court. Among the Yoruba. As a part of culture. it becomes possible for a husband to worship Orisa Oko (deity of agriculture) or Ogun (deity of iron and war). Thus. there exists a neutral admixture of religious faith within individual families. This level of tolerance is the direct effect of tolerance inherited from the traditional religion whose accommodation and tolerance paved the way for Islam and Christianity. it is the tolerance of traditional religion that metamor- 44 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Peaceful coexistence thus becomes a social commodity that can be willed into optimal existence as the direct sum of uncoordinated individual actions where everybody works for common goals. competition. Religions and Cultures . religion interweaves with politics. In Yoruba land today. and its corpus of divination chants. and its declarations and judgments are binding. while his wife worships Oyo. God was worshipped through various deities who controlled these spirits and natural phenomena. live happily together. No need arises for the husband to convert the wife to Ogun worship or for the wife to seek the soul of the husband for Osun worship. are the same people who preside over religious matters. and each man worships deities of his fancy in the general duty of serving the one true God. the divination deity. ward off evil and achieve peace and sustainable development. the need does not arise to crusade. family or state had its own deity. There was a common belief in one supreme God who manifested His essence in a variety of spirits and natural phenomena. evangelize and win converts to the cult of another deity. their judge and their arbiter. but the common belief in one God neutralizes the use of religion to persuade other people. Each individual. which. Osun. The Ifa is an oracle through which each of these divinities work in consonance with one another and never discordantly. Besides the common belief that deities were but agents of the supreme God. The worshippers do not see themselves as belonging to different religious sects or denominations. or crusades of evangelization. there was mutual respect among the devotees of the different deities. which was worshipped and paciﬁed. or Yemoja. which are instantaneous most of the time. The worship of the different deities did not constitute denominations and there were no complex organizations or centrally-planned liturgies. family or state had its own role in religious activities to pacify the deities. This gives a dual relevance and backing to whatever pronouncements they make in the discharge of their political and administrative functions. In fact.
Lamurudu was said to be a Mecca prince. when Oduduwa and Lamurudu (Nimrod). as a growing child. Hence. The practice of divination as seen in Ifa. that confrontation did not work as no one listened to his argument. and the realization of common goals in religiously plural societies. probably between the 11th and 12th centuries. Oga Ogo (Lord of Glory). Islam and Christianity in Yoruba land. Ajayi Crowther who. a certain Phoenician of Coptic background. Nowhere is this tolerance and peaceful coexistence exhibited more than in the accommodation and mutual coexistence of Traditional Religion. it was not until the time of Ajayi Crowther that Christianity came to Yoruba land. He was encouraged to put together a little book published posthumously in 1892 as Bishop Crowther’s Experiences with Heathens and Mohammedans in West Africa. He learnt that the Round Table One (First Part) 45 . attests to early contact between the Yoruba and Islam. From Islam. Christianity borrowed names such as Oloru Olodumare (God). With the coming of the missionaries in the 1840’s. references have been made to a book titled History of the Yoruba written in Yoruba with Arabic lettering in the 17th century. although we have no corresponding account of that in Mecca. Moreover. did not hesitate to consult them to synchronize religious terminologies of Islam and Traditional Religion with those of Christianity. which proved to be his last visit to Britain. Christianity and Traditional Religion. Ifa had predicted its coming to Abeokuta and had declared itself in favour of the Christian religion and pleaded that white missionaries be allowed to establish and practice their religion. the Malam (Alfa) became Alufa (Pastor in Christian terminology). Crowther provides ample examples of an approach to evangelization that was based on toleration and incorporation when he visited Britain in 1888 for the Lambeth Conference. Ifa not only reafﬁrmed the plea. The Egba were to give him wives and allow their sons and daughters to join in the practice of his religion. which is akin to the system of divination through sand writing practiced in Medieval Islam. and similar appellations of God in the scriptures of Yoruba Traditional Religion. are said to have entered Ile-Ife. Contacts between the Yoruba and Islam date back to Antiquity. The implication of this is that Traditional Yoruba Religion developed an aptitude for tolerance and adaptation to Islam even before the 19th century. Although Christianity spread in North Africa before it was established in Europe and began to spread there. Trade relations brought the Yoruba into contact with the Kanuri of Borno as similar “tribal” marks on their faces would suggest. must have come to associate with Muslims and babalawo and other elders as religious experts. that this paper seeks to recommend as a standard practice for the attainment of peace. The Bishop said that he quickly learnt his lesson in Freetown. although no copy of the book has been found. Ifa was said to have supported the coming to Abeokuta of a certain Shehu. In the Ifa corpus.phosed into religious cohabitation between Islam. stability and sustainable development. and enjoined him to settle for missionary activities. a Muslim malam from Ilorin. but also pleaded for tolerance.
Crowther had no problems being invited to take land and establish mission stations within the Emirate. it is possible to ﬁnd a Bishop father. but was favorably disposed to Christianity and offered it similar accommodation. he sought co-operation with the Emir of Bida. which came from mutual respect. His great impediment was shortage of funds. Although this was not without some measure of persecution. In a family. the miraculous conception of Christ and the status of Angel Gabriel. Crowther was recognized and respected as a kind of unofﬁcial Consul that visited Niger once a year on the British gunboat and went to Bida to renew the accord and exchange gifts. But their tradition of aggressive confrontation had replaced the more tolerant and cooperative approach initiated by Crowther. In approaching Muslims. an Imam son and a babalawo uncle all living happily with one another.duty of the evangelist was ﬁrst and foremost to gain a hearing. because the mission was perceived as being good for promoting trade and development. many of whom will not be afraid to swear on the Bible. He carried this into the political ﬁeld where he persuaded the British Government that co-operation with the Emir to give oversight to British interest was cheaper and more effective than maintaining a consulate all year round at Lokoja. This approach was in contrast with the more aggressive policy of the Sudan Party that considered the Bishop’s methods too political and worldly. 46 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Traditional Yoruba Religion not only tolerated and adopted Islam. He was pushed out of the mission and the Sudan Party decided to dress like Muslims. he said that Muslims could only be argued with “upon the ground of what the Koran admits”. Religions and Cultures . but will refuse to swear on iron for fear of Ogun. Crowther’s method grew out of the tolerance and cooperation of Traditional Yoruba Religion. This tradition of syncretism is still strong in the minds of the Yoruba. They began to invade the walled Muslim cities until the colonial masters banned them. especially in the Egba division. For example. which led to considerable syncretism. Some Christians still do not see any reason why they cannot belong to the traditional Ogboni cult as a social and political institution. He learnt the Bible passages that could gain the hearing of a babalawo and those that could arrest the attention of Muslim leaders. there was a basis for understanding. The Yoruba provide us with an example of the three dominant religions existing side by side. In trying to establish a mission at the conﬂuence of the Niger and the Benue rivers after his initial station at Igbebe had been destroyed. and that it was the Holy Spirit that could touch the heart so that the hearing could lead to conversion. who predicted the miraculous conception.
he remarked. the moderator. and you have to be humble to be able to learn from other religions”. therefore. He. Round Table One (First Part) 47 . Omolewa commended the quality of the presentations and expressed UNESCO’s deep satisfaction “for being able to assemble such excellent and eminent specialists in their respective ﬁelds to participate in the Congress in various capacities”. In his response. He thanked Prof. Omolewa. Prof. Ajayi’s presentation. invited the chairman of the session. pointed out the need for all religions to reﬁne their language of mutual engagement with a view to making it consistently civil.Following Prof. He said it would be difﬁcult for them to have any civil and. then. Ajayi for more or less identifying religious arrogance as one of the legacies of colonisation.“What is surprising”. Prof. “is that Christianity itself teaches humility. to respond to all the presentations made so far. successful dialogue without embarking on such reﬁnement. Prof Yai.
Yai served as the moderator. Theme: How religious leaders can contribute to solving problems in times of conflict? . Prof. while Prof.Round Table Number One (Second Part) P rof. Omolewa also chaired the second part of Round Table Number One. Yai invited Prof. Finagnon Mathias Oké to make his presentation.
and the world as a whole. that takes charge of mundane issues. there is often a mythic being among each group. their customs and activities – whether in the social. Yambe (in Eastern Cameroon). and to whom humans are linked through their ancestors. Africans have always deemed it necessary to have an explanation of the universe and its origin. Before going any further. of course. African cosmogonal philosophies are complex and have only been studied by a few researchers. Farosh (among the Bambara people of Mali). political or economic sphere – had a religious component. or Creator. and so hardly accessible. the environment. Therefore. Mr.How religious leaders can contribute to solving problems in times of conflict? by Prof. as some research works have shown. More often than not. African religions share certain common principles in that their practitioners try to live symbiotically with nature. However. Moderator. which is an indication of their interest in giving a cosmic interpretation to human existence. Life is the essential thing. the African in his traditional religious environment – before colonization. In different parts of Africa. Thank you. the ﬁrst and ultimate reality. Chukwu (among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria). Finagnon Mathias Oké A Delegate from the Republic of Benin Thank you. in spite of their complexity and variety. I would like to call back to our minds the disposition of the traditional African – that is to say. There were. Mr. Africans have their own forms of myth that are different from what one obtains in foreign mythologies. were some of the most religious people on earth. religions on the African continent before the advent of colonialism. Round Table One (Second Part) A 49 . African people. etc. through the Ifa oracle or otherwise. and I will proceed by recalling the previous situation where African religions prevailed before the advent of colonialism. Olowu (in Yoruba). Allah (among the people of Burkina Faso). s you may know. is considered to be somewhat faraway. this God. The traditional African hardly undertook any venture without consulting his religion. Chairman. a kind of secondary God. Some speakers today have already made the point that Africa was not a religious wilderness before the advent of colonialism. we ﬁnd the concept of the Supreme Being variously identiﬁed as Mawou (in some parts of Benin). No distinction exists between the natural and the supernatural. Incidentally. I am here to present a paper on how religious leaders can contribute to solving problems in times of conﬂict.
the foreign religions that invaded the African continent from many directions began to experience conﬂicts between themselves in the course of their establishment on the continent. Guinea and Nigeria. that used to guarantee cohesion in the tribe and the sanctity of blood ties. the voiceless and the unemployed. Islam in particular. wherever it exists. social unity is derived from religious unity. are looking for in many different ways – through Ifa worship. with the help of our ancestors. but also had ethnic and political undertones. such unity is what we. However. in which virtually everyone knows and supports each other. Religion. Among such religions. it sustains the opposition and provides a means by which the black population reacts favorably to their white counterparts. who oppose the mandatory teaching of Islam as a religion. the belief in one’s own concept of God. Mali. religion has come under the control of just a few people and become a source of disunity and personal aggrandizement in contemporary times. Interestingly.Unfortunately. we had clashes that were not just religious in nature. Indeed. should serve as a unifying factor. such reorientation has tended to give way to the pre-eminence of interests whose propagation has 50 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. who would in turn become agents of division on the continent. because individuals within the African traditional setting ﬁnd the possibility of survival only in solidarity with their immediate families and with the larger African family. religion. Thanks to the impact of foreign religions. Religions and Cultures . Are these foreign religions not the origin of our cultural alienation and of the loss of our African identity? Have they not provided the means for the domination of our culture? Are they not accomplices of our subjugation? These religions cannot be integrated into our traditional institutions. Islam plays a catalytic role in ensuring national unity thanks to its inherent notion of communal fraternity and its monotheistic orientation. but also between the people and the government. On this score. and of other interests bordering on their efforts to win or recruit converts. today’s religious leaders adulterate the scripture with their own ideas. wherever the leaders of foreign religions have succeeded in handing down their tenets to our traditional leaders. There were conﬂicts of doctrines and tenets. Subjected to the inﬂuence of political power. Thus. and by paying allegiance to the family head. for instance. Islam seems to provide a particular example in Mauritania where. is a unifying factor. and on which rests the stability of the family. the source of a kind of oneness that derived from the assurance of the security of one’s belief. whereas it was a unifying factor in earlier times. for instance. those mores. the sick. providing a link not just between ethnic groups. and which has led to a successful reorientation of sensibilities in many African societies thanks to the brotherhood that is being extended to the poor. have been severely compromised. Even in some states that can be said to lack political unity. Here lies the respect for tradition that has developed through centuries. like Senegal. Africans.
Prof. Oke’s presentation. Round Table One (Second Part) 51 . masqueraded as piety. a delegate from Mali. and has predictably led to conﬂicts between individuals and social groups. preserve peace. and promote religious tolerance. But what should such traditional leaders do in order to avoid such conﬂicts – whether in their ethnic. he explained. recalled that UNESCO wishes to use dialogue sessions like those afforded by the Congress to draw up modalities for effective conﬂict resolution. the moderator. Therefore. After Prof. Even among our traditional leaders. They should aim at improving the status quo by evolving the means to reconstruct our identity. social unity. They should see it as their responsibility to give their subjects the kind of orientation that takes into consideration our African values and realities. to make her presentation. and to the destruction of the African society as has been the case in countries like Nigeria and Benin. Yai. the promotion of self-interest. Fatoumata Bintou Sanankoua. cultural or religious colorations? My suggestion is that they should endeavour to impress themselves on their communities as vital links between the grassroots and those in positions of authority. Thank you for listening. He went on to invite Ms. anticipated the formulation of The Abuja Statement. while diverting their attention from inﬂuences that can prove injurious to family unity. This information. Such orientation should emphasise love for their roots and their fellow human beings. a summary position paper from the Congress that would canvass positions amenable to the future of religious engagement in the West African sub-region. He told the participants to look forward to drawing up a concrete resolution at the end of the Congress rather than conﬁne their deliberations to the realm of “abstract ideals”. is now the dominant factor.often led to clashes between foreign religions. which jeopardised the stability of their communities. there have been incidents of conﬂicts arising from their inclination to imitate foreign religions without due appreciation of the implications. There should also be a sincere dialogue between religious and political leaders with the aim of instituting a sustainable order in Africa that will guarantee the future.
The reaction to the rebellion was instantaneous. Religions and Cultures . and which makes it a contact area between two cultures. Tuaregs. [Editor’s Note] In this context. 0000 km2 located at the heart of Africa. 2. is a reputable ﬁgure. and Bamanan). Maure. a symbol of Malian nationalism.An example of the resolution of an intra-national armed conflict through intercultural dialogue: the rebellion in northern Mali by Ms. who destroyed the column of Colonel Français Bounier in 1894. the culture of nomadic shepherds (the Arabs. In 1963. characterised by hard living conditions and populated by a mosaic of people. Cheiboune Ag Fondogomo. They inhabited a particularly hostile region and felt they were not taken into account within the Independence context. The Tuaregs of the Kidal circle revolted and attacked the symbols of the State. and Foulbé) and the culture of sedentary farmers (the Songhoy. In 1964. Fatoumata Bintou Sanankoua (Head. as opposed to agrarian folks. the idea of being sedentary or nomadic relates to a group of people who ply their trade while moving from place to place or in speciﬁc locations. create unbreakable bonds and an extraordinary intermingling of populations. Sorko. The Malian state could not just ignore a rebellion that dangerously threatened national unity and the country’s territorial integrity. These peoples have a distinctive history given their ﬁerce resistance to the penetration of the French Order in order to protect their way of life. 52 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the north was marked by the lack of any signiﬁcant socio-sanitary infrastructure and without any developmental programme capable of improving the lot of its populations. who are both nomadic and sedentary2. Its northern half is situated in the Sahara desert. a brutal repression ended the rebellion and the zone was placed under military administration. an armed rebellion took place in the north of the country. like cowherds. M The History of the Rebellion The Republic of Mali was proclaimed on 22 September 1960. Most of the survivors emigrated to the countries bordering the Sahara.Bamako) ali is a large country of more than 120. In spite of national sovereignty. The secular cohabitation of these peoples and the fact that they share the same territory and complement one another’s agrarian activities and animal husbandry. Institute of the Sciences and the Humanities . and throughout this presentation.
The ruling dictatorship decided to “calm down” the northern front to concentrate its forces against the crusaders for freedom and democracy. the situation in the country and internationally in 1990 was completely different from the one in 1964. In 1973. led to a cease-ﬁre. both nomadic and sedentary. The sources of water supply. The National Conference of July-August Round Table One (Second Part) 53 . Lebanon or Chad. The northern part of the country was even more seriously affected. joined the training camps of the Islamic Legions. experienced a massive exodus all over of the northern populations. the release of prisoners. signed on 16 January 1991. involved in the rebellion. The demand of the people for democracy and a multi-party system shook the dictatorship. the response gave the utmost consideration to military and security expediency. also disappeared. and the withdrawal of the armed forces of the civilian administration. wanted to impose a greater involvement of the nomadic community in the running of the affairs of the Malian state. However.The security and military response brought temporary calm to the region. a popular revolution ousted the ruling dictatorial regime. not only towards the southern cities of Mali and its neighbouring countries. Moreover. The army was heavily engaged in the north with no decisive victory against the rebels regarded as armed bandits. The agents for change welcomed the two main groups. The aspiration of the Malian people for freedom was well relayed by the international media. into the Transitional Council for the Salvation of the People (CTSP). The Tuaregs. and the droughts of 1973 and 1985. which was autocratic and corrupt. did not take advantage of the international aid and solidarity directed towards Mali. The efforts to develop the country. We. There were high death tolls and livestock was virtually decimated. which were already scarce. The Tamanrasset agreements. The second rebellion took place in June 1990 due to the return of those who had exiled during the ﬁrst rebellion. the agreements were not respected and the situation worsened with the emergence of two other armed groups. but also to distant countries like Libya and Palestine. therefore. Others. The civilian and military casualties increased tremendously. The government. who had now become politicized and hardened by their participation in several wars of liberation (in Chad and Palestine) or their stint in the training camps in Libya. were reduced to nothing. Once again. A number of them wanted to wash away the humiliation imposed by the military administration of the area. who went to Libya. an organ responsible for the supervision of the transition programme and the organization of free and fair elections. a terrible drought hit the countries of the Sahel (of which Mali is part). The battles were murderous and the toll of civilian casualties high. The Algerian government came to the aid of the Malian government and facilitated the contacts and the negotiations with the rebels. In March 1991. But the military was now ﬁghting men who were heavily armed and militarily prepared. the cantonment of the rebels. which had begun after the repression of 1964. but did not solve the problem.
54 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. They all signed a pact called Pact of the Future. and caused many more civilian victims.1991. later. The population was ready to react. This was the beginning of the involvement of civil society in the process of re-establishing peace. there were representatives of the movements that operated in the area: the Patriotic Movement Ganda Koy. still in Bourem. suspected of trickery and deceit. This time. proceeded to convene a meeting of all the village chiefs of the said area. The conference was held in Mopti from 16 to 18 December 1991 and adopted the principle of a free administration. Insecurity and guerrilla warfare deteriorated living conditions that were already very difﬁcult. in Bamako. recommended the organization of a special conference dealing with the northern region in order to discuss the issues in question in a decisive and democratic manner. The government did not succeed in mobilizing the necessary logistical and ﬁnancial means and was. territorial integration. Inter-communal meetings and the return of peace In spite of the numerous meetings and agreements prepared in Algeria and Mali. the guns continued to thunder in the north until 1994. On the contrary. It convinced both parties to sign a truce over their disagreements and. and an Emergency Plan for the northern regions. the village chief of Bourem. infuriated by the situation. It was decided from then on. In November 1994. Since then. (a group of sedentary people dedicated to self-defense formed as a result of attacks from nomadic compatriots) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Azaouad (PFLA). The attacks did not cease. Religions and Cultures . The implementation of the provisions of the national pact was difﬁcult. in which both the nomadic and sedentary groups took an oath and accepted to revive the tradition of multi-secular cohabitation. That of Faguibine developed from the meeting of M’Bouma where most of the ethnic groups in the Goundam region committed themselves to the creation of a peaceful atmosphere to ﬁght banditry together in that area. The Algerian government acted as Mediator between the rebels and the Malian government. they increased in intensity. which brought together every class and social category of the Malian population. that each village chief was responsible for the security of his area. marking the end of the hostilities. on 11 January 1995. therefore. more inter-ethnic meetings have taken place leading to the restoration of peace. The paciﬁcation of the valleys of Timbuktu and Gourma resulted from a meeting of the “white” and “black” populations and the sedentary and nomadic groups in those areas. A second meeting took place two months later. and encourage the return of governance and of development activities. The aim was to get everyone involved. a national pact was signed on 11 April 1992.
The zoning of the meetings was also another major factor in the success story. for whom the progressive but real re-establishment of peace was a godsend thanks to these meetings. was entirely made up of northerners. Conclusion When the government and the rebel movements showed their limitations and inability to re-establish peace in the north. It was. the initiative was internal and exclusively brought together by the heads of the communities who decided who to invite. The support unit. The success of this intercultural dialogue can be attributed to the force of tradition in these areas and the strategies adopted. Whenever they invited the Administration or political parties. civil society took over. something neither the moribund dictatorial regime. Indeed. therefore. Firstly. inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue as the means of settling conﬂicts that arise sporadically in the country. they asked for God’s blessings towards the re-establishment of peace. Since then. They determined the roles to be played by everyone. They called upon a network of exceptional resourceful people in Bamako and on the ground. which helped to organise these meetings. Women ofﬁcially participated in the meetings through two female associations specially formed to facilitate the return to peace. a mission of reconciliation and one for raising awareness were involved in the process of restoring peace in the north. They assessed the appropriateness to involve the rebel movements. The communities understood better the mechanism that linked them to one another and the steps to be taken to get together again. Mali’s symbolic city. experience and knowledge. Religious authorities (imams and khadis) were well represented and played a decisive role. nor the transitional one. or even the ﬁrst government of the third Republic. they triumph over all adversities. Only those entities characterized by their strong and long-standing complementarities with geographical areas. A total of twenty-two meetings. it is this kind of dialogue that facilitated the resolution of a protracted and serious conﬂict between the Kounta and the Tuareg ethnic groups in 2002 Round Table One (Second Part) 55 . it was only as observers. The Malian government celebrated the country’s return to peace by setting up THE FLAME OF PEACE in Timbuktu. encouraged other communities to meet and achieve similar good results. these meetings that re-established peace in the northern part of the country and freed Mali from innumerable tragedies. did not achieve despite the signature of several agreements and pacts. peoples and economic activities were concerned. At the beginning and end of each meeting.The government. The government eventually withdrew its forces in the north. When people take control of their destiny. who were directly involved in the peace process by virtue of their ofﬁcial positions. the government has adopted intercultural.
He. The moderator. 56 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Prof. invited Mr. Decentralisation offers an opportunity for peace and good governance. Mohammed Kabir Kassim to make his presentation. Sanankoua for providing a concrete example of the successful use of dialogue in resolving an armed conﬂict in contemporary times. commended Ms. then.and between the factions of the Idnan and the Iforas of Kidal and the Sunnites and the Wahabites of Nioro in 2003. He noted that The Abuja Statement might need to incorporate examples like the one above in order to be deemed objective. Yai. Religions and Cultures .
let me explain that the verses are very much relevant to this Congress. My Mentor. I greet you all. Dr. Ambassador Michael Omolewa. the human being. Chairman. I have begun by reciting some Koranic verses that some people may think were incantations. before I go on with my paper. Kaine Nwashile. not to despise one another – This is the basis. So. And we made you into nations and tribes That you may understand one another. I also said the prayer of Prophet Moses when he was commissioned by God to go and preach to Pharaoh. Mankind! We have created you out of a simple soul. Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO.Man’s representation of God on earth. The most noble of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most conscious Of his duties towards Allah – This is the criterion. a pair of a male and a female. Rev. Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. In answer to God. My National Director. That is far from the truth. Distinguished Participants. Lateef Adegbite. Moses – peace be unto him – had this to say: Round Table One (Second Part) 57 . Mohammed Kabir Kassim (Programme Coordinator: Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria) Mr. From a male and a female. the unique creation of God by Mr. The Representative of the Pope. Their translation is as follows: O. or that I meant to use them to hypnotise or mesmerise you.
the most valued creation of God. Since this morning we have been talking of peace. So. In the Holy Koran. the Supreme Being. Now. That is God. if these two religions believe in God and believe in the creation of man. except Satan. but have we for one moment pondered the question: “Who is this man. He created Adam. God said. So. When He created Adam. I will preach to him the word of God. how He created Jesus – peace be unto him – without a human father. especially Islam and Christianity. God told the angels. The root word of Islam 58 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. as representatives of Allah. it is said that God said. the Koran says. before we talk of how to resolve a crisis. what I am trying to tell this august gathering is that this is the root of man. Remove the impediments from my speech so that he and his people will understand what I have to say. there are religious barriers. O God… but how could you create such a being that would come to earth and begin to shed blood”. Even in the Bible. Now to my paper proper. This is the essence of creation. “You. we need to ask: “Who is this man?” The representative of God. Now. God created Adam without a father and without a mother. That is why we are on earth to do godly things. as representatives of God. Even the Bible recognizes that God said. They said. From the lower ribs of Adam. Now. The angels bowed down in adoration. They fell down and worshipped him. there are cultural barriers. “I want to create a representative on earth. He created Eve. there are lots of barriers. according to religions. “I know that which you do not know”. without a human mother. Look at God. I think I am in need for such a prayer as Moses. “O Allah. God does godly things. make me brave. tell me. who is this man?” Before we talk of conﬂict resolution. so that when I get to Pharaoh I will not be afraid of him. expand for me my breast. God said to Adam. Make my task easy. That was why I prayed to my God to make it possible for me and the other speakers to be understood in all that we may have to say. Adam told them. whom God called “the most elevated of all creatures”. then they should recognize that the vicegerency of man on earth entails that man should live in peace with God and with his fellow men. who is he. There are psychological barriers.O Lord. what are the names of these things?” They could not answer. He called the angels and said. Let there be seas and there were seas”. “Let there be mountains and there were mountains. I remember that even my Christian brethren used to refer to Jesus – peace be unto him – as the Prince of Peace. Religions and Cultures . “Let us make man in our own image”. he taught him the names of many things. the Inﬁnite. “Tell them the names of these things”. who refused. that the source of man is Adam and Eve. In this type of gathering. They bowed down to Adam. angels. the vicegerent of God on earth? Why are we here? Why are we representing God?” It is an undeniable fact. and he became the outcast of God. a vicegerent on earth”.
means peace. forbidding them what is bad. Lateef Adegbite. Ladies and Gentlemen. but the idol worshippers of Mecca. “You will ﬁnd those who are nearest to God with the Christians. not even the Christians. But the Prophet said. the mountains. because amongst them are Priests and Monks. and when Sunday came. the trees. We are being simultaneously cautioned and ordained by God. then. Bishops. Islam means peace. even the beasts of burden are doing them – the rocks. Now we are ready for dialogue”. This is the picture of a true Christian. Dr. So. the Lord of the worlds. etc. In the days of Prophet Mohammed. then you will be under God’s protection. It begins like this: “Glory be to Allah.” which means peace. enjoining them what is good”. So. God told me we are going but God did not tell me if it is either this year or Round Table One (Second Part) 59 . They ate in the mosque. they slept in the mosque. Evangelists. But. But. “No. “We read your Koran and that is what the Koran says. On reaching a certain village. So. if you are talking of dialogue. He invited the Jews. it is left to us. there is a chapter in my book titled “The Opening Chapter”. This is recorded in Islamic history. God says in the Koran. especially Muslims and Christians – we shall be called upon to account for our deeds on earth. I do not wish to claim that we are pacesetters as Muslims. But on Judgment Day – we all believe there is Doomsday. Islam has given us another yardstick when it says about the Christians that. the God of this world. We are waiting for other religious leaders to come forward and say. A revelation came to him that he was to go to Mecca to perform Hajj that year. They do not have the senses we have. the idol worshippers of Mecca came to him and said. So. If you do not do godly things. This freewill that God gave us has not been given to animals – monkeys. they always celebrate the presence of God. God gave us freewill when He elevated Adam. and which my mentor. according to Islamic history. Christianity and Judaism. “You are not going in. he offered a prayer for the Christians. we have an exemplary case in the Prophet of Islam. Reverend Fathers. if we are from the same source – and all religions agree that we are one nation. and because they are not arrogant”. the Prophet of Islam – peace be unto him – held a tripartite congress of the three of the world’s greatest religions – Islam. according to our religious books. Pastors. he signed a treaty with the idol worshippers. “There must be a group of people among you calling people unto righteousness. If we do not do the same or choose not to do what is good. God gave us these senses to think and do godly things. They were there for three days and three nights. we are under the inﬂuence of Satan. that we are one community – then why are we divided? Because. It is derived from the root word “salaam. we shall not allow you in”. the ﬁrestones. has already highlighted. then Satan will take over your will because he is the God of this world. the rocks. if you allow your bad instincts to overwhelm you. if you allow God to take control of you. the Christians and the Muslims to his blessed mosque in Medina. dogs. the galaxies. peaceful coexistence between man and God and between man and man. But. name it”. the seven ﬁrmaments.
that if democracy means “Government of the people by the people for the people”. they will be called to account. In the treaty. If we do. then. the Prophet said. the East and anywhere else. Otherwise. to Jesus. What I am trying to say is that we are all one nation – mankind. on Judgment Day. where the Jews brought a woman. Yet. A similar incident is recorded in the Bible. I remember a certain historian of the 19th century. the Prophet urged them to forgive her rather than insist on their punishing her severely and perhaps even stone her to death as the Law of Moses recommends. who wrote about the Prophet of Islam. That is it. And Jesus said. it may be your own way to salvation on Judgment Day. not repeal it. But people do not have the political will. We have come to realize that it is because people do not have the political will. that religion has become the object of manipulation. we are ready for dialogue. it is as if he is killing the whole of mankind”. But the idol worshippers said. knowing truly well that he was the Messenger of Allah. “No. this hand would never erase the ‘Prophet of Allah’. That is the Law of Moses. We do not recognize him as the Prophet of Allah. Read through it and see it. “I have come to conﬁrm it”. It is part of politics. If we are talking about dialogue. Go to chapter 42 of the Holy Koran and see it. And the law said the adulterer and the adulteress must be stoned to death. and beautiful preaching. there is a complete chapter in the Koran called “Consultation” – chapter 12 of the Holy Koran. The Koran says. The Koran says. If you kill a soul. “Whoever saves a soul. So. Then. And they showed him the place and he struck out the reference to him as the Prophet of Allah with his own hand. he said he had come to conﬁrm the law. people must understand what is called politics. The holy Prophet says. “Where is the ‘Prophet of Allah?’ By God. “Show me the place”. you can oppose such manipulation. and whoever kills a soul. “Let he who has not sinned cast the ﬁrst stone”. So. So. Religions and Cultures . that we do not allow him entry into the holy city”. Contrary to the expectations of her accusers. Then. then why the hullabaloo? It is because we do not recognize him.” The story says that the Prophet said. and on the Day of Judgment you will be asked to account for the 60 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. which the Prophet signed. The Bible says that Jesus was scribbling in the sand and.next year”. said to have been caught in the act of adultery. how do you give them the political will while we have professional politicians manipulating religion everywhere? How? The men of God have to come in. That is why we have been telling these giants from the West. “All of you are shepherds. This is wisdom. be sure that you will account for it on Judgment Day. People are talking about politics and religion. he raised his head and said. it is as if he is saving the whole of mankind. now they concluded a treaty. They must. He related an incident in which a certain woman was brought before the Prophet [Mohammed] and was accused of adultery. If you help in saving the life of a single person. then the Prophet of Islam started it. Once you have the political will. it is said that the scribe of Mohammed described him as “The Prophet of Allah”. “Come unto the work of your Lord with wisdom”.
then. there has to be wisdom. “Where is the tax money?” They gave him a coin with the inscription of Caesar. Round Table One (Second Part) 61 . then corrupt people will continue to rule you. That wisdom is part of politics. Jesus and Mohammed – may peace be unto them both. the ruler is in charge of the community or his subjects. “Pay”. “If my book of authority calls you ‘respected people’ and ‘people of the Book’. he would be in trouble with the government. God has chosen you. but my book of authority says it – so we have a basis for peace”. People tend to believe that once you are a politician. to his people. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. The representative of the Pope said it point blank when he spoke. “He is not the Messiah we have been expecting”. God has puriﬁed you. “Whose inscription is this?” and they said. God says.ﬂock He has given you to herd”. Why not sanitize the system. Jesus said. at the head of a household. Recently I was talking to a friend. Jesus – may peace be unto him – realized that if he said. Thirdly. in the Bible. made some interesting statements during his speech. You see. and I said. the UNESCO Representative in Nigeria. he said. that they want to build the capacity of religious leaders to resolve conﬂicts that cannot be resolved by traditional rulers. that is the truth. that men of God must engage in politics. “We want to build peace and harmony”. So. and the teacher in the classroom is in charge of the pupils. which is one of the reasons why they are organizing this Congress. How do we build peace and harmony? By dialogue. while the lecturer is in charge of the students at university. We are just like cattle to these messengers of Allah. Even the traditional religionists – we have heard one of them today – accept dialogue. No Muslim is a Muslim if he contests that fact. or once you are involved in politics. the impediment to peace and harmony is the radicalization of preaching. Again. as you. that is about religion and politics. God has puriﬁed you. But. “Oh Mary. So. And. then you are corrupt. So. Finally. a Christian. “Come and let us reason together”. He said. The Prophet of Islam says. then they would say. God has chosen you above the women of all nations” – even if such is not written in the Bible. If you refuse to engage in politics. Ladies and Gentlemen. let us emulate these great men. “Caesar’s”. First. He asked them. I said we accept Jesus – may peace be unto him. “Reason together”. that they want to see the engagement of women and youth in conﬂict resolution rather than leave them at the periphery. So. the mother of Jesus – that is Chapter 19 of the Holy Koran – saying. some people came to Jesus to ask if they should pay taxes or not. In the Book of Isaiah 1:8. if he said. and unto God what is God’s”. “Don’t pay”. he said that they are trying to recruit religious leaders for the purpose of maintaining peace and harmony. I recount that. if my book of authority dedicates a whole chapter in honor of Mary. are in charge of the house. that is the crux of the matter. Secondly. Mr. They want them to be at the center. Hubert Charles.
which many modern Christians are contesting today. here am I”. “Read your book of deeds on earth”. to the African traditionalists. We are not saying you have to believe in Mohammed. Let there be action. 62 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. We want our Christian brothers to respect our Prophet so that there will be peace and harmony. the person becomes a hypocrite. because on Judgment Day he knows what awaits him if he does not act. The bases for these things have been laid out in the Holy Koran and we have already discussed them. On a ﬁnal note – an appeal to the Christians – if the Muslims really believe in Jesus – and we actually do – then we want a reciprocal approach. My dear delegates. and the whole of Africa. even out of curiosity. and then he says. We believe he spoke as an infant and defended his mother from an unbelieving audience. We believe he raised the dead with God’s permission. We are tired of rhetoric. We are tired of coming to hotels to be accommodated and fed. there is the need for everyone. We have it in Islamic history that the Prophet of Islam never forced anyone to accept Islam. Yes. We want UNESCO to create a forum for religious leaders to brainstorm and come up with concrete and sincere strategies for the attainment of peace and harmony in West Africa. Religions and Cultures . We want UNESCO to create a forum of this nature so that we can brainstorm and come up with a sincere and concrete document and have each and every religious leader append his signature on it. We are tired of paperwork. to the atheists. God will say. I thank you for paying attention. it will be relayed. So.We believe in Jesus Christ. He never forced anyone to accept Islam. Even the Holy Koran says there is no compulsion in religion. But we want a reciprocal approach. We believe he healed the blind with God’s permission. We have a basis for it in the Islamic circle. That is our stand. I stand to be challenged and I am ready to accept the challenge. “Okay. I am very grateful to the organizers of this event for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share this piece of mine with my colleagues. We are inviting you. we are now extending a hand of friendship to the Christians. an insidious enemy of your religion. We believe in his miraculous birth. we believe in Jesus Christ. The Muslims are now spreading their tentacles. On Judgment Day. I am not saying this to placate you. so I just want to make some recommendations. on that day. because we are made to understand that once you force someone to accept your faith. I have a paper to present tomorrow on HIV/AIDS. This thing we are talking about today will be relayed on Judgment Day. As one of the previous speakers said. That is the Koranic version. Respect our Prophet as we respect Jesus – peace be unto him. I would like to say that we are tired of rhetoric. I want the UNESCO representatives that are here today to recognize that religious leaders in Nigeria and in West Africa are now poised to work together for peace and harmony. because on Judgment Day – the angels of God are recording this event – and. but we are tired of rhetoric. to know some of the rudiments of everyone else’s religion.
Kassim for demonstrating in his presentation that one’s faith in one’s religion can beneﬁt from the knowledge of the doctrines of other religions. He also commended him for canvassing for “the kind of reciprocity that compels admiration”. and ensure that such meetings mentioned in the recommendations are convened in due course. commended Mr. Kassim’s recommendations to the Director-General of UNESCO. to show respect for the core tenets and beliefs of one another. Prof Yai. Mariza C. He. as well as atheists and practitioners of African Traditional Religion. by urging the adherents of both Christianity and Islam.The moderator. Round Table One (Second Part) 63 . to make her presentation. invited Prof. then. He promised to convey Mr. a delegate from Brazil. Soares.
after which Africans stopped arriving in Brazil. life and death were extremely linked. Mariza C. But we had too many Africans there already. So. they began having a kind of separation. Those situations focus on the way the leaders have dealt with the presence of doubt.Conflict and tolerance: the religious Yoruba leaders during the 19th and 20th century by Prof. But this could be a risk. because they had a very important decision to make about this issue. The ﬁrst situation when African leaders in Brazil faced the situation of dealing with the idea of tolerance was at the end of the slave trade. The ﬁrst possibility open to them was to keep the ethnic groups together and strong within themselves. There are mainly the Fon tradition and the Angolan tradition. Fon and Yoruba – could have gone on reproducing themselves by receiving new people from Africa. which was strongly related to their religious traditions. I will talk about the Yoruba tradition in Brazil. and I will try and bring in a report about two different situations where the presence and importance of Yoruba leadership in Brazil has contributed to the resolution of conﬂicts. Soares (A delegate from Brazil) The Organisers of this Congress. and they were very concerned about the importance of keeping their ethnic identity. at that time. because if they kept 64 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Religions and Cultures . Distinguished Delegates. They have to talk to each other and they have to ﬁnd somehow a means of living together and this means that – since the era of slavery until now – we have all the time been talking about tolerance and about how to go through conﬂict and reach some kind of compromise. We had the slave trade in Brazil until 1850. which was terrible. However. and about the possibility of living together. The title of my presentation is “Conﬂict and Tolerance: the Religious Yoruba Leaders during the 19th and 20th Century” because I am going to talk about two different situations. The three main religious traditions – the Angolan. because the slave trade was the only way for African people in Brazil to keep their links with Africa. that the role of their religious leadership was very important. I greet you all. That meant. We have different African religious traditions in Brazil. These traditions have to take to each other and discuss many situations of conﬂict that we have had in the past and still have in the present. and this means that the Yoruba comes inside a Catholic environment while dealing with other different African traditions. and the idea that there were no more people coming from Africa was actually making them more distant from their origins. Ladies and Gentlemen.
This was a very interesting situation because it was again a situation of tolerance. The story was based on one of the most important legends we have in the Yoruba tradition in Brazil. they could not reproduce. They began to receive among their community. but also about the constant attitude they have of discussing their conﬂicts and trying to resolve them amicably. They decided to keep their differences amongst themselves – we have many different traditions in terms of Candomblé and African origins. This is what we call the Candomblé in present-day Brazil. some important leaders of the Yoruba people in Brazil – together with the Angolans and the Fon – each one among their own group. but somehow having the same kind of religious options – began to spread the idea of what it would be like to share a kind of African identity. This is very important because it was at a time when a conﬂict could have taken place. The second possibility was to have a different comprehension about what could be ethnic identity and what could be religious identity. Then. We prepared a project about this and received grants from Catholic and Protestant churches. The other side of the policy they developed was the possibility of building a strong religious identity based on an African past – the traditions their ancestors brought from Africa. at last. Then. and action for the Candomblé was actually action for a situation of tolerance. which is that Rosamota had a very ugly baby. The Candomblé is the result of a policy made by some African religious leaders in Brazil. a group of Yoruba leaders decided that it was very important to try to build a kind of religious strategy to deal with AIDS inside a Candomblé community. Brazilians . They did not participate in the project. They only gave their ﬁnancial support. Then. and the idea of tolerance is not just about the respect they have for each other. The proposal resulted in their decision to make use of the traditional stories of the Candomblé. They gathered together but had no money to implement a campaign about AIDS. It is very difﬁcult to prevent AIDS in Brazil. They decided that Yemoja would be the symbol of the campaign. while leaving some room to be together. Those Candomblé leaders prepared a proposal about AIDS.black people and even white people. where they consciously decided that the way of surviving. The Round Table One (Second Part) 65 . and AIDS is a very serious problem in Brazil. Many members of the Candomblé community had AIDS. because poverty has come together with AIDS.themselves closed in their ethnic groups. They went to all kinds of NGOs. The Candomblé is not exactly an African religion like you have here. multireligious NGOs. we had a very recent experience in Rio de Janeiro where there was a practical problem in the Candomblé community in Brazil. they started losing the strong ethnic identity they had. But they have a common ground that emphasizes the idea of tolerance. This is what happened in the 19th century. This meant that. the way of keeping up the African tradition was to open up their idea of Africa by sharing different ethnic origins.
He. In the same way we have many conﬂicts among Protestants and Catholics. between Catholics and the Candomblé. This was very interesting. He mentioned that Africans in the Diaspora have shown that we can live peacefully in spite of our religious differences. The ﬁrst thing was that they could have some kind of comprehension about AIDS inside the religious community and. My experience with the Odoya project – which is a project about teachers – shows that it is very difﬁcult to deal with any situation of religious conﬂict inside the religious group. So. because even if it was attributed to the Yoruba houses of Candomblé. even if it represented the Yoruba vision of the disease. I think the experience of this project was a very important example for us as to how important it is to develop this kind of attitude about tolerance. This man was called Omolu Sapata. saw the baby and took care of him. we feel that there is a very nice relationship between Catholics and the Candomblé. 66 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. they could talk about many techniques. even among those from the Fon and Angolan tradition. We have conﬂicts between the Candomblé and Protestants. Religions and Cultures . However. Following Prof. I would like to present to you two different situations – the ﬁrst one held in the 19th century and the other one is a recent experience in the 20th century – to tell you that we have many conﬂicts in Brazil inside the African religious community. secondly.baby was very ugly because of an attack of smallpox. Yai. Soares’s presentation. He became a very important man. despite the conﬂicts. remarked that if Africans could survive through religion. They came to this group and shared this project. and he was the one who took care of all diseases. and described it as a lesson that those of us in the African continent would do well to emulate. The mother abandoned the baby because of its ugliness. The Angolan and the Fon people shared in the project and adapted it to their own situations. They used this legend to tell people two things. Yemoja came. Thank you very much. Then. have some technical knowledge about AIDS to be able to face the pandemic. some kind of project that actually goes beyond the religious domain may sometimes be a good opportunity to develop the practice of tolerance. the moderator. Maybe the most important thing about this was that they could really devise a means to bring some kind of solidarity and compassion to those people who had AIDS inside the community. it took a more important place in the whole Candomblé community. then they should be able to transcend their current difﬁculties. Maybe some kind of action. as depicted in the presentation. then. Then. invited Bishop Alexander-George Gianniris of the Greek Orthodox Church in Nigeria to make his presentation. Prof. This is why I would like to bring in a report about this and show it to anyone who may be interested.
but also a theological imperative. this mentality preserved the Word of God intact and unadulterated. who are similarly lost in the “one-way street” of our own ideologies. Round Table One (Second Part) 67 . No one can overlook the fact that to enter into a dialogue.Abolishing the one-way street3 by Bishop Alexander-George Gianniris (Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. And John. [Author’s Note] The title is taken from an article written by Prof. 3. But the moment came when everyone – leaders and people alike – eventually followed the monolithic path of self-indulgence and conceit for that which they possessed. shows that we are imbued with this openness of mind and heart. I would like to make some theological comments that are important to understand our position on the issue. the High Priest. adds: “And not only for the nation. our political parties and associations. For a period of time. religions and civilizations. but for the re-uniting into one body of all God’s dispersed children”. cultures. I believe. whose basic characteristics were selﬁshness and a slandering of their lives – lives lost inside regulations of piety and legal stipulation. A Kariotoglou who lives in Athens. It became a taboo: a living God of many robots. organizations and even our churches. Allow me to express some thoughts on the role religious leaders can play in defusing various clashes and tensions. said that it would be proﬁtable if one person dies for the people rather than the entire nation be lost. We all are indebted to both UNESCO and the Nigerian Government for the initiative in raising this programme. this divinely inspired student of God’s love for the universe. we must open our minds and hearts to others. we all afﬁrm and recognize the necessity and importance of dialogue among people. By accepting the invitation and coming here today. For me. tolerance and reconciliation. It is a risky undertaking that requires a deep sense of vocation. Caiafas. prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation. rather partners in our conversations. I (A) In the Book of John (11: 45–52) we read that when the Pharisees were discussing what to do with Jesus. Nigeria) would like to express my sincere thanks and deep appreciation for the invitation extended to me to participate in this conference. Our presence here. They had something that many of us also have today. dialogue for coexistence. such dialogue has become not simply a social necessity. The peoples of other faiths should no longer be objects of our discussions. What Caiafas saw was a veritable “one-way street:” the nation’s “best interest”. Firstly. as a religious ﬁgure.
to afﬁrm himself through this rejection and not through the acceptance of the “Other” (God). and their own theological. even Churches. otherness is inconceivable apart from relationship. but also of all “otherness”. clubs. Thus. according to them. A study of the Trinity reveals that otherness is absolute. fraternities. the “Other” par excellence. and hence to death. The different beings become distant beings. because difference becomes division. the fear of the “other” constitutes a pathology built into the very roots of our existence and inherited through our birth. In the Trinitarian God. These theological observations lead to anthropological consequences. (B) At this point I feel it is necessary to brieﬂy expand on the issue of the “other” and “otherness” since I believe – as I think many of us do – that the fear and rejection of the “other” and “otherness” is the matrix that gives birth to all religious. making otherness not a threat to unity but a sine qua non condition for it. Difference becomes a threat. protection from the “other” is a fundamental necessity since they feel much threatened. otherness is constitutive and not consequent upon it. And distance unavoidably amounts to decomposition. part of his rejection. Once he did so. enemy: “the other”. Religions and Cultures . to protect their own identity. we organize states.For centuries. When the fear of the “other” becomes fear of “otherness”. we come to the point of identifying difference with division. that is. results in the fear not only of any “other”. Each Person of the Trinity is different not by way of difference of qualities. ethical and legalistic walls to protect themselves. but by way of simple afﬁrmation of being who He is. To our understanding. The essence of his sin. personhood is inconceiv- 68 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. it became inevitable for the “Other” to become an enemy and a threat. To keep everyone within the boundaries of their “one-way street” and protect them from the biggest. We divide our lives and the human beings according to difference. rejected our Creator. the model for this reconciliation is the Trinitarian God. Maximos the Confessor). On the basis of difference. Adam chose in his freedom to do so. division becomes distance. For many. religions have built their own communities. (C) The question arising from the foregoing – and which is important for our topic – is: How can we reconcile otherness and communion in the Church? What is our model for this? For us. Radical “otherness” becomes anathema. ethnic and cultural tensions. According to the Bible. (St. reconciliation with any “other” presupposes reconciliation with God. their own spiritual ethos. God’s oneness or unity is expressed through the unbreakable “communion” that exists between the three Persons. The fear of the “Other. Adam. is the fear of the “Other” (God). a conception of the human being summed up in one word: personhood.” inherited in our existence. Both in theological and anthropological signiﬁcance. the ﬁrst man. (An “I” exists only as long as it relates to a “You”). As a result of this.
In Christianity – and the same applies to Islam – many Churches have expressed their reservations and scepticism about the objectives of such a dialogue while others have raised questions about the validity of other faiths. This dialogue. are assets to this dialogue. religious and ethnic traditions in order to discover. The freedom of being “other”. But they can be explained honestly. meetings. Thus. not classiﬁed. As a conclusion of all this comes our conviction that acceptance and tolerance for the “other” and any “otherness” in our daily life is part of our ecclesial identity and not an act of dispensation. (1) There seems to be an urgent need for us to create opportunities (conferences. racial. in order to contribute to defusing the various clashes in our region. learn how to deal with challenges to identity. The above-mentioned theological points come in support of our proposals of what could be done by us. it is not an easy task due to the fact that religiosity is sometimes expressed by blind conservatism and militant fundamentalism with far reaching dangers. including the leaders. (2) Nowadays. de-globalising situations of conﬂict and analysing each one in its own context is of immense importance. the long history of coexistence and the theological discussions between Christianity and Islam. religious education can be the space in which all. social. simply the “other”. Our communities and churches exist in different environments and face different issues and concerns that emerge from living with people of other faiths. an open and genuine dialogue between Christians and Muslims has to start in our region. as every other. and have gained different experiences of dialogue with people. through the media. research. In societies where religious indifference. perceived correctly and accepted in conﬁdence. It may be necessary to make clear that such a dialogue with Islam (even with other religions) is not a negotiation and does not compromise one’s faith. both in the past and currently in other parts of the world. religious leaders. but freedom for the other. must be contextualised. coexistence and conﬂict resolution. Today. Round Table One (Second Part) 69 . cultural intolerance and rapidly changing norms and values seem to prevail. The common Abrahamic roots. more than ever. Undoubtedly. There are differences and they cannot be removed. then we feel that our Christian witness is destroyed. manage conﬂicts and develop sensitivities in interacting with difference. conﬂicts and enmities in one part of the world could easily be perceived dangerously by people in another area.able without freedom. not subjected to norms and stereotypes. This freedom is not freedom from the other. ethnic. to reveal the elements in each culture and religion that speaks for (or in favour of) reconciliation. etc) to study deeply and exhaustively the various cultural. sexual or even moral differences. When the “other” is rejected on account of natural.
(3) Lastly, we may be of different religions, of different ethnic or cultural groups but we all live in the same “global village”. We are faced with the same challenges and problems. Poverty, social and economic injustice, violation of human rights, illiteracy, drugs and AIDS, suppression in any form, do not have (or recognise) ethnic, cultural or religious identity. It is the horrible every day reality of our people. But it is also the ground, the ﬁeld, in which we can, or rather we have to, work together. In a world dominated by a culture of death, in societies torn apart by hopelessness and futility, people are looking for hope and meaning in religion. It is left to us to decide: are we going to follow the “one-way street” of isolation, exclusiveness and fanaticism or the “two-way street” of mutual understanding and respect, reconciliation and tolerance, coexistence and co-operation, for the unity of all, thus creating a real concern for a just and environmentally sustainable society? Thank you.
Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations, Religions and Cultures
Responses and contributions from the floor (I)
After the presentation by Bishop Gianniris, the moderator, Prof. Yai, called for responses and contributions from the ﬂoor. The responses and contributions are as follows:
Prof. Akinwumi Isola reminded the participants of the supremacy of God’s wisdom in creating several languages, races and ethnicities, though He has the power to create a homogenous world. He identiﬁed that this essential lack of homogeneity in creation is an indication that God believes in variety, being the author of the cultural diversity that has resulted in the absence of linguistic, racial and ethnic unity. He also said that God expects us to reﬂect the variety inherent in His creation in the ways we worship Him and has created each of us in a particular environment and culture with the expectation that aspects of that environment and culture will be reﬂected in the way we worship Him. He said he was conﬁdent that the dialogue being organised by UNESCO would encourage people to adopt that manner of worship. However, he added that the dialogue would have been more effective if it had involved participants from the grassroots where the religious and cultural intolerance it is designed to combat occurs most. He pointed out that such intolerance is still being exhibited by the leaders of Christianity and Islam, who ask their followers to forget important aspects of their culture. He said the trend still occurs regularly in churches and mosques, and takes the form of Christian and Muslim leaders “not allowing the old women to chant their Oriki, the poetry chants”, for instance, while dissuading them from bearing names that have nothing to do with the past. He went on to suggest a way out of the “problem” – to ignore the leaders of Christianity and Islam and ﬁnd ways of reaching the people in the language they understand so they may, according to him, “see the value – the nonreligious value – in their culture, since there can be no serious development without some input from indigenous culture”. Ven. Akimisoko Timothy Duke, while commending the wonderful presentations made so far, expressed his worry that similar conferences had attracted similar dignitaries and produced similar presentations in the past, which proffered “brilliant solutions” to religious and ethnic crises only to end up “in the archives”. He blamed the apparent neglect on the fact that policy-makers and other government ofﬁcials whose responsibility it is to implement the communiqués resulting from such conferences are usually not part of the discussions. He wondered if UNESCO would deliver the current proceedings to “our African governments” rather than just publish them as a communiqué. He also
Round Table One (Second Part)
inquired if the communiqué would be implemented in the participating countries rather than be consigned to the archives. Finally, he expressed his earnest wish to see any resolution arising from the Congress implemented in full by the relevant authorities. (Prof. Yai intervened at this point and described Ven. Duke’s observations as “genuine”. He expressed the hope that the UNESCO representatives would take proper note of them.)
Prof. Afolabi Ojo pointed out, rather ironically, that the emphasis being laid on the three main religions (Christianity, Islam and Traditional African Religion) might create the impression that they are the source of the problems in question. He said the problems are deeper and exist even within each of the three religious groups. He cited the example of Christianity, which is regarded as a “solid block with its own point of view” and, yet, has so many denominations, sects and divisions that conﬂicts can easily occur among them. He added that the problem could also manifest itself in the form of a church with increasing national spread having in-built ethnic conﬂicts arising from the desire of each of the component ethnic groups to control its affairs. He went on to identify politics as a factor that could complicate the problem, citing the example of some Christians, who insist that only candidates from their own subsection of Christianity should be voted into political ofﬁce, thereby causing conﬂicts and tension in both the Christian fold and the entire polity. He urged the Congress to “probe such details because they point at areas where religious leaders can be of considerable help in stemming the tide of intra-religious conﬂicts”. He also implored Christian leaders to run their denominations without ethnic bias and cited his own sect as a place where doing so has yielded positive results. Sheik Adam Abdulahi Idoko identiﬁed “lots of silent problems” in the Eastern part of Nigeria, which may worsen if neglected at such a Congress. He identiﬁed one of the problems as the “marginalisation” of Muslims, whom he described as “a religious minority” in that part of the country. To justify his claim, he quoted the “Ahiara Declaration”, a document from the defunct Biafran era, as saying that “Islam is inimical to the people of Eastern Nigeria”, and urged international organisations like UNESCO to ensure that no person or group trying to found (or secede from) a state, uses such a prejudicial declaration against any religious group, let alone implement it. He added that no Muslim attending a gathering like the Congress “is expected to compromise on issues of faith” and quoted the Koran as saying that Islam is the only religion acceptable to Allah. He pointed out that the Bible contains a corresponding claim for Christianity, and that a Muslim need not be apologetic to either a Christian or a practitioner of Traditional African Religion for professing a similar, purely doctrinal position of his religion nor should a Christian be
Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations, Religions and Cultures
apologetic for proclaiming such biblical assertion that belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to attain salvation. However, he mentioned that Islam still makes room for compromise and dialogue with people of other religions, and that the Koran enjoins the whole of mankind to “co-operate in things that are good – like the promotion of trade, technology and civilisation”. He urged Muslims to understand that they should not compel anyone to be a Muslim since God could have made Muslims out of all mankind if He so wished. He cited the Koran as saying that there is no compulsion in religion and stressed that Islam does not have any problem in going into dialogue with other religions. He identiﬁed impatience as a major hindrance to the realisation of the objectives of any dialogue since “as human beings we have problems manifesting from time to time and should try and solve them bit by bit”.
Justice Abdulkadir Orire reminded the Congress that religious tolerance has been debated for many years not only in Nigeria, but also in other parts of Africa. He cited the example of a 1989 conference in Sudan that seemed to have been an exercise in futility. He, therefore, echoed the fears of a previous speaker and advised the Congress against issuing an unenforceable communiqué. He called for the regulation of religious activities in such a way that “the poor masses will not be hostile to one other”, bearing in mind that “religion is a very sensitive issue in the West African sub-region, especially in Nigeria”. He cited the success of the colonial masters in conducting their affairs in places like the Kabba Province, Plateau and Kano as a sign that sustainable peace is attainable in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment. He said much could still be achieved today by following the colonial masters’ approach to fostering religious tolerance and identiﬁed Islam as “the most tolerant religion”, adding that “if we are God-conscious” – as the Koran recommends – “then we will give every man his due”, regardless of his faith, so long as he does not try to convert us by force. He blamed intolerance and prejudice for much of the religious disharmony in contemporary times and narrated how he had encountered such negative attitudes in Israel and Cyprus. He stressed that the problems being created by such attitudes are inimical to dialogue, and compared democracy to religion because “in democracy there is a pattern to follow” as in religion. “Is it not democracy in Algeria, where the majority votes but the minority says ‘No. You don’t win!’ Is that not religion?” he queried. However, he expressed pleasure that “Nigerians are beginning to understand themselves”, thanks to events like the UNESCO Congress. He also pleaded with the West to adjust its attitude to Africa, because “it is their inﬂuence that is creating a lot of problems for us: the way they behaved to us during the colonial era is different from the way they are behaving to us now”. Finally, he advised Africans to “look inwards” for solutions to their problems.
Round Table One (Second Part)
and that. Abimbola that some religious leaders are diverting their followers’ attention from African culture. Isa Farma Bello upheld the views of two previous speakers – Mr. Religions and Cultures .Rev. However. He attributed the success or failure of any religious dialogue to the manner of passing religious doctrines to the sometimes uncritical masses. He suggested that there are instigators behind every religious conﬂict. yet. though it is advisable to respect one’s culture. and vice-versa. that Muslims usually hesitate to give Christians access to their scriptures. He also suggested that the gains from the Congress would be greater if its message of dialogue and tolerance can be passed on to the “believers in the grassroots who need it most”. He also agreed with Prof. He called for the establishment of a body to oversee the interpretation of the Holy Scripture so as to rid the process of such volatility that precipitates religious upheavals. Kassim and Bishop Gianniris – on the need to understand other people’s religion and proceeded to identify two impediments to such understanding. He enjoined the organisers of the Congress to ensure that the dialogue “sank to the grassroots”. contrary to the views of some earlier speakers. Prof. He pointed out that the problem being addressed was not just religious. sees the need to relate well with adherents of other religions. He said Christianity and Islam are often at war. but also ethnic. despite being doctrinally religions of peace and tolerance. The ﬁrst one. whom are “harmonious at the grassroots”. a Muslim. it is the leaders that are misleading the masses. He said religious tolerance is “easy to experience among religious leaders”. especially among Christians and Muslims – whether they are taught in order to build peace or instigate conﬂict. who believes that Islam is the only way to reach God and. quotations from the Bible as an indication to that effect. the second one being that the most faithful inquire into the religion of others with censorious (rather than appreciative) motives. He underscored the need for UNESCO to target the grassroots by recalling an 74 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. but added that one must not stick to a cultural practice that contradicts one’s belief. Pastor Deji Adekoya remarked that Sheik Idoko had faithfully portrayed a true Muslim as someone. adding that interpretation is very important in the dissemination of religious doctrines since misinterpretation could breed misconception and predispose people to act intolerantly towards adherents of other religions. citing Mr. but how they are taught. thereby reinforcing an appeal from a previous contributor. due to the activities of such instigators “who are dissatisﬁed with the policies of the government”. He went on to suggest that understanding such intricacies could make the difference between the success or failure of UNESCO’s effort to facilitate dialogue and build tolerance among people of diverse religions in West Africa. Kassim’s. especially in the Nigerian case. he cautioned that the important thing about most religious doctrines is not their content. Dapo Asaju reminded the participants of the need to not lose focus “by overemphasising the dogmatic expressions of perceptions of religion”.
and other ethnic militias. the Bakassi. Abiola who. whereas they should be stimulating dialogue between religions – Islam. He called for a feasibility study of the on-going dialogue before committing himself too much to it “since there are more than 1000 religions in Africa today”. He. which seems to be the main focus of religions at the moment”. ought to have been part of their deliberations – as in the present case. and jeopardising the future of the younger generation. He said people normally could choose their religion but not their tradition. Christianity and Traditional African Religion. He also cited the case of Rwanda. while warning that the same ethnicity. Prof. though the focus of their deliberations was on how to save the future generation. “How can we bring them to one dialogue table?” he asked. Finally. O. he urged subsequent speakers to endeavour to approach the issues at stake in a “scientiﬁc. He identiﬁed ethnicity as a greater threat than religion in Africa. therefore. was denied the opportunity to rule Nigeria by a fellow Muslim from a different ethnic group. He proposed devising a “short cut” to bridge the gap between religious and doctrinal differences and moral sensitivity. Mr. He said some Nigerian universities established departments of Religious Studies or Comparative Religion merely to compare different religions. Ade Ajayi advised UNESCO to set up a chair of religious dialogue in some Nigerian universities and said the move would help “deﬁne what a Department of Religious Studies should be doing”.ecumenical meeting he attended recently with the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance. He said those they were there to save. manifested itself in Nigeria in the form of the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC). where only two participants were below forty years old. where ethnic genocide claimed about a million lives in 1994 in spite of its having a 95% Christian population. academic and scholarly way”. that was the bane of the Rwandans. citing the famous case of Chief M. for instance – and “talking to one another in ways that can change people’s lives positively rather than be competing for supremacy or superiority. each claiming to be superior to the rest. which is to live in accordance Round Table One (Second Part) 75 . K. following an election he was widely acclaimed to have won with both “Christian” and “Muslim” votes. He identiﬁed culture and tradition as the necessary ingredients for national development and decried the tendency of Africans to neglect their culture and traditions in preference for foreign ones. in spite of being the Vice-President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs with a Muslim running mate. Oundogni Aligbononnon identiﬁed “a plan to exclude religion from the mainstream” in the modern world. ruining the country’s economy”. He expressed dismay that “corruption is still widespread” in Nigeria despite its numerous churches and mosques while the “leaders are still taking bribes. urged the participants to direct their minds to “a fundamental sociological use of religion” rather than indulge in “dogmatic expressions”.
He said that there could be no meaningful dialogue between religions. and a source of noise pollution from some overzealous worshippers. He identiﬁed four steps to make dialogue possible despite such “uncompromising dogmatism”. He said the tenets of Christianity and Islam have many points of agreement and urged adherents of both religions to begin to collaborate on the basis of such agreement. and the group that strives harder usually wins more converts. is that everyone should try and understand all religions. that people at the grassroots should be made to understand their religions better and agree to live together with adherents of other religions. Secondly. Mr. He urged UNESCO to help to make an inven- 76 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. and said he was warned not to travel to Nigeria for the Congress by certain individuals apparently prejudiced against the country and its citizens.with universal or natural law since “no one needs to read the Bible or Koran to know that adultery or murder is bad” for instance. He called on all those who believe in dialogue to be persistent in urging its efﬁcacy on others since. The third step. (Dr. while Christians and Muslims continued to insist that one could not attain salvation without identifying with either of them. Rev. Joseph Brown-Diogo revealed that the best moment during the day’s proceedings was the cultural performance. He remarked that religion has become “like a business enterprise”. which he called “the overarching solution”. is to ensure true and sustainable development in the African continent since people would hardly ﬁnd time for acts of religious intolerance while gainfully employed. the world is divided into good and bad people. Mr. and that there is something ennobling about every religion that can serve as a basis for dialogue with other religions. and either group is always striving to attract more people to itself. Religions and Cultures .) Jean-Emile Ngué said there must be serious commitment to dialogue between religions in order to achieve the goal of sustainable development. He identiﬁed educational empowerment as a necessary step in the promotion of dialogue. Larry Koinyan said he was hoping to hear more about culture whereas the deliberations had focused almost exclusively on religion. that must be removed to pave the way for meaningful dialogue. The fourth. as he tried to explain. civilisations and cultures until the gap between the leaders of both religions might have been bridged. He identiﬁed prejudice as a psychological barrier. First. peace and tolerance and described a world without education as “a crime against humanity”. which moved him so deeply that he felt that one cannot discuss reconciliation and dialogue in Africa outside the context of rites and rituals. that the adherents of every religion should be made to understand their religion thoroughly. which he identiﬁed with ecumenism. He wondered if there was even a basis for dialogue. and called for action within the context of dialogue to reverse the trend.
Rosa Guerreiro spoke on behalf of UNESCO after the last respondent from the ﬂoor had spoken. and so on”. queries and interrogations” and all those “who provided answers. including those who participated in the Round Table”. and urged the participants. She thanked all those “who asked questions.tory of African rites and rituals that can help Africans to celebrate together and dialogue in peace and unity within Africa. with all their ﬂaws. especially with a Nigerian “who has Round Table One (Second Part) 77 . TV. “most of whom believe in God”. She said the world is “looking at Africa”. Sanankoua from Mali “rather than what is learnt from newspapers. all their faults. succinct manner” so they could be “integrated in a ﬁnal document”. and believe that men. Rosa Guerreiro’s response on behalf of UNESCO Ms. She identiﬁed youth as having “a very important role to play” and urged everyone present to endeavour to “hold a better future for youth”. and that they have the capacity to resolve conﬂicts and crises”. advised the speakers to be cautious about their choice of words. and should be interested in hearing of cases where the Africans themselves have settled religious conﬂicts with the help of religious leaders. On the problem of ethnicity. Finally. She asked the participants to articulate them “in a short. and said UNESCO would like to go beyond both concepts to seek ways of changing people’s mindsets and behavioural patterns. She confessed to not having the answers to all the questions raised but she expressed optimism that the answers would emerge in due course. On the problem of “minorities”. which “is where the ingredients of sustainable development come forth”. She called for the separation of politics and religion. she stressed that the ultimate answer to the problem of conﬂicts in Africa is with the Africans themselves. She also declared that she found “the concept of shared values” most interesting during the day’s proceedings. She. She said the stories should reﬂect proactive engagement in conﬂict resolution and would be brought to the attention of the Director-General of UNESCO. she confessed to having a problem with the fact that the word implies “second class citizen” since she believes “all of us are ﬁrst class citizens of the world” rather than members of certain classes or ethnicities. especially West Africa. She recalled that many of the speakers had spoken about tolerance and toleration. but promised to ensure that UNESCO will contribute to resolving such conﬂicts. youth. are able to overcome conﬂicts and divisions. and identiﬁed with the advocacy of some other speakers for collaboration among policy-makers. decision-makers and religious leaders towards achieving common goals. Ms. She urged the participants to come forward with more success stories on conﬂict resolution like the one told by Ms. and women associations. to “also believe in men. therefore. she said the most important thing is that “a new society is being built in spite of it”. which she also identiﬁed as a recurrent theme in the speeches made so far.
Religions and Cultures . Prof. Guerreiro’s response.a lot of ideas and conviction” as the President of the General Conference of UNESCO. After Ms. which would embrace all the issues being discussed at the Congress. Omolewa reminded the participants to send in their “speciﬁc proposals” to her as she would be working with a group to produce a communiqué to be called The Abuja Statement. 78 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.
Ade Ajayi – Emeritus Professor of African History Moderator: Rev.Summary of the Round Table Number Two (First Part) Theme: The role of religious leaders and faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS in West Africa How religious leaders and faith-based organizations can contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS Chairperson: Prof. Lawson Godson – Secretary General of the Methodist Church of Togo .
recognizes that interreligious collaboration is essential in building an effective response to HIV/AIDS and encourages religious leaders and faith based organizations to build supportive environment for people living with HIV/AIDS. recalled the rapid progression and the increasing feminisation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ms. Landi. gender sensitive. 80 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.In her introductory remarks. Drobná. Dr. and their responses to this disease should always be culturally appropriate. he emphasized that the response to HIV/AIDS was not only a “political and social battle” but also a “human rights issue”. representative of UNESCO’s Culture and HIV/AIDS program. Societies as a whole have to mobilize in front of HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS Country Coordinator a. After mentioning the “3 by 5” initiative launched by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS (“Treat three million people living with HIV/AIDS by 2005”). and based on the respect of human rights.. UNESCO. underlined Ms. being the most affected by the epidemic. Finally he highlighted the importance of involving people living with HIV/AIDS in the Conference and it’s follow-up. described afterwards the role of UNAIDS and the cosponsors in the response to HIV/AIDS. Drobná. Religions and Cultures .i. He believes that faith-based organisations have a crucial role to play in response to HIV/AIDS. needed all the support it can have to combat stigma and discrimination and strengthen preventive measures. He remarked that Africa.
How religion has assisted people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria by Ms. He will take you back”. Jumbo dealt with the role of religion in assisting people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Jumbo went on to thank politicians for their help. Round Table Number Two (First Part) 81 . She underlined the help and love the religious sector had given to PLWHA without which medication would not be so effective. They have succeeded in taking away the fear these people felt within themselves by telling them: “We care. adding that it was truly necessary to include policy-makers in the response to HIV/AIDS because she said it was “a question of life and death”. Ms. she argued. The result is that they have been going back to the churches and such attention has acted out as a reawakening for them. Chukwuma Jumbo (Representative of the Nigerian Network of people living with HIV/AIDS) Ms. He will love you. Contrary to the past. religious leaders have started to help them by giving them a lot of hope and care. We love you. Don’t mind your situation. God is a forgiving Father. Ms. Jumbo concluded by saying that she now lived on word therapy in the sense that God participated to her therapy through His words.
82 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. However. Ibrahim Doma (Representative of the Nigerian Network of people living with HIV/AIDS) Mr. will intervene again and assist them in improving their lives as He has done with anti-retroviral medication. Mr. A support group and attendance at workshops enabled him to share the basic facts about HIV/AIDS. he declared that problems have to be accepted and establishing good faith between oneself and one’s God is the start to ﬁnding a solution to the problems. telling them to be careful and to remain close to Allah. that of being tested HIV positive in 2002 after the loss of his wife. Doma started his speech by acknowledging the fact that the search for a therapeutic treatment of HIV has not yet been successful. The Koran has helped him spiritually through this afﬂiction as well as his coordinator telling him to carry on praying to his God and remain faithful. he believes. who. He went on to share his personal experience. Mr.Religion and HIV/AIDS by Mr. He suggested to try and convince the World Health Organization and all pharmaceutical companies to subsidise the price of antiretroviral medication so that it becomes affordable for everyone. Religions and Cultures . In the name of Muslims. he believes that Allah will help scientists ﬁnd treatment for it. Doma concluded his speech by raising the issue of the minting of HIV/AIDS and called on Muslim and Christian leaders to ensure that such a practice would cease. Doma has been preaching to people.
He referred to the debate within the Church about the epidemic. the rebirth of the hydra of destruction of the whole Negroid-African humanity?” and wondered what factors hindered “the conscious of the Negroid-African being in confronting this crisis”. which stems from “a system of social violence” creating poverty. Theological positioning Rev. Lawson then drew attention to the fact that the religious dimension of the illness could not be denied in order to understand better the tragedy faced by many families. Lawson stated that the African Church needed to free itself from the doctrinal interpretations of sexual relations so that the HIV infection was considered as an illness and not due to a “divine curse”. Lawson indicated that it was essential for the Church to change its state of mind and improve people’s living conditions in order to face up to the illness. which solely concentrated on “the theology of condom and death”. Godson Lawson (Secretary-General of the Methodist Church of Togo) Deﬁning HIV/AIDS as “one of the most serious threats” today and a “total experience” with in-depth repercussions on the life of families and communities. he recommended the involvement of religious denominations. As a result.The role of the Church in the fight against HIV/AIDS by Rev. not only in the response to HIV/AIDS but also in the understanding of the disease as it is being experienced in Black Africa and in the Bible. with the advent of HIV/AIDS. With regard to AIDS. Rev. of theology and of ethics. He enquired whether we were not “experiencing. and asserted that such a policy only caused more discrimination. Rev. Rev. stigmatisation and exclusion within Christian communities. Therefore. Lawson underlined the dramatic reality of many African countries which see their populations decline severely due to the spread of HIV/ AIDS. He made a number of suggestions to shift its actions towards such a goal: 1. Lawson highlighted the idea that the epidemic had plunged the Church into various crises: a crisis of identity. Round Table Number Two (First Part) 83 . AIDS and the biblical notion of disease After recalling the numerous conceptions of the word “disease” within the Bible identifying it with sin and evil spirits. Rev. the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS was included in the mission of the Churches of the World Council of Churches.
Rev. To reclaim the initiative of speech As far as sexuality is concerned. and medical needs (access to care and treatment). industries. Lawson advised that their missions be changed into missions of vigilance and prevention. he recommended. spiritual needs (need for a spiritual framework without which a feeling of guilt is bound to remain a danger). community and society). People living with HIV/AIDS PLWHA need to be assessed taking into account their multiple needs such as: information needs (the evolution of the illness and the new methods to combat it). 5. Education and Training He put forward the idea of using former socio-educational and health-related programmes and of having a lesson on HIV/AIDS in catechism classes to raise young people’s awareness. He advocated a ﬁve-minute speech devoted to HIV/AIDS at every mass or Christian service. Religions and Cultures . in the markets and industries. He suggested to break the barrier of silence if the response to HIV/AIDS is to be made easier. He argued 84 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Concerning the West African sub-region. some of which can make women and young people more exposed to HIV/AIDS. schools. the military. he claimed that there is a real need to change the Church’s outlook on it. Lawson. is to cater for all these various needs so that the patients feel supported and loved. Reinforcement of the Chaplainries Together with the development of chaplainries (in the prisons. 3. which is experiencing a massive population displacement mostly due to poverty and the different armed conﬂicts and which is therefore exposed to HIV infection. Moreover. he suggested that they take part in educational activities in their communities to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to provide them with counselling and psychological support. The role of the Church. market and the borders). economic needs (ﬁnancial support to survive). the Church has a new role to play in assessing certain positive and negative aspects of different cultural practices. social needs (need to be integrated into his/her family. Culture According to Rev. 4. emotional needs (love and understanding). legal needs (beneﬁt from all rights and privileges with such a condition). 6.2. nutritional needs (a rich and balanced diet). he advocated the creation of Christian and Muslim chapels in the camps of soldiers as well as at the borders.
13. 7. published by the World Council of Churches. Foster a culture of peace and care for the vulnerable. Utilise religious media and channels for prevention. 2. Emphasize the involvement of the leadership of religious leaders in the ﬁght against stigma and discrimination and for effective prevention. widowhood etc. 4. Recommendations 1. Ensure the use. 6. Ensure greater and better involvement of youth and women at all levels of decision-making as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned. he invited all religious denominations in West Africa to “defend the lives and interests of the underprivileged”. Declare a “war” on HIV/AIDS. Integrate HIV/AIDS messages in their teachings. 8. 7. Lawson reminded all religious denominations of the connection between HIV infection and the socio-economic and political situation of any given country. Ensure the use of contextual actual methods of counselling. in appropriate ways. preaching and sermons. He stated that the appropriate role of the Church nowadays was to bring back hope to the people concerned by HIV/AIDS. 3. Round Table Number Two (First Part) 85 . of HIV/AIDS funds. He cited a particular manual to illustrate his point: Africa Praying: A Handbook on HIV/AIDS. Adopt national strategic planning programmes. bearing in mind the phenomenon of deliberate virus infection. taking into account spirituality and local realities and the cultures. Use scriptures to support people living with HIV/AIDS. Human Rights He claimed that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a human rights issue questioning the Church on its view on marriage. Advocate and lobby for affordable treatment.that the Church could have less dangerous rites and rituals. Work at the national level for the creation and the reinforcement of interfaith networks in order to form an umbrella body of interfaith coalitions for West Africa in the future. in association with the custodians of tradition. 12. care and support. Conclusion Rev. 9. 11. Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy. 10. Moreover. Train youth leaders to be peer educators. 5.
the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. She then gave the example of Ghana where the traditionalists among the Gas and the Charismatic churches have been in conﬂict over the celebration of the annual Homowo festival. and. adult illiteracy etc. there are national interfaith councils all over Africa dealing with the promotion of peaceful co-existence and. Mahama began her speech by identifying the three major religions in Africa: Islam. and she underlined the fact that a number of people perceived other people’s religion in a biased way. Christianity and African Traditional Religion. class and nationality. among which are problems of poverty. ignorance. and at leading a mission with the purpose of “turning the tide of the AIDS pandemic” (Stephen Lewis. and today’s dress code. UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa). This is why the World Conference of Religion for Peace (WCRP) organized in 2002 in Nairobi. the HIV/AIDS epidemic. she said. Ms. Kenya. Mahama mentioned other contributing factors to the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Now. above all. 86 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. among which were pornographic material accessible through the Internet. the ﬁrst assembly of religious leaders on HIV/ AIDS. diseases and HIV/AIDS. as a result of the dramatic situation on the ground such as death at childbirth. Similarly. She went on to explain that it was necessary for religious leaders to play a new role in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS because they are at the head of the largest institutions and have managed to bridge the gap of race. she recalled her past experience at university to highlight the existence of judgemental barriers even within one’s own religion and said that the Koran advises believers to be openminded about religion and to avoid making offensive statements as they are a hindrance to dialogue. It aimed at encouraging religious leaders and communities to provide vital care to PLWHA. Hajia Katumi Mahama (Former President of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Ghana) Ms. above all. she drew attention to other problems that transcend borders.Religious values in the light of HIV/AIDS: Challenges by Ms. After having dealt with intra. She indicated that HIV/AIDS knows no boundaries. not even religious ones. poor health. Religions and Cultures . As far as the situation on the ground is concerned. to women dying prematurely of AIDS-related sicknesses and leaving orphans behind. video shows and ﬁlms.and inter-faith relationships. She quoted the Koran to enjoin Muslim people to “call people to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching” and to invite people to Islam through dialogue.
The way forward . First. which she views as a solution to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading and for the development of a stable and modern society.she blamed governments that allow women to be involved in commercial sex trade because they end up spending more time and money taking care of people who contract HIV than on collecting taxes. In effect. She expressed disapproval for the promotion and support of alternative methods. She also urged Islamic religious leaders to have a closer look at Islamic teachings that promote abstinence and encouraged them to focus on faithfulness in marriage and against substance abuse. offering peer education programmes by youth leaders. She explained that these contradictory messages were pointless if the real issue at stake was a problem of attitude and behavioural change in facing HIV/AIDS. She mentioned other concrete actions including providing information and education to change people’s behaviour and attitude towards HIV/AIDS. As far as the media is concerned. she raised the issue of abstinence and faithfulness. she encouraged the use of premarital tests and the use of condoms for married partners who are HIV positive. and believes such attitude works “as a license to promiscuity” for young people. she recommended that religious communities and human societies be supportive and compassionate with PLWHA. protecting children and young people’s legal Round Table Number Two (First Part) 87 . and called for the establishment of special communities or groups to take care of people with HIV. She also criticised the lack of parental guidance leaving children alone to their own devices. Mahama suggested a number of concrete measures to be taken in order to help PLWHA. She maintained that unprotected sexual relationships are the primary cause of the spread of HIV in today’s world.strategies Ms. she reiterated that it is through procreation that humanity will survive along with abstinence and faithfulness being the two main answers to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. such as the use of condoms. she laid emphasis on the recommendation made both by the Bible and the Koran to procreate on the basis of the Creator’s guidelines “to ensure the general well-being of individuals and society”. she declared that it seemed to be “a two-edged sword” due to the fact that it did a lot of HIV/AIDS education while at the same time promoting unprotected sexual relationships and the use of condoms. She then emphasized the reality on the ground and suggested that religious leaders together with experts on HIV/AIDS and the media would have more impact if they worked hand in hand to respond to the spread of the illness. She ﬁnished off by saying that the safe sex message had been fruitless for the past twenty years and pled for a way forward instead. Indeed. Secondly. Depicting HIV/AIDS as “the greatest human rights issue” due to the laissez-faire approach of today’s “civilized humanity”.
Finally she suggested that religious communities needed to convince their governments to forbid the distribution of illicit movies and the introduction of other immoral activities that impair the response to HIV/AIDS. 88 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Religions and Cultures .rights especially after the death of their parent(s). and maintaining the apolitical nature of religious leaders to have an impact on governmental decisions.
namely the need for priests and other religious leaders to make people responsible in the case of unprotected sexual relationships. the emphasis that should be put on the respect for life before and after conception in the case of a desire of abortion when pregnancy is associated with HIV/AIDS. Léon Diouf (Vicary in charge of the Episcopal Secretariat for Social and Religious Pastoral Ecclesiastical Counsellor of SIDA/SERVICE – Senegal) Mr. He suggested that religious leaders do their job “by vocation”. had the effect of creating a disparity that initiated further problems for them. the Round Table Number Two (First Part) 89 . Diouf ﬁrst recalled the ﬁve speciﬁc challenges caused by the epidemic. He concluded his speech by underlining the fact that the human factor is to be taken into consideration. He emphasized that “unifying the African man” was a major challenge and the role of the priest was. The primary or prevention level revolves around the prevention of unprotected sexual relationships with religious leaders as models of chastity. the respect of conﬁdentiality for fear of ostracism on the part of an HIV positive person. The second level focuses on showing solidarity to the person with HIV and acting out as a counsellor to understand him/her. Diouf’s presentation dealt with the training of priests and members of Instituts de la Vie Consacrée facing the challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. He deﬁned the cause of all these challenges as “the lack of intra. First. namely Islam and Christianity. Poverty too must be taken into account. The response to HIV/AIDS could be achieved at three different levels. The third level concentrates on taking loving care of the orphan or widow left behind.and inter-personal unity among us Africans”. He explained that the difﬁculty of combining their traditional civilisation with the modern ones. the necessity to tell the whole truth with clarity to people concerned by the epidemic. and ﬁnally the need to accompany an HIV positive person in serious condition. which implies knowing how to use technical resources to respond to the epidemic as well as cultivating human resources. Four areas of the training of priests are to be stressed among the traditional perspectives of the Catholic Church. to guide Africans to ﬁnd a balance between their traditions and their modern faith.Training of priests and of members of “Instituts de la Vie Consacrée” in Africa facing the challenge of HIV/AIDS by Fr. therefore. which was decided at the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar in October 2003. Mr.
Diouf emphasized the diversity of approach of the Church in its response to HIV/AIDS with the action of the priest and believer being of importance to change society. 90 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Mr. To conclude. The Pastoral training ﬁnally asks the trainees “to give. The Intellectual training asks trainees to understand people through various academic ﬁelds.Human training is a key factor and one needs to be human before helping out others. The Spiritual training implies to “be in communion with Christ” to be able to help others. Religions and Cultures . to teach the scriptures to everyone” and aims to strengthen the Church’s response to HIV/AIDS.
It was suggested that an inter-religious HIV/AIDS education programme should be established through which knowledge of the illness would be handed down to religious groups. In the framework of the basic prescription of prevention for HIV/AIDS. Round Table Number Two (First Part) 91 . as “the basis of the UN system”. However. Global Fund etc. which. The necessity to provide relevant HIV/AIDS education to leaders in order for them to be effective in tackling the issue of HIV/AIDS was also encouraged. he admitted that the principle of the “lesser of two evils” should be applied to condom issues.) did not exist. Condom use”. the main issues that were discussed were as follows. Many participants raised the issue of the monetization of HIV/AIDS and felt it had become a very serious problem indeed. Landi ﬁrst of all reminded the participants that every country in the world had signed the Charter of Human Rights. he urged the participants to “take into consideration the commitment of each participating country vis-à-vis the international legislation”. Mr. in that “it is better to use condom than to kill someone. After claiming that many misconceptions were still asserted about the position of the Pope on the use of condoms. the use of condoms was encouraged by a number of participants although it was said some inﬂuential people and institutions still opposed it. A number of participants drew attention to the need for faith-based organisations to work together to address the existential and humanitarian issues provoked by HIV/AIDS. NGOs or other civil society groups if these ﬁnancial institutions (The World Bank. a participant claimed that religious leaders had been unable to play their own role because they have been “politicised and hijacked by the monetized system of ﬁghting HIV/AIDS”. Diouf reiterated that the Catholic Church advocated abstinence for unmarried people and faithfulness for married couples. Though religious leaders had found concise answers to the problems under discussion during the Congress. Be faithful. which has proved to be quite successful and cited the case of Uganda as an example of success.Responses and contributions from the floor (II) Mr. if faithfulness is not possible”. They believe religious leaders are in best position to face such a challenge because their spiritual authority is a guarantee to have ready access to numerous people to whom they can relay the message on how to respond to the spread of the illness. Mr Landi admitted the existence of the issue but declared that there would be hardly any ﬁnancial support to governments. The lack of access to medication was another point raised during the discussion. he described. or oneself. Therefore. dubbed “ABC – Abstinence. He added that they have initiated a funding programme. During the debate that followed the ﬁrst panel. Participants were encouraged to canvass for the establishment of a more dynamic and effective health system across the African continent.
Religions and Cultures .Some commonly agreed points were that the involvement of social and political leaders as well as a holistic approach and an interfaith approach were necessary in response to HIV/AIDS. Second. 92 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the people involved in the response to HIV/AIDS needed to learn from one another and from the experience in their respective countries. young people stood the greatest risk of contracting HIV and so religious leaders should adapt their discourse to protect them. Finally.
Summary of the Round Table Number Two (Second Part) Theme: The role of religious leaders and faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS in West Africa Best Practices and Case-studies Chairperson: Ms. Inter-faith HIV Council of Nigeria . Mali Moderator: Rev. Kaine Nwashili – National Director. Bamako. Institute of the Sciences and the Humanities. Fatoumata Bintou Sanankoua – Head.
Religions and Cultures . Background/ History Rev. Muslim and Christian leaders gathered to consider the ways the faith community could respond to the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Nigeria. many key ﬁgures of the Christian and Muslim faith in Nigeria convened to launch the partnership of the Council and The Balm In Gilead. that included technical assistance and site visits from various faith organisations. Nwashili ﬁrst gave a brief account of the history of the newly-created faith-based organisation. a follow-up meeting set up a working advisory council to determine the operational structure of the new organisation. In April 2002. It was developed and supported by the highest levels of both the Christian and Muslim political structures with a Declaration of Unity to address the problems raised by the epidemic. In November 2002. whose members adopted the constitution of the organisation on 30 October 2002. A mobilisation strategy. 94 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Lateef Adegbite and Archbishop John Onaiyekan endorsed a partnership to address HIV/AIDS issues and established the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria. paved the way for the formal establishment of the Council. In April 2003. Nwashili became the organisation’s ﬁrst National HIV/AIDS Director. Together with The Balm In Gilead. The Balm In Gilead has as a main task to set up and initiate “a culturally diverse and competent national HIV/AIDS organisation with a mission to mobilise and engage churches and mosques” to address the epidemic in an effective and relevant way.Building an interfaith coalition against HIV/AIDS: a Nigerian experience by Rev. Kaine Nwashili (National Director of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria) Project Summary The Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria has for main objective to build the capacity of the faith community in Nigeria and facilitate the establishment of a systematic HIV/AIDS service delivery mechanism operating through local churches and mosques in Nigeria. Rev. Dr.
Nwashili listed four goals: 1. Nwashili mentioned the ﬁve staff positions of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria: National Director. Programme Coordinator – Christian. He recalled many of the activities achieved by the Council since April 2002 until present day: the training programmes held in the USA to provide technical support for the “delivery of HIV/AIDS intervention services at the local level” and the organisational development programmes in Kenya and Nigeria to build the capacity of staff to deal with the epidemic. Programme Development Implementation. and on the operational staff in charge of the infrastructural capacity for addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 4. HIV/AIDS coordinators and counsellors in different church denominations and Muslim groups. Assessment/Evaluation. 3. Programme Coordinator – Muslim. Adegbite was elected its ﬁrst chairman. To establish and maintain the pre-eminence of quality capacity building among the faith groups in addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS.Organisational objectives of the Council Rev. To bring the two major religious groups (Christian and Muslims) together to present a common front in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. Staff positions of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria Rev. To advocate for the rights of people living with and those affected by HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. He listed ﬁve strategic areas that needed critical implementation steps to adequately address the epidemic: Organisational Capacity Development. Board of Trustees Ten trustees are to be appointed: ﬁve each from the Muslim and Christian communities. To collaborate with governments and NGOs in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and in giving care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS. 2. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 95 . and Administrative Secretary. Organisational and programme development and implementation He drew attention to the work to be done in 2004 with a special focus on the religious leadership. Evaluation and Monitoring Director. Training and Technical Assistance. Dr. and HIV/AIDS Faith-based Resource Material Development.
3. 3. Lessons learnt 1. coordination and capacity building as well as HIV/AIDS education and health services to the populations of Nigeria. The faith community is like a sleeping giant that. Conclusion Rev. 7. 4. Numerous invitations by faith groups for training and sensitisation. There is a serious need to build and develop the capacity of faith leaders in Nigeria so as to equip them to address squarely the issue of HIV/ AIDS. There is need for purely faith-based VCT Centres and Community Centres (to give care and support access to medication) to be located within church and mosque premises. 5. if given the necessary assistance. and that it remains committed to the faith community to provide it with effective technical support. controversy and confusion. it has the structures. Wide acceptability and recognition by key faith leaders in Nigeria. 6. Collaborative work with FARST Africa to assist churches with limited funding. Networking is needed at all levels in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. 96 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. All stakeholders involved in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria should meet frequently to evaluate and share their experiences and compare notes in order to avoid duplication. will become a phenomenon. 4. Funds should be allocated to programmes that are realistic and have tangible and measurable results. There is need to educate the faith community on stigma and discrimination. 2. 2. integrity and manpower to stop this terrible pandemic. Nwashili listed the results and assessed the lessons learnt from the work and efforts that have been accomplished so far: Results 1. once woken. Nwashili recalled that the establishment of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria was the result of a direct mandate from both Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria. Collaborative work with the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) and the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA). Faith leaders need to be thoroughly sensitised.Rev. Religions and Cultures .
This will go a long way to ensure sustainability. International agencies should take the lead in the support of capacity and institutional building. Donor agencies/organisations should review their criteria for issuing grants.Recommendations Formation of interfaith coalitions on HIV/AIDS in various countries of West Africa. Training programmes for religious leaders at the grassroots should be considered a priority. This body will need to work in partnership with the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). Most of the faith-based institutions are relatively new in this ﬁeld and may not be able to meet the usual requisite qualiﬁcations for funding. Governments should provide the enabling environment for the effective engagement of faith-based groups in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. support in form of funds should also be given attention. This training should lead to the establishment of faith-based groups in each of the participating countries and in strengthening such groups where they are already in existence. 6. As much as possible. 1. 4. Formation of an umbrella body of interfaith coalitions for West Africa to harmonise activities on HIV/AIDS responses in West Africa. 9. 8. Each coalition will need to collaborate with its National HIV/AIDS Response Committee and Inter-religious HIV/AIDS Committee. 7. Religious organisations should engage channels of formal and non-formal education such as church services and jumat services in order to educate their congregations on how best to prevent HIV/AIDS. 5. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 97 . African Religious Leaders Council (ARLC) and the National Action Response Teams in the West African sub-region. Funds should be dedicated for the use of faith-based organisations. 3. 10. UNESCO should provide a platform where we can exhibit our potentials. 2. This is the only way to actually involve religious leaders as reliable partners in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS.
Strategies of prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS among the leaders of traditional religions in Benin by His Majesty Daah Oundogni Aligbononnon (Traditional Voodoo healer and cultural educator from the Republic of Benin) Introduction Mr. With regard to the use of condoms. 98 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. He singled out religious leaders and African traditional healers from the mainstream and. He then asked in what ways African traditional religion could respond to the spread of HIV/AIDS. indecent dressing. Aligbononnon recalled the current situation of the response to HIV/AIDS. Mr. incest. put forward the idea that civilisation had its limitations and had failed in relation to modern medicine. argued for abstinence for unmarried young couples and mutual ﬁdelity for adult and married couples. He. namely a lack of role models. Debort. He claimed that such practices occur in Africa today but that at the same time African tradition compels people to respect “the rules of decency in every sphere of life”. Method of sensitisation adopted by traditional religious leaders for the prevention of HIV/AIDS The method revolves around three key words: education. moral decline. he clearly indicated that it was not a major concern of tradition as a preventive measure in sensitising people to HIV/AIDS. abstinence and ﬁdelity. paedophilia and sexual harassment in schools and at universities. He questioned the efﬁciency of the existing preventive measures and treatment against HIV/AIDS and underlined their restrictive access for the populations. pornography. Aligbononnon pointed out that the leaders’ approach to make people sensitive to HIV/AIDS centred on education – not only on sexual education but also on a form of education that advocates positive human values and respect for the dignity of the human soul. according to him. contribute to lowering morals and exposing young people to sexually transmitted diseases. especially at the scientiﬁc and political level. quoting the French academician Mr. therefore. which. He went on to underline a number of “deﬁciencies” in today’s world. Religions and Cultures .
which he deﬁned as the cradle of voodoo. It acts out as a “forum for cultural revival and exchange and for socio-economic development” among the Adja-tado people and one of its major task is to incorporate dignitaries in the ﬁght against poverty. Treatment of the body is then taken care of with the use of traditional medicine and chemotherapy together with physiotherapy and advice on hygienic measures. health and social issues. including AIDS: . . Difficulties observed during sensitisation Mr. Aligbononnon. Aligbononnon stressed the difﬁculty of making young people sensitive to the spread of HIV/AIDS because they do not receive the right kind of moral principles from their elders due to a lack of relevant information on HIV/AIDS and of formal structures to disseminate it. He went on to describe meetings called “Festivities Adja-tado” that are for RECADES a way to tackle and solve contemporary issues dealing with sanitary. he spoke of RECADES as one of the most recognised traditional organisations that protect the population through traditional laws. he/she can be “a carrier of AIDS for many years (…) without developing the symptoms of the illness”. With regard to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.deliverance of the Spirit Traditional methods are adopted by the bokonon to deliver the patient from the evil spirits that cannot be detected by modern means of treatment.treatment of the Body According to Mr. .puriﬁcation of the Soul After being compelled to confess his/ her mistakes. Traditional steps adopted in the treatment of AIDS He put forward three fundamental ways in coping with diseases. In the case of Benin. monthly information meetings are held between dignitaries.He reminded the audience of the importance of religious leaders as a powerful pressure group in Africa. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 99 . He ﬁnally drew attention to the celebration of the feast of voodoo every year and explained that it served religious leaders and dignitaries to “remember the observance of the rules of health in line with the fundamental laws of voodoo”. particularly in the rural areas. a person with HIV/AIDS needs to ask for forgiveness and grace from the offended person(s) or god(s). He/she then seeks the blessing of his/ her ancestors before the puriﬁcation of his/ her soul. if the person respects the two preceding measures.
What guidelines are involved in the various stages of treatment? He indicated that the opinion of the fa served as a guideline during the therapy in the Benin tradition. He ﬁnally reckoned that PLWHA could be helped by traditional healers if the latter possessed the necessary means to “deliver their spirits”. the regulated use of herbs as well as the consultation of the fa are fundamental measures against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Together with modern medical diagnosis. he highlighted that this combined effort proved to be very effective and reliable in dealing with HIV/AIDS. • Discourage beauty concourses and modelling competitions. However. contribute to the weakening of the immune system: one’s lifestyle and a poor diet. It is largely a psychological problem and. 100 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Proposed solutions • Introduce into the media worldwide night tales that were once told in Africa in order to preserve morals especially among young people. He suggested that a different therapeutic approach should be used for every patient. Religions and Cultures . according to him. He believed that the promise of a singular instant solution to patients is to deceive them. • Offer an important merit prize to young girls who have preserved their virginity until at least the age of 18. he maintained that the aid of natural forces. Aligbononnon recalled the two main causes that. as such. Conclusion Mr. requires constant care from the traditional healer and the patient. He pushed for the adoption of a sane and moral lifestyle to be protected from HIV/AIDS. • Stop the spread of pornographic materials through the media and the Internet.
This period is short-lived and Rev. siblings within a family may. 1. 2. He explained in detail the origins of pastoral counselling. Jean-Emile Ngué (Secretary-General of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Cameroon) Introduction Rev. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 101 . Ngué introduced his method of counselling called “Rational Model for Redeeming Harmony” and described it as “a mode of pastoral close support” in order to help Africans understand themselves introspectively so as to be able to ﬁght the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The patient is encouraged to live without taking into account these seemingly erroneous results. He listed ﬁve psychological disorders. develop emotional and mental disorders. a) The syndrome of negation It is a reaction of denial from the family members who are sceptical about the positive result of an HIV test and who ﬁnd it difﬁcult to accept such a situation where the person is HIV positive and yet does not appear to be ill. The psychological condition of the patient and of his family He drew attention to the notion of interdependence in the Family System Theory whereby a member of a family is regarded as a link in a chain amid all the other members of the family. he underlined the difference in meaning between “pastoral care” and “pastoral counselling”. In the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. the latter aims to help the patient to understand himself better and ﬁnd ways to improve his/her mental health. Ngué suggests it is better to avoid confrontation with the patient or family at this stage. Dr. He then stressed the importance of the patient’s idea of God in the light of his/her faith during the recovery process. whose purpose is to search and ﬁnd out the way of life that is most relevant to the patient’s mental welfare. therefore. While the former includes all therapeutic means the clergy may adopt to alleviate the pains of the patient.Pastoral close support for people living with HIV/AIDS by Rev. What is pastoral counselling? After giving a precise deﬁnition of the term “counselling”.
particularly women.b) The syndrome of anger He indicated that anger is a normal emotional state in the process of learning that one is condemned to death. a wall of isolation. Rev. Incorporating family members in the treatment of HIV/AIDS is essential to overcome the feeling of shame and make them feel respectable again. 102 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. They feel their body is betraying them and start losing conﬁdence in themselves.Social crisis of conﬁdence Drawing on a personal experience in a hospital. shame. Ngué mentioned two sources for the crisis of conﬁdence that PLWHA can experience: . Ngué deﬁned such feeling as “a thick wall (…) that fences out every hope of survival (…). While he argues that guilt does not affect one’s identity. does because it is aimed at oneself and questions one’s own being and one’s place in the community. d) Feeling doomed He compared being HIV positive to being on death row. . Religions and Cultures . Drawing on an example of a young woman who felt doomed as soon as she was told she was HIV positive. therefore. He highlighted the patient’s awareness of the social prejudices linked to HIV/AIDS. Ngué clearly highlighted the difference in meaning between shame and guilt. Rev. on the contrary. which made him question his/her own social relations and even society in general. He depicted the attitude of families that develop defence mechanisms in order to conceal their embarrassment and moral discomfort. Ngué underlined the ever present existence of discriminatory attitudes from the medical staff. He recommended that counsellors need a lot of emotional and physical stamina to cope with PLWHA.Betrayal of the body He pointed out that people with HIV undergo a crisis of conﬁdence due to the physiological change of their body. c) The syndrome of shame Rev. e) Crisis of conﬁdence in PLWHA Rev. He asserted that the African society is “shame-oriented” and. He added that the side effects of medication add force to this crisis and urged counsellors to deal with this problem. urged that all deeds in the response to HIV/ AIDS should be designed to change such belief. a wall that imprisons our thoughts as we analyse the notions imposed on us by society (…)”. and those that can overcome such anger are considered as very resourceful. Therefore he advocated the need for counsellors to tell their patients they are not doomed and deplored that much of the African population still clung to its prejudices against PLWHA after years of sensitisation campaigns.
• To reduce the incidence of stigma. Objectives The major aim is to give psychological. who has adopted new and looser lifestyles. poverty. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 103 . to reconstruct the African personality by learning about a person’s character and becoming involved with his spirituality. He emphasized two hypotheses that have spearheaded his sphere of research. He listed some of the key factors contributing to the spread of the virus: shame. Second. makes life apathetic especially in the African context whereby an individual exists only because he belongs to a family. • To help people to better know God. 3. the demands of the modern world have jeopardised the humanity and dignity of the African individual. This crisis. Ngué took the city of Yaoundé in Cameroon with its demographic and social issues. • To render adequate and substantial pastoral close support services. • To help Africans to devise positive strategies and objectives for living. 4. He believes that the African individual will recover his real identity and follow responsible sexual behaviour with his unique Rational Model for Redeeming Harmony. nonetheless. mutilations. First. emotional and spiritual support to individuals.families and society towards PLWHA. an ethnic or social group. • To sensitise people about the reality of HIV/AIDS and to train religious leaders in techniques of HIV/AIDS prevention/counselling. spiritually and psychologically. His aim is. • To sensitise people so that they adopt responsible behaviour. Hypothesis Rev. silence. However. group or community is synonymous with being dead or killed. endangering the vision of African unity and damaging the African identity. families and communities in difﬁculty. and stress. male and female prostitution. therefore. as an example of a West African city where HIV/AIDS can easily spread. adoption of new lifestyles. He also thinks it will reduce stigma and eradicate HIV/AIDS in Africa. He reported on the coverage of HIV/AIDS and said it was the number one cause of hospitalisation and death. refusal to use condoms. crises of identity. he claimed that the supportive techniques of his counselling could be applied to such patients. fear. Feeling ostracised from that family. untreated sexually transmitted infections. the evangelisation of Africa has led to the devaluation of African traditions. The main objectives are as follows: • To help Africans to achieve unity.
then how he identiﬁes with his ancestors. Ngué underlined that it is essential to ﬁnd out how the patient’s expectations from his ancestors and the spiritual world inﬂuence his behaviour and mental welfare in relation to HIV/AIDS. assess the repercussions of his environment on his mental and spiritual health and ﬁnally re-establish respect for hospitality and solidarity in the African family. Religions and Cultures . psychological. 6. Its main objectives are to evaluate the level of stigmatisation and the damages caused by materialism within the family. and learn about the relationship between his vision of Africa with his Christian life. determine his level of self-esteem.5. Methods He deﬁned his method as “an instrument that validates the level of full realisation of the self”. the circumstances under which he contracted HIV and establishes trust with the patient. It is important that the person keeps in touch both with the outside world and his family. the counsellor needs to know how the patient perceives HIV/AIDS. b) Elucidation At that point the counsellor makes a diagnosis of the four dimensions of the African personality. with African beliefs and religious ones. how spirits are likely to affect his behaviour and spirituality in relation to HIV/AIDS. spiritual. First. theological and economic implications. whereby the person is reconciled with himself.Diagnosis of a community dimension It deals with the life history of the patient. 104 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Full success has cultural. Applying an African model of pastoral counselling: the Rational Model for Redeeming Harmony He suggested that the application of the model should be done on a long-term basis and involve a four-dimensional diagnosis as well as a four-stage counselling process. Rev. He needs to pay attention to all elements of communication in order to know the patient’s emotional state and personality and his willingness to talk about HIV/AIDS. .Diagnosis of the ancestral dimension There are three aims. . a) Presentation The counsellor listens and gathers any information on the patient’s characteristics.
Ngué recalled that the counselling process leads to a life-long relationship between the counsellor and the patient.Diagnosis of the Christian dimension The counsellor inquires about the role and importance of the Bible in the patient’s life. the role and place of the patient in his family and community. • To appreciate the external and internal circumstances of the patient’s life or any of his afﬁliations that favours the progress of the illness.Diagnosis of the symbolic dimension The counsellor tries to explore the patient’s consciousness in a meticulous way in order to grasp how the symbolic world may have any signiﬁcance on his life and attitude towards HIV/AIDS. the counsellor and patient work: • To discover the impact of consciousness on the life of the patient. Rev.. the counsellor and patient come to an agreement on the objectives for a positive change to reverse the feeling of shame and of devastation associated with HIV/AIDS. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 105 . and be able to discover relevant support groups and forms of spiritualities that will enable him to cope with life’s doubts and worries. d) Liberation The counsellor and patient assess the accomplishment of their short-term objectives. By the end of it. c) Afﬁrmation At that point. At that point. They enable the patient to free himself. about his understanding of the principles and doctrines of Christianity and about the way he conciliates his Christian faith and African traditional beliefs in relation to HIV/AIDS. They celebrate the end of their collaboration by making use of rites that are essential in the African context. . The counsellor uses a great deal of psychological and mental strategies to help the patient to discover his genuine identity and give him the opportunity to create a new image of himself with the desire to change the world around him and have a new attitude towards sex. restored and loved by God and His community”. • To explore stigma. the patient should understand himself. do everything to lead a good life. receive “authority and freedom” and provide “opportunities for the temporal and the spiritual to jointly fortify the identity of the patient as a consecrated individual. good and effective communication between members of the family is essential to determine the role of the family in giving treatment and care to its members. • To determine appropriate objectives for a holistic change.
A trust fund should be established for the education of children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. He wished that pastoral close support may serve people to be good fathers and wives. and asked everybody to work together to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS as a socially transmitted disease. and asked men to stop “triﬂing” with life. Spiritual retreats and study programmes should be organised for religious leaders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Research should be encouraged in the ﬁeld of pastoral close support. he compared the response to HIV/AIDS to a vow on holy ground. Religions and Cultures . 4. Ngué emphasized the need to take into account African realities. which compels the counsellor to be aware of the taboos and cultural values and prejudices that are brought about by the patient. He urged people to be humble and have respect for the ones living with HIV/AIDS. 5. 2.Conclusion Rev. priests and pastors) should be trained to make use of African models of pastoral close support. 106 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. With reference to Moses. 6. Centres for teaching the African model of pastoral close support should be set up across Africa. 3. The research should take into account the context of African values. Society should be reorganised to enable young girls to learn minor trades (without undue restrictions). Religious leaders (imams. Recommendations 1.
Church leaders need to be acquainted appropriately with HIV/AIDS and trained to offer care and support so that in turn Church members will be educated and counselled on the illness. counselling and support in the Church: a paper from the Evangelical Church of West Africa AIDS Ministry (TEAM). It is endowed with “God’s armour and other spiritual weapons” to face it. Though the HIV/AIDS awareness Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 107 . Bello advocated the necessity for the all other religious groups to respond immediately to HIV/AIDS. Bello pointed out that the rate of HIV/AIDS infection is spreading at an alarming rate and that more and more people are HIV positive including church members and ministers. Why the church needs to be involved He asserted that the church has the ability to cope with the moral and spiritual dimensions of the HIV illness.HIV/AIDS prevention. While some religious denominations have already initiated their own HIV/AIDS awareness programmes. He believes it needs to develop into a community that will display “good values and a beacon of hope” for PLWHA. Nigeria by Rev. He urged all religious bodies to collaborate to respond to the spread of HIV/AIDS. The role of the Church in the fight against HIV/AIDS He explained that the Church needs to be in front line to change people’s attitudes towards PLWHA and to reduce the stigma surrounding the illness by participating in the education of both leaders and the population on HIV/AIDS. The ECWA AIDS Ministry (TEAM) He deﬁned the aim of the ECWA Ministry – a faith-based organisation established in 1996 – as one to “facilitate AIDS awareness and prevention within the Evangelical Church of West Africa” (ECWA). Mr. Isa Farma Bello (Coordinator of the Evangelical Church of West Africa AIDS Ministry – Nigeria) Introduction Mr. He claimed that it is the responsibility of the church to take care of and be compassionate with PLWHA because they are members of the church.
he declared that the seminars now included entire church congregations.programmes were initially restricted to pastors and church leaders. Religions and Cultures 108 . who also underlined the need to fully inform pastors about the way to deal with things if one or both within a couple tested positive. Bello. This training of trainers programme aims to build its own Church-Community Based AIDS Committee in order to run awareness campaigns and provide counselling and home-based care. He added that self-control was another aim to reach with the help of “God’s divine power to change people’s sexual outlook and behaviour”. Pre-marital HIV testing The policy of HIV tests initiated since 1999 to those couples intending to get married in the church was pointed out by Mr. Need for pastors to have counselling skills He indicated that pastors can now be fully addressed at courses and conferences. 33 of the 44 schools run by the Church were addressed with the Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. A growing number of people pledging to change their behaviour has been witnessed in the last two years. he implied that they are still hard to convince to bring couples to be tested for HIV/AIDS at an earlier stage before the wedding. However. Church conferences reach large numbers He highlighted the growing number of participants attending these seminars and conferences. Such a signiﬁcant rise was the result of a clear aim to gain greater coverage and increase the impact of TEAM’s awareness programmes. Message of behaviour change He outlined TEAM’s main message as one of following Christian teaching together with abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage. Secondary and primary schools targeted He stressed the effort made by the Church to reach young people in secondary schools. Training of trainers for local sustainability An intensive training programme for pastors and church leaders as trainers has been set up to better equip the beneﬁciaries to undertake their own awareness and counselling campaigns. The use of condoms was only encouraged within a discordant married couple.
Christian beliefs – They promote behavioural change and instil hope in PLWHA. Truth – The working and continuity of these church structures help to correct misinformation about HIV/AIDS. pre. and the training of zonal supervisors.Church’s awareness programme. Church schools share similar values. like providing anti-retroviral drugs. who provide HIV counselling and transmit their own training to their staff. 4. Church leadership – Its involvement is necessary for maximum impact. which includes comprehensive care clinics equipped with HIV testing. 27 of the 100 ECWA schools were addressed with a speciallydesigned awareness programme for ﬁve to ten year-old children. Principles Churches generally have well-established and reputable structures that can be used to propagate HIV/AIDS awareness through: 1. However. 7. Provision – Established structures can do what is possible and not worry about what is not possible. It is performed only to know the beneﬁt of the HIV test on the babies and depending on the availability of Nevirapine. Bello indicated that HIV/AIDS counselling was performed in two out of the three general hospitals ECWA owned and that in one of these. 6. 5.and post-test counselling was carried out. Non-dogmatism – The Church can avoid taking a dogmatic stand on Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 109 . Community health programme He stressed the community health programme structure of the church. Caring – The church is the largest caring agency in the world – usually encouraging those already infected and urging those visiting the sick to add PLWHA to their priority list. Counselling through medical department systems: hospitals Mr. such a test is not deemed compulsory. Home-based care was also given usually to the most critically ill by trained volunteers. 2. 3. Prenatal screening He emphasized that pre-test counselling was carried out when registering for prenatal care. Institutions – These are sources of emergent leadership. It aims at imparting vision. However. primary schools have been their main focus.
etc. Clarity – And yet the church (without prejudice to the preceding point) should be clear in stating its beliefs. Bello ended his speech by referring to the presence of the Church on the ground to raise people’s awareness on HIV/AIDS prevention and drawing attention to the high potential of the Church to care for its members and pass on the capacity for caring beyond the Church community. 10. which can polarise people. Change is a gradual process. 3. 8. Counsellors are born. There is the temptation to shift focus when succeeding. It enables operation in all areas of coverage and promotes the use of available resources – human. but it is rewarding. Have tools to measure impact. things like condom-related issues. 7. There is satisfaction and fulﬁlment in serving people. 9. 110 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Be volitional about training so that the message will be propagated. Lessons Learnt 1. The need for more resources (funds. Religions and Cultures . 4. screening and probation help determine commitment. Maintaining good relationships within organisations and among individuals help to improve performance. 6. The Church is a good organisation to work with because it is an established structure. Conclusion Mr. 5. some people have a natural aptitude for counselling.8. equipment) arises with increased activity. It takes time and patience. not made. 2. This needs to be checked. Volunteers may have mixed motives. material. He added that religious organisations could play a stimulating role by initiating behavioural change among their members.
he argued that the Holy Book served as a guideline for man to live a useful life while the institution of the Shari’ah ensured justice and marriage contract and deterred extremism and excess. he ﬁrst explained that Muslims receive punishment if they behave badly. he added that illness could be regarded as “a means of redemption from sin” and as “a means of purifying the soul”. Spreading HIV Mr. With regard to Islam. sleeping or working in the same room with a person with HIV. through blood and other body ﬂuids (blood transfusion. He then indicated how HIV/AIDS was not spread through eating. which. he claimed. Mohammed Kabir Kassim (Programme coordinator of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria) Introduction Mr. Kassim listed three different modes for the transmission of HIV. Illness as perceived by Muslims Quoting the Koran. With regard to Islam. Religion and HIV/AIDS He pointed to the important role religion played in guiding one’s deeds with the hope of “attaining salvation and goodness”. However. Second.) and third. he suggested that the teachings of the Koran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed are to be used to respond to HIV/AIDS. Kassim drew attention to the necessity for religion to be at the forefront of the response to HIV/AIDS. sexual intercourse among same-sex sexual relationships and heterosexuals.The role of religious leaders and faith-based organisations in the fight against HIV/AIDS by Mr. mother-to-child transmission. needles used by drug addicts not sterilised etc. accounted for 90% of AIDS cases. He ﬁnally pointed out that Muslims learn not to judge others. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 111 . First.
and devotion to God and obedience to His teachings. His view on Allah cursing an innocent is that it may be done to expunge one’s sins and raise one’s position in paradise through the afﬂiction. b) Proscription of sexual promiscuity He enumerated a number of actions to be taken to ban such activity quoting the Koran each time: • The urge for men and women “to control their sexual urge”. Mr. Is the disease a curse on people living with it? Mr. health and prosperity. He underlined the foundations of Islam and referred to Koranic passages to highlight the close connections between success. Kassim suggested that HIV/AIDS may be a trial to all or some of the PLWHA or a “curse” to some but not all people living with the illness. • The dissuasion for men and women to be together on their own before marriage. Kassim advocated a fundamental change in personal and social habits and in sexual behaviour. • The advice for women to “dress modestly in public”. they were more than welcome by Islam. Islamic teachings – effective in protecting against AIDS He identiﬁed three measures recommended by Islam as part of its moral code in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. a) Marriage According to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. Muslims are advised to make marriage “affordable and easy” for every member of society in order to protect and prevent young people from “illicit sexual activities”. He speciﬁed the measures that are the cornerstone of the Islamic approach to the prevention of HIV/AIDS: the education and training for the individual to shun unprotected sexual relationships and the promotion of moral principles in order to lead a stable and healthy life. He ﬁnally pointed to numerous references in the Koran made about examples of “strength of character and will” and other individuals who succeeded in safeguarding their integrity. Religions and Cultures . 112 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.What is the position of Islam on this deadly disease? He asserted that as long as the measures taken to respond to HIV/AIDS conformed to Islamic teachings. Means of prevention and control Reminding the audience of the lack of any cure for HIV infection and of any preventative vaccines.
With regard to the rates of infection. • The urge for boys and girls “not to invade the privacy of their elders and peers without their permission”. Kassim explained that punishment is the last and ﬁnal resort when education and upbringing have failed to put an end to permissive behaviour. which could control the spread of the infection. Its repercussions are numerous and range from fear of being rejected by loved ones. Offenders of same-sex. Voluntary HIV testing is another area where discrimination occurs due to its inaccessibility and lack of conﬁdentiality laws. ofﬁcials and even people at risk downplay the risks and dangers involved with HIV/AIDS. if married. He used ﬁgures from the WHO to support the idea that Islamic values and traditions are a powerful and effective means of prevention against HIV/AIDS. he underlined that punishments are prescribed under very strict conditions of proof while offenders and witnesses are dissuaded from recognising or testifying to the offence or reporting it. The harm in stigmatisation and discrimination He emphasized today’s reality whereby PLWHA are stigmatised and discriminated in society. the denial of any treatment to the difﬁculty of ﬁnding employment or housing. • The interdiction of all provocative activities (pornography. modesty and virtuous sexual morality”. He also drew attention to the tendency to put the blame on certain groups in which case the government.• The ﬁght against “permissiveness” and “loose social mingling” between sexes outside the family circle. sexual relationships are punished by one hundred lashes and. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 113 . capital punishment is considered. • The prohibition of the use of all kinds of intoxicants that affect the mind. provocative singing. spreading the infection. Penalty for drug use He pointed out that narcotic drug users received the same kind of punishment as alcohol drinkers. he claimed that they are lower in Muslim countries while infections themselves are lower amongst Muslims in non-Muslim countries. He explained that Muslim culture carried values such as “decency. However. dancing. music and ﬁlm). c) Effective deterrence Mr.
• Channelling efforts through imams and mosques. 5. special care for orphans. Stigmatisation. wage and income generating activities. 4. programme development. 6. • Utilizing messages from the Koran and the Hadith. attaining knowledge. perseverance. 7. donor agencies. Utilising systems and infrastructures already established in the following areas: education. assessment. We have to strive to keep things in perspective and remain realistic. After giving out a few ﬁgures about the devastating effect HIV/AIDS had on the African population. mercy. reminding and resolving. capacity building.Conclusion Mr. resilient and proactive. • Maintaining accountability to our communities. (Koran 42: 30– 43) 3. Financing by various means such as Zakat. • Working with allies for resource mobilisation. Mr. 1. consistency. Try and instil moral responsibility and accountability in our children. government departments. 3. medical. using Allah’s guidance. jihad-in-nafs (self-discipline). commitment. compassion. community mobilisation. and efforts. social responsibility. care and support. physiological. 2. 1. Disorganisation. Strive to perfect our iman (faith). and the community at large. pity. neyyah (intentions). We have to identify and address our own community needs with regards to HIV/AIDS through research. 4. material development and continuous networking. We have to give hope to PLWHA. 5. 2. Networking at all levels. ﬁdelity. Poverty He then speciﬁed the ways such an aim could be achieved. • Providing the community with technical and logistic support. Irresponsibility. Disseminating Islamic teachings on: abstinence. Sadaqa. Addressing (and seeking solution to) the HIV/AIDS pandemic through social. Practice Allah’s method of guided interactive discussions in training and educating our respective communities. de-stigmatisation. He then alluded to the ﬁve basic features of the strategy of the Islamic approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and care. information dissemination and behavioural change. Kassim made a number of recommendations: 114 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. especially with other faith-based organisations. etc. Apathy. widows. ﬁnancial and spiritual avenues. Kassim recalled some of the preventive measures for HIV/AIDS and urged religious leaders to exploit Islamic teachings and apply them to PLWHA. Ignorance. youth. sensitisation. the sick and the poor. Religions and Cultures .
information and ﬁlling identiﬁed gaps. To conclude. e. Mr. health professionals and doctors and document all the religious teachings concerning or relating to HIV/AIDS issues that can be used as reference for curriculum development. We should continue to hold consultations on a regular basis as a forum for sharing experiences. c d. We should formulate a common agenda so that our responses and actions are related. culture and traditional practices among religions that hinder HIV/AIDS interventions. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 115 .a. That we shall identify those common moral values that bind us as God’s creatures. g. As representatives of various religious groups let us resolve wholeheartedly now that we shall work as one body. and therefore comparable and sharable. Kassim urged religious leaders in West Africa to set up a forum where ideas on the best ways to face HIV/AIDS will be shared and exchanged. training and other actions related to HIV/AIDS issues. Weshould address misconceptions. f. misinterpretations. b. and pled for Islam and Christianity to be the leading partners in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. We should immediately form a technical committee consisting of religious leaders. We must create mechanisms for networking both nationally and globally.
Omolewa pled for a “bottom-to-top” approach to complement the existing “top-to-bottom” approach in the effort to mobilise against HIV/AIDS considering that the adoption of measures at the grass-root level would be more effective in dealing with people who have contracted HIV.Responses and contributions from the floor During the debate that followed. Brown-Diogo also drew attention to what he considered the major problem in Africa. Mr. Sanusi maintained that abstinence remained the best way to be protected from HIV/AIDS. Bishop Gianiris called for a number of measures to be taken in order to cope with the dramatic ordeal faced by PLWHA. Ngué’s pastoral care approach very interesting. therapy at regular intervals for PLWHA. Although Mr. Sanusi welcomed such determination expressed so succinctly. A close monitoring of such amounts of money was recommended to reduce the chances of anybody trying to proﬁt at the expense of PLWHA. he called for the use of condoms as a pragmatic measure. Rev. Mr. Mr. Williams identiﬁed three factors contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS: the poverty level in Africa. 116 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. a law against discrimination against PLWHA. Religions and Cultures . The issue of the monetization of HIV/AIDS was again mentioned due to the vast amounts of funds given by international donors. Aligbononnon he clariﬁed his position and declared that traditional healers “delivered the spirit” of HIV positive people. the widespread ignorance of the illness in rural areas and environmental degradation. namely hunger. while statistics issued on PLWHA and HIV/AIDS deaths in Europe and the USA did not truly reveal the consequences of the illness. therapy for clergy and laity at six months’ interval were among his suggestions. Dr. Rev. Kassim emphasized that poverty and illiteracy played a role in spreading the infection too and reiterated his call for an effort to ﬁght poverty. As for Mr. He argued that the response to HIV/AIDS could be more successful if everybody involved worked “in the same way and in line with the same vision”. The use of a psychologist for depressed and traumatised patients. Indeed. the necessity to have an interfaith approach with Christian and Muslim groups and the involvement of African traditional religion working together against the spread of HIV/AIDS was again put forward by the participants. counselling and abstinence could have its limits in preventing HIV/AIDS from spreading. Whilst Prof. Soumonni pointed out that prayers. Bello highlighted the apparent rivalry between Christians and Muslims in the response to HIV/AIDS and called for the halt of such a situation to have a homogenous and better focused struggle. He found Rev. Lawson advocated a “holy war” on HIV/AIDS by all religions and the setting up of a workable plan to “wage a successful war against it”. Prof.
Marriage did not guarantee protection from HIV infection – ﬁdelity (whether in or out of a marital relationship) did. She urged religious leaders to “deal with education towards the cultivation of worthy values”. he advocated the building of a “culture of chastity and ﬁdelity”. he recommended a “sub-structure or coalition” from religious leaders in order to move society from “an individual level to a couple-centred level” which would contribute to a reduction in unprotected sexual relationships and. Round Table Number Two (Second Part) 117 . Oko made a number of suggestions to respond to HIV/AIDS. Second. which showed that “a married woman has eight times higher chances to contract HIV/AIDS than a woman who is not married”. The use of condoms should complement abstinence as prevention against the spread of HIV/AIDS. First. She said that is ﬁdelity rather than marriage that made the difference. As a conclusion. not cured. She cited a recent study carried out in South Africa. Some commonly agreed points that emerged from the second panel were that the interfaith coalition between Muslims and Christians in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS should be enlarged to include traditional religion.Mr. Third. Poverty. ignorance and environmental degradation also contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. illiteracy. Ms Drobná reminded the participants that marriage is not a solution to contracting HIV/AIDS. therefore. he believes religious leaders have to help raise funds and do so by convincing their followers to contribute to any proposed fundraiser in the interests of people living with HIV/AIDS. in HIV transmission. She reminded the participants of the presence of ofﬁces of UNAIDS across the African continent and encouraged religious leaders to cooperate with them.AIDS-related illnesses can only be treated at present.
by promoting formal.Reinforce cooperation with PLWA networks and organisations Advocate and lobby for affordable treatment. adapted to local realities and cultures . This partnership should be based on the common values shared by all religions. of HIV/AIDS funding. It calls upon both organisations to bring all their support towards continuation of this crucial initiative on HIV/AIDS. * These recommendations summarise the suggestions made by the participants to the round table. in an appropriate way. in order to build effective prevention and care. no religions. 118 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. .The assembly acknowledges the opportunity offered by UNESCO and UNAIDS to religious leaders from West Africa to discuss HIV/AIDS. . preaching and sermons. nonformal and peer education.Reinforce capacities of faith leaders and communities at all levels. Religions and Cultures . Has called upon all religious communities to declare a joint war against HIV/AIDS – a common enemy attacking and killing all human beings. in order to support people infected and affected. . .Use scriptures to develop an “HIV/AIDS theology”. . . and integrate HIV/AIDS messages in all teaching. Recognising that HIV/AIDS knows no borders.Encourage the use of religious media channels to transmit HIV/AIDS-related messages. the assembly has called upon national and international solidarity towards People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWA). encourage the creation of national interfaith networks against HIV/AIDS.Mobilise religious leadership in order to ﬁght stigma and discrimination.Ensure the use. care and support. and aim at fostering a culture of peace and care for the vulnerable. and should be addressed in full respect of endorsed International Conventions.Use contextual methods of counselling. Concerned about the suffering of the infected and of the families and communities affected. and strengthen the existing ones. Recognising that HIV/AIDS is a human rights issue. . on the basis of the sacred texts. and committed to: . to ﬁght against stigma and discrimination. in order to form eventually an umbrella body of Interfaith Coalitions in West Africa. They were not adopted by the plenary session. .Ensure greater involvement of youth and women at all levels (including decision-making) in the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS.Final Recommendations* From the Round Table on the Role of Religious Leaders and Faith-based Organisations in the Fight against HIV/AIDS The assembly Recognising that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major obstacle to sustainable development – and thus one of the main challenges that societies have to face in the 21st century.In close coordination with HIV/AIDS National Plans. no sovereignty.
View of a stand at the Abuja Market .
Kaine Nwashili. and Ms.Rev. Bintou Sanankoua Head of the Institute of Science and humanities (Mali) Religious leaders during the round table on HIV/AIDS . National Director of the Interfaith HIV Council of Nigeria.
UNAIDS Country Coordinator (Nigeria) .General view of the banquet Mr Aldo Landi.
His Majesty Daah Aligbononnon Oundogni. Rosa Guerreiro. traditional Voodoo healer and cultural educator from the Republic of Benin UNESCO HQ’s crew (from left to right): Helena Drobnà. Cécile Mazzacurati .
Nobel Prize of Literature surrounded by eminent participants of the Congress Mr Ibrahim Doma. representative of the Nigerian Network of People living with HIV/AIDS .Wole Soyinka .
(from left to right) Mgr Chidi Denis Isizoh. Ambassador Michael Omolewa. Permanent Delegate of Benin to UNESCO. Nobel Prize of Literature. Pontiﬁcium Consilium pro Dialogo inter religiones (African Desk). Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO and Secretary General of the General Conference of UNESCO Participants of the Congress . Mgr A. Ambassador Joseph Olabayi Yai. Professor Wole Soyinka. Orthodox Bishop of Lagos. Gianniris.
H. Rosa Guerreiro.E. Minister of Culture and Tourism of Nigeria .Participants of the Congress (from left to right) Ambassador Michael Omolewa. UNESCO. Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO and Secretary General of the General Conference of UNESCO. Frank Nchita Ogbuewu. Programme Specialist for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue.
Nobel Prize of Literature (from left to right) Mgr John G. Vice President. Atiku Abubakar.Wole Soyinka .E. Catholic Archbishop of Abuja a Diocese greeting H. Federal republic of Nigeria . Onaiyekan.
on 17 December 2003. Paris .Mr. Ms. with Prof. Omolewa introducing the following participants to the high table: .Archbishop John Onaiyekan – The Catholic Bishop of Abuja . Ms.Ms.m. Katumi Mahama – President.30 a. Ghana (Chairman/ Moderator) . Federation of Muslim Women. Wole Soyinka – Nobel Laureate and Professor of Comparative Literature With the high table set.Round Table Number Three Theme: How religions in the region can work together towards common goals: the well-being of local people and sustainable development on the basis of the best local practices? Round Table Number Three started at 9. Katumi Mahama. after which the chairman.Prof. Yai to make his presentation: . Jean-Paul Ngoupandé – Former Prime Minister of Central African Republic . Rosa Guerreiro – Programme Specialist from UNESCO Headquarters. Rosa Guerreiro and Prof. Omolewa renewed their call for recommendations and proposals from the participants towards the composition of The Abuja Statement.Ms. Paris . Olabiyi Babalola Yai – Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.Prof. invited Prof.
of each religious or cultural tradition is a sine qua non condition for each participant in the dialogue. adherents of religion A. Paris) he objective of this short presentation is ﬁrst and foremost to point out what I consider a blind spot or a vacuum in the imposing arsenal of the means available for the search for a necessary dialogue among the religions. should perceive religion B in the same manner as the intellectuals of the latter.Towards a forum of religious intellectuals in West Africa by Prof.to put it otherwise . For instance. this is about the survival of African cultures in the context of a moderated and mutually dependent globalisation where they should be considered and treated as equal partners in all spheres. Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai (Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Benin to UNESCO. We should also be mindful of the likelihood of precipitating conﬂict with other religions and traditions T 120 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. The mutual perception of religious traditions is tainted with mutual prejudice. and vice-versa. For instance. we must examine our mode of dialogic engagement with a critical eye. as an aftermath of religious conﬂicts. we are often witnesses to the planned destruction of cultures and civilisations that have survived for millennia in Africa. This vacuum. One of the reasons why dialogue has failed among us is that the minimum condition for its successful execution has barely existed right from the start. For dialogue to exist. in theory and in practice. are the implications of convening such a forum of intellectuals from the different cultures and civilisations across our regional landscape? To answer such an important question. In conclusion. We should be mindful that any attempt to convert people under certain circumstances would likely put them on their guard against the possibility of violating their convictions. being restricted to religion will not only wrap us up in the present. cultures and civilizations of our region. Nor does identifying fully with the perception of any religion necessarily mean becoming converted to it. this gap . Before I proceed. Religions and Cultures . In fact. at least the most enlightened among them as well as intellectuals. if you permit my saying so. but it will also render us blind to some other issues at stake. as much as possible. is the absence of a real intellectual forum for the different religions and cultures in the region.which is impossible to ignore on our part. It is expected that this forum will provide the answers we seek pertaining to such conﬂicts. but extending it to include cultures and civilisations. let me congratulate UNESCO for its effective conceptual clariﬁcation of the terms of this dialogic engagement and for not restricting the scope of the engagement to religion. This certainly does not imply that the adherents of religion A should subscribe to the perceptions of the adherents of religion B. the understanding. What.
It should be mentioned in passing that the concept of religious conversion is relatively new among us. Forums such as this one should be encouraged because they are useful. It is. Men and women of distinction who are respected both within and outside their communities are needed for the following reasons: • Their high capacity to listen and understand other religious and cultural traditions. One needs to invent – and the term is not too strong – a dialogue structure with the aim of promoting a reciprocal and better understanding of the various religions in our cultural landscape.in other people’s minds and. • Their real understanding of other religious and cultural traditions. more so. a facilitator of a radical sort. A quick but careful examination of what hitherto has been regarded as religious dialogues would easily reveal that they are at best typical examples of what the Yoruba refer to as édè aiyedè (that is. having been introduced with the Judeo-Christian tradition. necessary to have a different kind of forum.or even opaque . between individual or groups in the present context) despite at times the good will of the participants. considering the proﬁle of those that should be invited to participate. of course. if such a tradition contrives ideas and practices. Our responsibility is enormous because this requires nothing less than knowing if we are more or less consenting victims of a cultural genocide or. which are comparable to governments. True dialogue cannot be established if the basic tenets and practices of such a tradition are rather blurred . However. who are – except for rare exceptions . These are some of the ideas I wish to share with this gathering in the hope they will help in enriching our interest in dialogue. by which I mean those who hold a prominent position not favourable to a sound dialogue. no single individual should presume to think for the others. and claims to credit others with them. they prove to be radically different from the usual gatherings of religious leaders. mutatis mutandis.under such (controversial) situations. “misunderstanding”.organic intellectuals. It will undoubtedly be instrumental in educating citizens about the dialogue of cultures. The forum should be located outside a hierarchical context and upstream as it strives to create conditions conducive to a true dialogue. If one should think of a prototype in this regard. which all hierarchies confess to hope and pray for. Round Table Number Three 121 . A forum like this one is. therefore. religions and civilisations. hints from the sage Amadou Hampaté BÂ readily come to mind. occurring. as opposed to religious leaderships. • Their past and present testifying that they successfully went through “the ordeal of strangeness” in their daily lives. One can consider. therefore. • Their past being devoid of controversy or violence. that religious gatherings can be compared to civil society forums. In a forum of this nature.
The chairman. subjects and agents of a moderated and humane globalisation in a world that is diverse.if. 122 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Katumi Mahama. We will continue to be Africans “open to all inspirations from everywhere in the world” (Césaire). pluralistic and at peace. we have been faithful supporters of a tradition that has endured for some one thousand years. thanked Prof. Religions and Cultures . Yai for his presentation. on the other hand. and will continue to faithfully uphold such a culture. Ms. Wole Soyinka to make his own presentation. which she described as “straightforward” and invited Prof.
that process of lethargic response that reﬂects the enfeeblement of our moral will. This retrogressive stage in so-called development can be halted. a renewed chance at a new beginning. or the harmonisation of differences. for any authentic humanistic culture to which we lay claim. and protestations of trust between communities rendered permanently suspect. a very special gift to the nation. the location for this sector of encounters in the wide canvas and stimulating project of Dialogue among Civilisations makes it vital that even the most familiar of these sentiments be packaged anew. Both the timing and the situating of this round of dialogue are. Then. therefore. Other communities within the nation have been similarly. over any excuse and. in the past few decades. in this very city that was built as a unifying symbol of disparate cultures. It was in this city of Abuja.Harmonising through faith by Prof. I read in it – whatever may have been the purpose of the organisers – a call to re-think. right here. to recall for the nation’s very salvation a now fading idyll. all in the name of faith and the supremacy of contrived religious mandates. The topic that has brought us here has a profound resonance for us in this nation. for the beneﬁt of our own immediate. victims sometimes even of individuals. to draw back from mindless orgies of slaughter. their crimes against our common humanity. but repeat again and again. religions and ideological tendencies that the most brutal siege was laid against the very concept of tolerance. that a group of fanatics unleashed on our peace a brutal conspiracy that made us endure yet again another round of the massacre of innocents. leave hundreds. not anonymous. under the glare of the world’s unblinking lights. Round Table Number Three L 123 . It must be done by example. desecrated. generations of close neighbourliness ripped asunder. values. It was here. each time in a more violent measure than before. but also by an even-handed application of the laws that bind us together as a nation. one that makes the violators of the rights of others not only glory in their conduct. if often aggravating. Dialogue between cultures. such a childhood that I know was shared by most of my generation. let it be recalled in all sombreness and shame. before the sun has set. a far deeper import for nation existence and identity than the recently concluded All-African Games and CHOGM also hosted here. Wole Soyinka (Nobel Laureate and Professor of Comparative Literature) ittle I shall say here is new. and I know most of you present here already understand why. has been a culture of impunity. It is necessary to stress that last necessity. and even more violently. constituency. it was simply unthinkable that a religious war-cry would rend the air of a peaceful afternoon. by means of persuasion. even thousands of our citizens wallowing in their own blood. through encounters such as this. However. What we appear to have substituted. but with whom they had broken bread and shared salt only a week before. even put together.
indeed. The insufﬁciently remarked signiﬁcance of this global project for me was thus. The ﬁres that rage in his mind cast no illumination and exist only for that moment when they can burst out of their narrow conﬁnes to consume. it appears to privilege the violators of our common peace. I was present at the occasion of that inauguration. not only of nations. 124 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. if not as a birthright. or accept. among others. The fanatic is a creature in perpetual mind closure. I am certain. Civilisations have. Dialogue of Civilisations. These brutal violations take place but no one appears ever to be called to account.yes. All responsible leaders. I refer to insecure communities of faith that are prone to mimicking the negatives. of the project. Now. delivered a most enlightened speech that. who have taken the trouble to journey here. I consider this the most basic requirement of any project of dialogue. in our assumed roles as vectors of understanding and mutual exchange of knowledge. in short. together with UNESCO. So was the President of our nation among numerous other heads of states and/or their representatives. that mantle of impunity is one that is most readily assumed by the fanatic. appeared to have recognised that dialogue had become a critical necessity of our times. uncompromising language of rejection and denunciation. The language of appeasement for purveyors of fanaticism should be replaced by a terse. and for one simple reason: the fanatic is not a product of any civilisation that the known world has ever produced. a lesson that appears especially set for this nation. took most of his audience by surprise. the main sponsor. survived only in spite of the onslaught of fanaticism in all creeds and ideologies. proceeding to emulate those missteps and even surpass them on their own ground. or within our community. indeed. clerics and civil leaders. invited artists and intellectuals. and this is the fact that. including mine. never to warm or illumine. but there can be no dialogue between any culture and what manifests itself as a culture of impunity. the lesson I wish to pass on to the fanatics of this nation is this: President Khatami of Iran. a number of our manipulative political ﬁgures in this nation have yet to understand. in the halls of the United Nations. then at least as a spiritual bequest. under President Khatami of Iran. its inauguration under the aegis of President Khatami of Iran. alas. and extolling them as virtues. We must learn to recognise the fanatic. indeed. When the government of Iran. Religions and Cultures . launched this project. the errors or missteps of distant societies. Now. On the minds of most of that audience. Harmonisation of differences is not possible with the toleration of the intolerant. and we do know that fanaticism is the greatest known enemy of dialogue. in partnership with UNESCO. one who exists in a self-nurtured darkness. Harmony between peoples and interests is severely wounded wherever the application of the law appears to lack even-handedness when. but also of numerous endeavours. It is a lesson that should not be discarded. We. his address of an enlightened mind would have been wasted on any fanatic who happened to wander into those chambers. must begin by accepting a responsibility of the need to expunge the fanatic element in ourselves. the intolerant within us.
practised and affective religions of the world. Italy. most symbolically. Round Table Number Three 125 . not quite a decade earlier. however. almost on a daily basis. Nations change.was unquestionably a keen awareness that we were listening to the leader of that same nation which. We have a duty to stress this. an open call was made for the murder of a young female journalist under the guise of a divinely mandated fatwa. Those. attempt to shoot themselves up onto world platform from obscurity by exploiting the primitive base of religious emotionalism. A major religion of course. We all adapt or die. The globe needs to be saturated. as the earlier response to the work of the writer has been seized upon in many corners of the globe as an opportunity to reinforce. within Iran itself. etc. I feel the need to use an occasion such as this to summon those other nations and communities – mine included – to Khatami’s ongoing tribune of understanding. appropriately buried under the rebuke of that politician’s own religious practitioners and superiors. then the vacuum is ﬁlled by the kind of mimics to which I referred earlier. of course. should turn the sword of their fatwa against the all . for the ﬁrst time in our history. Macedonia. – and there is even a permanent NGO – Dialogue among Civilisations – to which it has given birth.too real. Such calls have nothing to do with spirituality but with the appropriation of power. it is the negative message that forever remains implanted in their minds. especially a sustained and dynamic reciprocity from more cultures and religions. My concern today is simply to call attention to the activities of the leadership of that country in a truly inspired mission to restore dialogue to its rightful place as an agent of civilisation. unfortunately. deservedly classiﬁed as one of the world religions but. for many such communities. Still lacking. only one of the living. indeed. those who set themselves up as conduits of the negative. certainly not my intention to chide or exonerate a writer accused of disrespect or insensitivity towards religious sentiment. That moment of retrogression appears to have passed into ignominious history. never the remedial. The word. who insist on distorting the authority of faith and pose as its executioners. President Khatami’s challenge has been taken up by several bodies – in Georgia. however. is dynamic – perhaps I should even use the word “aggressive”. And it is not my intention here to pursue the rights and wrongs of the province of the imagination. It has contributed to a large extent to the very condition of global intolerance to whose dismantling the new Iranian leader now openly committed himself and. in the halls of the United Nations. is a manifest global commitment. If we fail. The moment of Ayatollah Khomeini’s global incitement to murder remains a poisoned watershed in the relationship between and within communities and nations. to use every opportunity to disseminate that message. It was in this vein that. with such encounters. to legitimise existing local tendencies of bigotry and intolerance that even run against the scriptures of that very religion in question. had imposed on the world a new era of fear by arrogating to herself the right to sentence the citizen of another nation to death in the name of one of the many faiths of the world. Additionally. Let it be the last that it is ever heard in this nation. pervasive and pitiless scourges of humanity such as AIDS. tolerance and respect since. just the same.
these self-retiring alternative models and options in the creation of a true community of man are ridiculed. the seeds of that lowly. themes that appear to have successfully divided up. Buddhism and Hinduism. the indivisibility of the human community. As the African proverb goes.orisa. It is a good instance of that theocratic binary con-trick. they do tacitly – and tactically – acknowledge the other as the equal contender for the stakes of hegemonic dominance. when two elephants ﬁght. On the other hand. Religions and Cultures . religion and doctrines of separatism such as racism. on the one hand. etc. or still contest. especially of the antecedent autochthonous faiths over which these two foreign contenders have spread their imperial cloak. however. Judaism and Christianity. it is the grass beneath their hooves that suffer. Nigeria offers us a contemporary model of the effect of binary conditioning since it was within this nation. however. continue to arrogate to themselves the monopoly of Truth. sometimes intersecting. aggressive offshoots and client relations. for one to simplify “the other” package and demonise it. This mentality of binary organisation makes it easy. We can treat them all within a framework of binaries. focus on it as the sole obstacle to one’s own survival. and despite their demonstrable and glaring errors of doctrine and conduct that prove so costly to humanity itself and disorganise swathes of living communities.. – even deeper into the black hole of invisibility. the elision of spiritual verities that can be elicited from other religious worldviews. viliﬁed. plus all their extended families. Perfection and/or Dominance.And now. indeed. In truth. to varying degrees. Those of us. and often self-replacing: communism and capitalism. a word on the place of what I often term the “Invisible Religions” in the world’s spiritual stakes. Christianity and Islam. who hold on to a belief in the unity. no matter how buffeted such a concept has been during the last century. Fascism and Democracy. ﬁve years ago. secure in its secular governance even from the colonial period. must consider ourselves fortunate if we happen to be heirs to certain systems of beliefs that have survived those overweening themes. only some four. the world among themselves. Do you recall the arguments that went predictably back and forth between the 126 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. a theocratic state! The immediate effect of the Islamisation of that state has been to create just such an arena between two aggressive faiths. All these. social Darwinism or apartheid. that a state within the nation declared itself.. ancestor or Nature worship. the Judeo-Christian/Euro-American world and the Arab-Islamic. preventing devastating mud-slides and shoring up the pillars of civilisation! Thanks to the overbearing nature of the monoliths. etc. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. etc. unassuming crop that is however responsible for holding back the forces of erosion. the Crusade and the Jihad. Tough luck on the other inhabitants of the real world – which happens to be a pluralistic one! They simply disappear through a contemptuous wave of the hand or aversion of the eyes by the Super-Duo. the grass simply vanishes and. thus sucking the anterior faiths . especially by the anti-human excesses of ideology. crushed or simply driven underground. who thus conserve their energy for the ﬁnal onslaught between only two monoliths. with it.
have you observed how. With an aspiring patriarch of all religions. fasting with the Muslims. the Christian Association of Nigeria. indeed. An encounter such as this. then why not simply substitute a few moments of meditation where every participating citizen can commune with his or her spiritual source and draw into a common ecumenical pool the spiritual resources that surround humanity? Note. that declare themselves Islamic or Christian parts of Nigeria. The moment that a state opts to become a theocracy. how the President of the nation ostentatiously celebrates the religious seasons of both Christianity and Islam. circulating the ritual rounds of breaking the fast among one Muslim leader after the other. I salute these symbolic gestures of our would-be national paterfamilias. we should expect of him similar symbolic gestures towards the seasons of traditional worship. All over the nation. The other. Let us give thanks to the God of all faiths for small mercies. both aided and abetted by the international media whose binary conditioning is so endemic that it cannot even refer to Nigeria except in such terms as the Muslim North and the Christian South. no one asks the question: what are the pronouncements of the Round Table Number Three 127 . enables us to put all our cards on the table. all cards must be placed on the table. even to the extent of a change in wardrobe at high points of these festivals. downright discriminatory. nothing but political tokenism – it would be instructive to ﬁnd out if Professor Wande Abimbola has ever been invited by his boss to invoke the blessings of Orunmila on any national occasion. Those states. on all national occasions.two? The legal system being practised is based on Christian law. hence we must oppose it with ours. in fairness. so we shall not cavil at that! As a child. taking place on our own soil. the ofﬁce of invoking a spiritual presence is shared only between the Christian and the Islamic clerics? Where is the recognised space of traditional spirituality? If we cannot cater for all.the predominantly Muslim North and the largely Christian South or other grudging variations. and face upwards. If there is to be dialogue. claimed the Council of Imams and their advocates. we must state that we do encounter the informed qualiﬁcation of . Occasionally. indeed. Alas. raised in a Christian home. Mind you. but studiously ignores the passage of traditional festivals! My information is that he is. also consist of other religious faiths. replied in kind. To drive the message even deeper home. he is totally sold on that binary appropriation of the world’s spiritual plurality! The presence of a well-known priest of Ifa among his advisers is. but must point out the fact that they are non-inclusive. adherents continue to follow (sometimes side by side with Islam or Christianity) the religions of their ancestors. therefore. yes. of course. at this moment. but we were pushed to try it for a few days. also. those pre-Christian and pre-Islamic faiths that are so wishfully dismissed as mere vestigial and inconsequential paganism. we were also encouraged by our parents to join our Muslim neighbours in that annual rite of spiritual discipline – no one expected us to last the entire forty days. the current exercise should be good for some health-enhancing loss of presidential weight. however. determined to defend its own established turf on similar grounds.
from within our own convictions. to suggest that all. in concert with myriads of others. the stoning of a woman to death for any reason. The slaves had no problem with this: they embraced the saints. are only creatures of Western indoctrination or adherents of one of the other rivalling “world religion”? Can we please agree to speak to one another. very much in the manner of. therefore. merged them with their own deities and remained steeped in their antecedent spirituality.existing traditional religious practitioners – not now of the opposing member of the binary catechism – what is the teaching of such religions on the imposition of a theocratic mandate on a community. and in their syncretic transformations with the Roman Catholic saints into whose theology these slaves were press-ganged by their enslavers. It is purely diversionary tactics. grounded in nothing but the quicksand of loose attribution. let it be understood that my convictions stem from an ancient civilisation. Ifa is the corpus of prognostic verses that interpret the future and prescribe options and directions for the seeker. manifested both in their own right. but within this nation itself. but also – as in the instance of Latin America – as palpable spaces of spirituality. Gleason. that attention be paid to the possible validity of certain values that are being obscured by the dictates of the self-declared world religions. not to become devotees of the orisa. I demand. without recourse to distractions from East or West? Or. The Imprisonment of Obatala. only a vacuum on this continent. one that is echoed by the Vedic texts from yet another ancient world. These narratives have been transcribed and translated by such anthropologists and linguists as Herskovits. least of all. Our intention here is simply to emphasise that these seemingly exotic ﬁgures have been with the external world for a very long time. The deities have themselves been the subject of a large body of traditional drama. Oba Koso and Oba Waja. Those slaves felt no inner wrench because they were strengthened by their ancestral understanding of the nature of Truth. as the dues of a strongly disputed interpretation of any scriptures. and. by Duro Ladipo. a set of values that evolved without knowledge of the occidental or oriental worlds. society or state? The answer is surely: separate the governance of mankind from the claims of clerics. Religions and Cultures . in the saying: 128 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. often as artistic resources. before the birth of Jesus Christ or the Prophet Mohammed. but simply to open your minds in order to see if there are not lessons to be learnt from the philosophies embedded in some of these traditional religions. values that form the core of a humanistic ethic. by Wale Ogunyemi. the Indian. was there nothing at all. not only within the so-called Western world. by Obotunde Ijimere. to serve us as ethical guides before the advent of these triumphalist civilisations and religions? I implore you all. however formed. These reminders are not offered as validation – the Yoruba deities and their world need no validation. and quite recently by Epega. and in numerous epic narratives and the usual adventure tales. etc. Bascomb.. When I oppose. who hold a position to the contrary. Wande Abimbola. Esu Elegbara. but owing nothing to Greek classical drama – thus.
declared Revelation. our recourse Round Table Number Three 129 . the African world did evolve its own spiritual accommodation with the unknown. indeed. a re-examination of the phenomena of Nature. be those Texts named Scriptures or Catechisms. as the world is increasingly taken over by the most virulent manifestations of dogmatic adhesion. dynamic spirituality. And this is where the Yoruba deities have an urgent and profound message to transmit to the rest of the world. There is urgency about this. often in the most ghoulish manner. did evolve its own socioeconomic systems. But the orisa continues to insist: leave the gods to ﬁght their own wars! It has become necessary to reiterate that. and reproduced its own material existence within an integrated worldview. in contemporary times. Thus. and as a direct consequence of this action and the escalation of intolerance in tastes. social habits and even public associations. and approached from myriad routes. as parables that may lead the mind towards a deeper quarrying into the human condition. as no more than signposts. has suffered near irreparable harm. but the veneration and consolidation – at whatever cost. before the experience of enslavement at the hands of both Arabs and Europeans.Wise is he who recognises that Truth is One and one only. that those systems are still very much with us and have. of the building of Community – it is this failure that has led to the substitution of dogma for a living. of human history and human strivings. and aggressively. Neighbourliness. the nurturing terrain of which expands every day. affected both liturgy and practice of alien religions even to the extent of rendering them – in several instances – docile and domesticated. hotels and social meeting places torched. its contradictions and bouts of illumination. its cohering systems of social relationships. The dominant religions of the world and their theologies as received and expressed in the present day have meant not the search for or the love of. the aggressive face of one or the other of these world religions is manifested. The accommodative spirit of the Yoruba gods remains the eternal bequest to a world that is driven by the spirit of intolerance. Hundreds of mosques and churches have been destroyed. xenophobia and suspicion. In the twelve months that followed the introduction of the theocratic state in Nigeria. before Islam or Christianity invaded and subverted our worldviews. This failure to see transmitted Texts. the elevation of mere Texts to Dogma and Absolutes. the sense of community. whenever. private relationships. often instigated by those who claim to serve one Supreme Deity or the other. The labour and achievements of generations have been wiped out in orchestrated mayhems. It has meant the manipulation of Truth. but wiser still the one who accepts that Truth is called by many names. with all their all-too-human adumbrations. at least ﬁfteen thousand lives have been lost in various parts of the nation. including tortures and massacres – of mere propositions of Truth.
ki o d’oju re de ‘be. not the nominal. He runs into a venerable Muslim priest kneeling in prayer and knocks him to the ground. Warawara ma ni iku idin. the greatest obstacles to its attainment. the chairman. Acceptance of the elastic nature of knowledge remains Ifa’s abiding virtue. not tolerance as an academic exercise of comparisons. 130 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. errors and acts of reparation. do I suggest that the faith. Ms. Ee ti ri? Eyin ko mo pe: Ajepe aiye ko si f’omo ti o na Ogbo awo. Katumi Mahama. But the tenets of Ifa are governed by a frank acknowledgement of the fact that the deﬁnition of Truth is a goal that is constantly being sought by humanity. Orisa is the voice. Soyinka’s presentation. and the spirit of tolerance is captured in this deﬁning odu of Ifa: B’omode ba nsawo ogboju. Ifa is often enigmatic. Religions and Cultures . A da a f’awon alaigboran tii wipe: Ko si eniti o le mu won. Bi o ba burinburin ti o ri agba alufa nibiti o nﬁ ori k’ale. He meets an old herbalist and humiliates him. rhetorical or selective kind. Atelepe ko wa fun awon ti nna agba isegun. Omo ti nna agba alufa nibi ti o gbe nkirun. that existence itself is a passage to Ultimate Truth. warawara. speedily. Is that so indeed? Don’t you know that a youth who strikes a priest of Ifa will not partake of this world for long? Premature is the death of the youth who strikes the devout imam at his devotions. the loftiest of which will be found to be expressed in such attitudes as tolerance – the genuine. in fact. Speedily comes the death of maggots. (IKADI) Translation: The brash youth meets an ancient babalawo and strikes him. but that odu of Ifa is absolute clarity in its mission to spread the gospel of tolerance. as recorded in their mythologies – and their adaptability to the dynamic changes of the world. After recapitulating on Prof. of course. that is orisa. Not for one moment. and that claimants to possession of the deﬁnitiveness of Truth are. kio o gba a l’oju. Bi o ba ko agba isegun.is primarily to the strengths of those unextinguished virtues of our antecedent faiths. the very embodiment of tolerance. but one that is demonstrable by the very histories of the deities – their travails. Ifa divined for such insolent ones who boasted that they were beyond correction. invited Archbishop John Onaiyekan to make his own presentation. iku ara re lo nwa. claims monopoly on the virtues of tolerance – on the contrary. ki o je e n’iya lopolopo. bi o ba ko ogbo awo lona.
The ﬁrst is a body of beliefs. It is a permanent feature of human existence even today. the oldest surviving evidence of human existence on earth has to do with religion. Religion. temples and vessels. sometimes referred to as dogmas. has shown that man has often not been able to allow religion to achieve its noble aims. honesty. which has to do with the range of principles claiming some kind of divine basis to guide daily life. The bitter lessons of history The history of humanity. I will make my contribution in six brief points. Indeed. there are the religious practices. man is often unable to have a common concept of God and of man’s relationship with Him. therefore. Thus. Round Table Number Three 131 . claims to guide human relationships with God as the All-Good and Supreme Being. Since I have only ten minutes to say what I want to say.Religion and our common human consciousness by Archbishop John Onaiyekan (Catholic Archbishop of Abuja) Introduction I thank the organisers of this event for inviting me to make my contribution to the discussion on how religious bodies can collaborate on common concerns in society. as Christianity strongly afﬁrms. Even archaeology shows this. 1. 2. Quite often. blinded by error. which generally claim or seek to bridge the gap between man and God. expected that it will promote positive values like goodness. justice and peace. This is due to universal radical human failings in terms of both mind and will. he has often misused it for other purposes that are far from noble. Although. Religion in general Religion is the expression of perhaps the noblest aspect of human life. It is. rituals of whatever form. there is morality. Then. by its very nature. in the forms of ruins of altars. God “did not leave man without evidence of himself in the good things that he does” (Acts 14:17). however. The complex dimensions of religion can generally be grouped into three. yet there has always been the “impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). Finally.
On the one hand. Many organisations and associations in the world have 132 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. The Holy Father. So. As the world gradually becomes one global village. In Christianity. by His very nature. the Triumphant King of the universe. claiming to be ﬁghting in the name of God. the God of Jesus is the God of the persecuted. He ought to be the point of reference for the unity of the human race and not for division and discrimination. if God is for all of us. which these human kings have lorded over others. This is the origin of the tragic fallacy of the so-called “Holy Wars”. but apparently not also as the God of all people that are oppressed. history is littered with murders committed precisely in the name of the God of life. human history has taught us that we often betray God in His Oneness and His Universality. 3. The God of Israel is. He is. The essence of Islam is that God is one. reaching out to one another. rightly pride themselves as “world religions”. especially. The Abrahamic faiths We often speak today of the Abrahamic faiths when we are referring to the three main religions that trace their origins somewhat back to Abraham. Each of the three faiths has not always been faithful to what it claims its God to be. I believe Muslims will agree that their history too has not always cohered with the full demands of their faith.On the level of the will. even when God is correctly perceived. If God is one. it is now becoming possible for us to see humanity as one people. who Himself suffered for His belief and in defence of truth. Similarly. religions have begun to try to put their houses in order. and Islam. the only true God of the universe. That seems to be the main reason why there is a general turn towards a paradigm shift in our concept of religion in society. we fall into the temptation of trying to co-opt God for our own personal and group interests. Christianity. as if He was the God of only a particular nation and people. then we ought to see Him as the basis for human solidarity and not for exclusion. we have not always been able to act in coherence with what we believe and proclaim. The last two. The result is that. Jesus Christ. God is the Father of our Lord and Saviour. 4. also the God of the Christ. Unfortunately. and that Mohammed is His Prophet. they recognised Him as the God of the oppressed. Contemporary paradigm shift The world we live in today is largely characterised by the phenomenon of globalisation. in which men co-opt God into their own armies. The history of Christianity cannot be properly read without taking note of the dilemma. Therefore. From the history of their own oppression. very often. Religions and Cultures . namely Judaism. Pope John Paul II. however. instead of serving God. But He was often hijacked. has since made it clear that it is blasphemy to kill in the name of God. having the greatest number of adherents spread around the world.
The main element is the same belief in the Supreme Being. are beginning to take religious organisations seriously under the newly coined term – “faithbased organisations”. also called “Religions for Peace”. UNAIDS. This certainly is a move in the right direction. that are futile. too. often called “fanatics”. On the contrary. For a long time. refusing to admit that others may also have a measure of the truth. Of recent. it has begun to recognise that the world neglects religion at its own risk. Though this differs in detail from one tribe to the other. There is the politicisation of religion. tried to avoid dealing with religion. There is also the radicalisation of religion by those. In the world that we live in. It is interesting to note that the Secretary-General of the United Nations convened a forum of religious leaders in New York a couple of years ago. Until now. the United Nations. religion has often been misused. The World Conference on Religion and Peace often speaks in this connection of “widely shared concerns and deeply held convictions”. inter-religious councils are springing up that are often afﬁliated to the WCRP. Its world headquarters is within the United Nations district in New York. Our own Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) is a recent example. Such a move would have been unthinkable only ten or ﬁfteen years ago. and carrying out God’s agenda for His humanity. It is a great thing that we are beginning to realise that religion can be not only a cause of conﬂict. for example. All over the sub-region and. On the other hand. Based on and somewhat superimposed upon this are the two major world religions of today: Islam and Christianity. who embrace intolerant modes and options of faith.been established to promote good relationships between religions. avoidable battles are waged. mainly in two ways. this seems to be the pattern. but also a solution to it and to other problems of this world. In every country. When these two go together. There are broad areas of consensus on which we can work together. its broad outlines are common to all peoples. Now. whereby it is used in the politics of domination and exclusion. A most important example is the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). UNICEF. Those things that divide us as Round Table Number Three 133 . 5. irrelevant and mutually destructive. indeed all over Africa. especially since religion features a lot in many of the conﬂicts in the world. etc. So. the world community has gradually begun to recognise the positive role that religion can play in the affairs of the world. it becomes impossible for religions to work together. UNESCO. we ought to be in the position to gradually go back to the original sense of religion as promoting God and goodness. there is a substratum of African Traditional Religion. The West African sub-region The West African sub-region is characterised by a tripartite religious demography. In many nations. enhancing noble human attitudes. condemning it at most to the margins of its activities. however. is the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL). Even the United Nations Agencies. there is so much we have in common.
and life made more abundant for all. [Editor’s Note] Apparently a reference to the West African sub-region. religions. Ms. Katumi Mahama. There is also the challenge of peace and security. it will not be possible to secure peace nor shall we be able to adequately address other areas of human well-being like health. In every war. that claim to be religions of peace. peace guaranteed. there is the overall challenge of good governance. a deﬁnite article could also have preceded the word. the HIV/AIDS pandemic has shaken all of us out of our lethargy and sleep. When war breaks out. and ignorance. sickness. Finally. Even and especially when a war claims to be a religious war.religious bodies are very few compared to the wide range of things that we share in common. there is the level of human well-being. 4. But religion is not only personal. In particular. especially Christianity and Islam. poverty. we are able to work side by side and walk hand in hand. Those who are in positions of authority have a higher responsibility to do this. to a large extent. The individual level makes it possible for everyone to bring his/her own religious faith to daily life. and justice for all. Everyone gains by peace. everybody is involved. First. Practical examples There are many practical examples of our common concerns. The chairman. poverty alleviation. and education. participation and honesty in the management of public affairs. It is also social. but also of Africa as a whole and of the rest of the Third World. there are casualties on all sides. It can be said that the origin of most of the problems not only of our sub-region. 134 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. is precisely in the area of good governance. That is why religious organisations and groups must also join hands to ensure that the blessings of God are equitably shared. everyone loses. We now realise that we must join hands to face this major crisis. the impact of religion is both on the individual and social level. all of which cut across the religions in our sub-region4. Liberia and Ivory Coast have shown. also thanked Archbishop Onaiyekan for his presentation before initiating preparations to proceed with the next Round Table. Conclusion By its very nature. The contribution of religious groups may not make headline news. For as long as we do not have a reasonable level of good governance. Therefore. It is interesting to note that when we face our common problems. 6. but they are nevertheless very important as the examples of Sierra Leone and. Religions and Cultures . face a challenge to make their joint contributions effective in facing the challenges of peace and security in our sub-region.
The proceedings for Round Table Number Four started with the chairman.Round Table Number Four Theme: How religious freedom can enable women to have a greater proactive role in Africa’s traditional society The composition of the high table remained unchanged from Round Table Number Three. Katumi Mahama. Afolabi Ojo to make his presentation. Ms. . inviting Prof.
because they underscored the religious bondage in which women were trapped from the earliest times of the traditional society. 136 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Abuja) Introduction I had a rare opportunity. on how women would be able to break the deep-rooted jinx of the past in order to have. Two speciﬁc examples of this viewpoint are brieﬂy considered hereafter. As I now continue to reﬂect on some of the highlights of the presentations in that book. it was as if they were saying that one of the ways of enabling women to have a greater proactive role in their traditional society was to rescue them from religious bondage and secure for them religious freedom. it appears that a few contributors really succeeded in identifying and tracing what looked like the most convincing and true origin of gender disparity. Manus) ascribed the origin of the deepseated anti-women bias to the effect of sacred myths. In this book. Critically focusing on two of such myths (one from Yoruba land and the other from Benin City). that nearly all the contributors traced directly or indirectly. I am aware. who thoughtlessly blighted the bliss of a generously endowed nature. he concluded that women have been regarded as the originators of evil. In general. [Author’s Note] Afolabi Ojo. In the words of Manus. more than before. professionals and practitioners in the ﬁeld of gender and related studies presented their wide-ranging views from their different perspectives. Afolabi Ojo (Former Vice-Chancellor. C. which had to sail upwards when it had been recklessly and wastefully abused. “These sacred myths are hasty under-representations of women that had long been transmitted through African traditional religion… which should now be roundly rejected in the face of overwhelming evidence to the 5. which had affected and continue to affect. Origin of gender disparity One of the contributors (Professor U. fourteen academic scholars. what may be described as the gender bias against women in the traditional society as well as in the succeeding modern society. to edit a book titled Women and Gender Equality for a Better Society in Nigeria5. National Open University. early in 2002. Lagos: Leaven Club International. “a greater proactive role in their traditional society”.Promoting gender equality through religion by Prof. and brieﬂy or at some length. Religions and Cultures . in the words of the organisers of the UNESCO Inter-Religious Dialogue Programme. represented by an accessible sky. ed: Gender Equality for a Better Society in Nigeria. what they considered to be the major factors. 2002. Indeed.
some not readily fathomable in terms of gender relationships. women are mere distant spectators during the egungun (masquerade) festival. 63–78. [Author’s Note] Ukachucwu Chris Manus. none of whom could be identiﬁed and accused of any act of violence or discrimination against women. therefore. 6. whatever gender takes control of the priesthood. “Gender Bias Against Women in Some Sacred Narratives: Re-reading the Texts in Our Times”. religious celebrations. [Author’s Note] “Ukaga. As would be expected. and yet others have only female priests. as was illustrated by Christianity and Islam in particular. ed: Gender Equality for a Better Society in Nigeria.contrary”6. within the religious context that the status of women is evaluated against the background of the African concept of family”. which usually takes place in nearby forest groves. Dr.. cit. these beliefs and practices. While some religious cults have only male priests. invariably turn out to be occasions of social withdrawal and marginalization for women. both of which still keep women in religious bondage to some degree or another.” op. This is. In many parts of Yoruba land. Ukaga. recourse to religion in order to place the male gender over the female was (and still is) the order of the day. More often than not. Judaism in biblical Israel. On the social side. others have both genders as priests. indeed. Lagos: Leaven Club International. more than on their male counterparts. In some cases. J. Round Table Number Four 137 . that [the] “African concept of life is essentially religious. Afolabi Ojo. This is clearly inequitable and a vivid demonstration of the conceptual conﬂicts and contradictions in religion itself. in a chapter titled “Women in Religious Traditions: Conﬂicts and Contradictions”. they can only watch the display of the dancing masquerades from afar. already entrenched in the culture of the people. The women are subjected to worse experiences during the Oro festival when all women (except a handful of women devotees whose main responsibility is to prepare the food for the male celebrants) are to be conﬁned indoors day and night. Islam and Christianity too. By and large. pp. However. Generally-speaking. 2002. Where the man is seen as the “head” protector and provider of the family. which should have afforded all the citizens an opportunity of enjoyment and relaxation. as pointed out by Dr. Membership of all these religious cults and festivals are a closely guarded secret among men only. Ukaga. Another contributor. there are festivals from which the women are virtually excluded. for example. the common practice is that women (even as priestesses) are subjected to various forms of taboos and constraints usually imposed on them. noteworthy.C. have glaring discriminatory consequences on the rights and freedom of women. page 94. the male celebrants are at liberty (in some parts of Yoruba land) to snatch any livestock (usually kept by the women) for their entertainment. During this festival. religious beliefs and practices have continued to strongly inﬂuence the outlook of the African in many ways. Many aggressive masquerades ﬁnd their readymade victims among women who are to be whipped if the swift-footed masquerades catch up with them. the plurality of African traditional religions produced a variety of gender relationships to the extent that only a few generalisations are justiﬁable. sometimes for as long as nine days at a stretch. 7. It is. traced the origin of gender inequality through African Traditional Religions and through Greek-Roman religion.
such aberrations detract substantially from the dignity and rights of the religious freedom of women. In the Christian religion. hence the male gender of the priests. The Christian slogan “one man one wife” was the hallmark of most Christian denominations. Not only the grim determination of victims of widowhood rites is required to help put a stop to these disheartening practices – forcing a widow to have sexual relations with a dwarf twelve days after the death of her husband. a marriage system which reduced women to chattels that could be procured in proportion to the wealth of the man. For example. Oya (the deity-wife of Sango) cannot but have a dominance of female devotees as priestesses. which has for long been used to blindfold women.Gradual transition from religious oppression towards religious freedom The religious veil. although there are still many hangovers. As the traditional society is being transformed through many modernisation processes. even though some of the new generation churches were permissive enough to turn a blind eye to any of their members. Only recently. Similarly. just to eulogise the seeming beauty of continuity. which are hardly changing. 138 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. An increasing proportion of the populace now feels strongly that it was time to get rid of all these hangovers that continue to breach the religious freedom of women. the erstwhile disparity in priesthood is still being maintained even though crossing the borders is not as strict as before. The gender specialisation in traditional religion was purely based on realistic facts of nature. Religions and Cultures . one of the Houses of Assembly of the South-eastern States (Ebonyi) passed a bill banning widowhood rites that dehumanise widows. the greatest liberation and uplift for women was to be freed from the debasement and defacement of polygamy. the last is yet to be heard about the atrocities inﬂicted on victims of widowhood rites in some parts of the country where the obnoxious traditional religious practices are yet to be totally uprooted. some of the suppressive practices of the past are being gradually modiﬁed. is being gradually lifted in many areas and for some selected issues and circumstances. then and even now. On the other hand. for instance – but also the forgiving spirit of the members of the community towards those who refuse to be so dehumanised. Within traditional religion. the priests of Sango (god of thunder) were dominantly male as the deity was associated with breathing ﬁre and brimstone from the mouth and striking thunder and lightning at will. who chose to blend the traditional system of marriage with the modern one. Unfortunately.
we could safely conclude this submission by highlighting the importance of making women strive towards equal access to education at all levels. The followers of these various forms of female leadership (themselves mainly women) have overwhelmingly lauded the practice as being a decisive act of women empowerment in the church. which is destined to free women from the religious bondage of the past. women. among other prestigious positions. evangelists. This is to ensure that women can play a proactive role in all spheres of religion and life. By ensuring that education is not unduly sex-stereotyped. Conclusion It goes without saying that women emancipation. It must be acknowledged that education is a potent. but also by women playing proactive roles in other spheres of life. pastors. Round Table Number Four 139 . Many more people. which did not make a secret of their discrimination against women for leadership positions in the church. they must be made to seek their own religious empowerment. The process should be extended as far. and elders. which have been inherent in the type of patriarchal society that we continue to live in. the new generation churches recently opened their doors to women who aspire to become fully-ﬂedged ministers. socio-economic affairs. welfare and development can be brought about not only by religious freedom and empowerment.Proactive role of women resulting from religious freedom To enable women to play a proactive role in society. and fast. technology and education. Probably. among others. are clamouring for this welcome development. they have to be fully empowered to play such a role by struggling more for their religious freedom. particularly against women. should be able to gain equal access to education. probably in line with practices in patriarchally-rooted religious institutions. as practicable to all religious denominations and institutions. In other words. like men. domination and oppression. in reaction to the early and orthodox churches. information. outside the new generation churches. equitable and liberal society that could sustain a social system that is devoid of all forms of discrimination. In this way. deaconesses. communication. including politics and governance. For instance. viable and efﬁcient means of creating a just. women will be as empowered as anyone else to play proactive roles in contemporary society.
The proceedings proper started with the moderator. Omolewa. the last day of the Congress. Udenta. Adedeji. Abuja – was moderated by Mr. who is the Director. children and youth in common educational programmes to learn to respect each other and coexist peacefully? R ound Table Number Five occupied the afternoon session of 17 December 2003. a segment of the proceedings – speciﬁcally the presentation on behalf of Rear Admiral A. Japheth L. G. but for one signiﬁcant change – Prof. Prof. Prof. Agboka from Nigeria and Ivory Coast respectively. . Akinwumi Isola and Mr. Jean-Paul Ngoupandé (former Prime Minister of Central African Republic) and Ms. Internal Conﬂict Prevention and Resolution. Michael Omolewa standing in as the moderator.Round Table Number Five Theme: How religious leaders can bring together women. Aimée Pierre Kipré (former Education Minister of Ivory Coast) who was scheduled to make the ﬁrst presentation for the Round Table. Omolewa introduced three other scheduled presenters – Prof. Udenta O. Then. Katumi Mahama (the chairman). the Commandant of the National War College. in The Presidency (Nigeria).The composition of the high table remained as it was during Round Table Number Four. formally introducing to the participants (on behalf and with the permission of the chairman) Prof. and Mr.
had impacted on that country. in which that critical search for peace and the preceding conﬂict. should be ascribable to religious ethics or seen as an inherent quest of the human soul? In consideration of which poser. We have to consider the premise that conﬂicts between religions have tended to prove inevitable. the question arises as to how religious leaders can build such moral authority that should transcend all social barriers. 8. and how religious leaders should inaugurate a new model of life in the spirit of solidarity that should revitalise freedom of religion in a society where the exercise of power is in tune with the desire of the people. A remark such as this brings us to recall the kind of situation in which Ivory Coast found itself in 1999. This is the crux of the theme I have set out to explore: that religion should be a personal issue before it becomes an issue of collective interest or a symbol of a particular community – even one with a dominant religion. But the question arises as to whether peace. The following text of Prof. Aimée Pierre Kipré (Former Education Minister of Ivory Coast) ecently a religious leader. Kipré’s presentation is adapted from the French original. and mediation should be accepted by all stakeholders in spite of their religious persuasions. said: “The peace of men does not last. yet the resolution of such conﬂicts requires the moral authority that is wielded by religious leaders. Though the main reason for certain conﬂicts can be traced back to religious differences. it behoves religious leaders to put in place structures that will make such a synchrony feasible. and that religion is not the only index of personal or social identity. beyond their theological values. Indeed. we should take into account the assertions from some quarters that religion was not utterly blameless for our crises in Ivory Coast. whose inﬂuence still lingers. Let us not forget that religions. However. or the management of conﬂict. R Round Table Number Five 141 . while making a speech in Ivory Coast. but the peace instituted by God lasts in our hearts and lasts long”. It also hints at the re-establishment of civil peace in that country and would still ﬁnd its validation or not in the manner. have the same tendency to dominate one another – a trait which can be traced back to some conﬂicts that might have prevailed in some of our countries.From the quest for individual well-being to the quest for collective well-being: religions in the African crisis – the Ivory Coast case since the 1990’s8 by Prof.
we have 38% Muslims. there is a wide variety of religions in Ivory Coast. Religions and Cultures .Now. The conscientious inﬂuence 142 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. The Ivorian is deeply inﬂuenced. First. Ivory Coast has instituted secularity as a positive value among religions without any distinction as to the type of religion. or imams. There is also what you may call synthetic religions with their doctrines. There also exist some cults. and between people who seemed bent on suppressing our traditional religions. Then. open and secret. particularly in the case of traditional religions – whereby many people go to temples or churches as well as consulting prophets. and others. But. Otherwise. while a large fraction of the rest of the population. there is a diversity of religions in our communities. traditionalists. In most cases. let me mention a few elements that can facilitate such a realisation drawing examples from the experience of Ivory Coast. This has been made possible somewhat by the neutrality of the government expressed through the even-handed rendering of assistance to religions practised in the country. because I think the man in power should exercise his freedom of worship like anyone else. there is peaceful coexistence between religions. there are certain religions that have been introduced from across the Atlantic since the 1870’s. which constitutes roughly 25%. by Ivory Coast being a secular state. and varieties of other religious philosophies like Buddhism. (Islam in Ivory Coast went untouched by the Renaissance movement of a later century). especially the monotheistic ones. According to a census conducted in the country in 1998. such rites and observances. the government is known to have subsidised or completely ﬁnanced the building of churches and mosques in the country and sometimes subsidised the cost of installing new pastors or imams. whereby colonial rites and observances are not taken into consideration. as it were. Secondly. In short. This [implied] religious tolerance originates from the days of President Félix Houphouët Boigny and has been a mark of the secularism that characterises Ivorian life. which has been practised by the Malinke people in the north of Ivory Coast since the 14th and 15th centuries. died with colonisation. Until recently. between different Islamic sects as regards the number of beads to be used in prayers. even within the religions themselves: for instance. There is Islam. which does not necessarily call for gratitude. For them. For instance. which symbolise the tension brought on by colonial inﬂuence. there is a kind of peaceful coexistence of religions in Ivory Coast. most of these populations share the same rites and rituals. These ﬁgures are even somewhat questionable. especially at the borders where the so-called alien African populations are not culturally different from the Ivorian populations. what are the features of religion in Ivory Coast nowadays? The main feature of religion is its political orientation or empowerment. 37% Christians (of which 30% are Roman Catholic). which have emerged from Islam and Christianity. are animists. which you can ﬁnd all over our country. There are the socalled traditional religions. religions could be seen to be responsible for conﬂicts between communities.
and religious leaders in Ivory Coast have already understood this. the political party led by President Houphouët Boigny introduced this practice in the 1990’s.of religious people on politics is also a well-documented fact of history. the idea of religion does not necessarily correspond to what some people try to make out of it. Incidentally. For instance. Wole Soyinka has responded to such a situation in his critical remarks on fanaticism – for there is. Religion is also known to have enlisted the support of racism or ethnicity in order to ﬁght political opponents who may even be adherents of the same religion. not only in their communities. People sometimes introduce religion in their political speeches. Let me end my speech by exploring the implications of the foregoing. the Secretary-General of his party is a Roman Catholic. these religious leaders are very inﬂuential within their communities and have the capacity to prevail on warring factions and sue for peace. while the worst policies are the ones that tend to divide religions by excluding some of them. these religious leaders seemed to have been the ﬁrst voluntary sponsors of mediation. that the survival of the greater mass of the country’s population depends on what may result from such tendency to integrate or to exclude. But difﬁculties arise when politics uses religion to ﬁght its enemies. So. 70% of Ivorian Muslims live in the southern parts of the country while 30% of the Christians live in the northern parts. a kind of mindless fanaticism that is anathema to national unity. even within the same party. indeed. in order to get the support of a segment of the population. they showed that the best policies are the ones that tend to unite or integrate all religions. it was a pointless controversy in Ivory Coast recently as we observed through newspaper articles. However. when religious leaders took part in the search for peace. in which some people simply wanted to foist a minority of fanatics on the larger society. while the senior brother of our President is an imam. Religious leaders. All political parties recruit their supporters from all religions. we have had rivalries among religious leaders with conﬂicts now becoming more and more obvious in the speeches of the members of our political class. Considering their moral authority. as embodiments of an emergent new society. ﬁnally. they introduced themselves as the symbols of a new society. In their religious speeches. So. So. we saw a similar trend in the days of Houphouët Boigny in 1993. but also in society as a whole. and. and on behalf of the population and other victims of the war [in Ivory Coast]. Since then. So. besides ﬁghting for people’s lives. monotheistic religions – whether Christianity Round Table Number Five 143 . or vice-versa. Alassane Ouattara’s wife is Jewish. their actions can be said to be energized by the spirit of public peace. I admire the way Prof. represented the voice of the voiceless and all those displaced by the Ivorian Civil War. But. how did they exhibit that understanding? First of all. There was a kind of harmonisation in their activities besides their effort in setting up NGOs. Their commitment was shown through the amount of moral authority they exercised. as it were. Through intercultural dialogue.
or Islam – should remain together and ensure that dialogue is made mandatory rather than be seen as an attempt to inﬂuence other religions. In this context, dialogue should be seen as an opportunity to know other people’s religions better and merely relate to them without a feeling of superiority or inferiority, and with the implication of recognising that every individual should be permitted to exercise his or her freedom of worship. Such an implication is even more pertinent if we consider the risks that we are currently facing in Ivory Coast. For, the more ambiguous our situation is, the more the synthetic religions or the so-called traditional ones could become a source of apprehension, because they have been introduced as the end of the Africanization of religious issues. Therefore, dialogue should be encouraged and established between the synthetic religions and the monotheistic ones. Otherwise, the synthetic religions, that are usually allocated a position of secondary importance, could become a serious problem. Yet, these religious phenomena must be recognised as having arisen from an effort to proffer solutions to the problems plaguing our communities, though they sometimes tend to reveal certain kinds of impositions on the populace. Although some religions hardly show any inclination towards tackling the existential problems that people are confronted with daily – problems such as unemployment and the inability for people to get married as a result of the AIDS scare and other health problems that continue to defy cure – in the rural areas, there are traditional healers who can help alleviate these problems and, yet, they are regarded as wizards. Now, the pervasiveness of these synthetic religions in disparity with the monotheistic religions – and we should also take into account their geographical distribution which has to do with poverty and the trend of migration – is one of the factors that encourages interaction even at the religious level. But these synthetic religions are also understood to express the fear of others in some negative way: “They say he is Yoruba; and being Yoruba you know his inﬂuence must be greater than mine”. You fear the person because he or she is not from your tribe or community. So, we have to return to a simple principle, that of religious tolerance. In the light of the foregoing, all religious leaders should take into account in their training and their daily practices the fact that they need to encourage themselves to live in peace with one another, and that they should respect one another’s right to religious difference. This has to do with the kind of deep tolerance that dates back to a long time in Africa when the variety of indigenous religions was ﬁrst and foremost a characteristic of communal cohesion. This characteristic, which was shared by everyone, should continue to exist, because we need to rebuild our identity under circumstances where the individual is free to seek his or her own salvation while being identiﬁed as a symbol of love and freedom by everyone. After all, God himself is love. The moderator, Prof Omolewa, thanked Prof. Kipré for his presentation and renewed his call for the participants to send in their inputs for possible
Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations, Religions and Cultures
inclusion in The Abuja Statement. He suggested that such inputs “articulate speciﬁc proposals about possible areas of intervention as a follow-up to the Congress”. He also announced the setting up of “a small committee” to be headed by Prof. Yai charged with the responsibility of ﬁne-tuning The Abuja Statement with a view to coming up with a ﬁnal copy that would be satisfactory to all the stakeholders. He named Prof. Isola, Prof Kipré and Ms. Mahama as members of the committee.
The afternoon session of the Round Table saw Prof. Omolewa introducing Prof. Wande Abimbola as the new chairman of the Round Table, who invited the next scheduled speaker, Mr. Jean-Paul Ngoupandé, to make his presentation.
Round Table Number Five
A case for religious tolerance9
by Mr. Jean-Paul Ngoupandé (Former Prime Minister of Central African Republic)
ne of the realities that has confronted Africa since the beginning of the 20th century is the upsurge in religious fundamentalism and the danger it poses to the unity of countries across the continent. My reaction to the upsurge is that of a man who is privileged to be an intellectual as well as a politician. As an intellectual, I have traversed the African political landscape for the past ﬁfteen years and sometimes felt out of place in it. A few months ago, I published a book only to discover that the only available English translation10 belonged to the CIA. I am yet to receive any royalties for the publication. I must say that some of our major problems in Africa are the linguistic barriers set up by our colonizers, which prevent continuous interaction among our intellectuals over common problems. I want my presentation to be concrete and, so, would like to draw on recent events in our country, the Central African Republic. Not long ago, an unusual parade took place in our country. I regard it as unusual because of the political problems we have experienced in recent times, and the fact that our country had long discontinued organizing parades of that nature. Top government ofﬁcials and, rather expectedly, members of the diplomatic corps were present to witness the parade, which saw the enthusiastic participation of major religious organizations in our country and lasted for about four hours, being motivated by the intention to draw the attention of our political leaders to our deepening social and political crises. The parade witnessed colourful marches by members of the Catholic Church, Muslims, and Protestants (most prominently the Kimbanguists) whose live band played during the procession and throughout the ceremony. The parade of the Kimbanguists reﬂected the pride of their position in Central African Republic. Yet, the most colourful display was from the Pentecostal and Charismatic community. It is difﬁcult to state the exact number of both groups. But one thing is sure: everyone present, including those from the diplomatic corps, could appreciate their dominance. To give us a clue as to the reason behind the spread of their inﬂuence – even among our Catholic population – let me simply proceed to draw your attention to certain observations made in my most recent book titled Africa in the Face of Islam. Their rising proﬁle, and the fact that it is somewhat attributable to events in the Catholic and Protestant churches, can be traced back to
9. The following text is also adapted from the French original. 10. [Editor’s Note] Available records do not specify the original language of the publication to which the speaker refers. It is most probably French, his lingua franca and the language in which he made this presentation.
Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations, Religions and Cultures
the 1980’s when worship among these other Christian groups was generally perceived as lacking in certain fervid traits. This “deﬁciency” predisposed them to penetration by Pentecostal and Charismatic tendencies that were, in turn, perceived as being able to lend an African ﬂavour to their worship. By contrast, the traditional churches, whether they are the proselytizing type or not, have generally been more successful by becoming Africanized, having understood that there would be beneﬁts associated with the attendant identiﬁcation with their culture. That notwithstanding, the Catholic Church continues to make its impact felt in our health sector, in the government, and in other spheres of our lives as a people. Then, it is not unlikely that some widespread social trauma has contributed to the groups’ success, by which I mean the trauma resulting from AIDS, the general feeling of despair associated with the disease and the stark fact of its incurability. Suddenly, some people seemed to have seen a challenge to be met with regard to the disease. But it was a challenge they could hardly rationalize since the disease is invariably terminal. On its own part, our government seemed to have despaired. Since victims of the disease faced imminent death, some people resorted to investing their hopes in the hereafter, in line with certain doctrinal tendencies among Christians of the Pentecostal and Charismatic persuasions. In a more general sense, however, poverty and the negative impact of the military have contributed to boost the value of religious organizations among us. These days, if one desires a digniﬁed burial, then one must identify with some religious organization, which means an opportunity to be buried in a casket with a band that would play throughout one’s obsequies, and which rather amounts to having hope in the midst of despair. Thus, we continue to witness the proliferation of churches (whose means continue to grow) not only in our country, but also in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast (as Prof. Kipré has mentioned), Congo Brazzaville, and even in our host country, Nigeria. It is apparent that some political groups and military warlords are already taking advantage of this proliferation of churches as a means of mobilizing support for themselves. As I pointed out in my book, Africa Without Frontiers11, the warlords are quite versed in such exploitative activities. They have the gun in one hand and the Bible in the other. Charles Taylor is a ready example, but he is not the only one. Most presidents in the continent and other members of the political class have acquired a religious orientation. In our own case, those in the latter group are encouraging afﬁliations with a certain American organization that professes to ﬁght Islamic fundamentalism and radicalization. The activities of such people, in addition to being agreeable to their foreign patrons, conduce to the interest of the warlords in sub-Saharan Africa and encourage the emergence of new Christian sects.
11. [Editor’s Note] As suggested in a subsequent footnote, the original publication (and of course its title) is most probably in French.
Round Table Number Five
incidentally. We already observe three national days annually. So. especially those of them on the Christian divide. despite the attempts in certain quarters to radicalize it in order to achieve certain ends. beginning with the radicalization of certain religious groups in their encounters with Islam and Catholicism. some members of the clergy assumed dominance in co-ordinating the dialogue forum with the Catholic Church having little or no representation among them. Religious propaganda had been used by one of our former Presidents to campaign against a rival who was apparently supported by the Chadian President. Religions and Cultures . while Islam remains largely unaffected by the active presence of a Lebanese population that is 80% Shiite.Faced with the above situation. of other fallouts of other distressing events in sub-Saharan Africa. the kind of Islam practiced in sub-Saharan Africa is essentially tolerant. it is easy to observe that there are hardly any conﬂicts between religious groups other than Christians and Muslims. and in relation to which anything seems both imaginable and possible. There were. Muslims. of course. being well grounded and under the ﬁrm control of the Vatican. an event portrayed as an act of aggression by Muslims against a Christian country. Sometimes. on its part. worrisome. The Catholic Church. It was. is. I ﬁnd it rather interesting that some of them are apparently taking advantage of certain fallouts of the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and. In Central African Republic. There are intra-religious feuds as demonstrated by the fact that the history of the Baptist Church has been characterized by divisiveness since 1958. and whose wealth could have served to prop up Islamic radicalization. in fact. indeed. which are deeply rooted in our country. even more curiously. comprise roughly 25% of our population. and that it would be particularly dangerous to introduce religious dimensions to those problems. although President Ghadaﬁ of Libya. which I have termed double radicalization. Let me add that the diversity among our religious groups. a Muslim. was 148 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. From the onset. that delegates from the Muslim community suggested the adoption of two additional national days during our deliberations at the dialogue forum. There is a new form of spiritualism. reactions to the suggestion. It was against the backdrop of the reactions that I took the ﬂoor as a former Prime Minister and as the head of an inﬂuential political party comprising both Muslims and Christians. in this context. who is. the forum sometimes tended to look like a gathering of religious fanatics. some individuals would stop the proceedings midway to introduce a prayer whose raucous nature invariably made one feel out of place in the crowd. Africa in the Face of Islam. we organized a dialogue forum in September and October 2003 after witnessing many crises in our country and with the express intention to inaugurate conditions for national reconciliation and re-establish stability in the government. As I tried to show in my book. I deemed it timely to remind my fellow delegates that our country already had too many problems resulting from tribalism. in particular. which include our Independence Day and a holiday in honor of our former President. has been spared such divisive tendencies.
4. Muslims and Catholics are the two religious groups currently struggling for survival in our country where the problem of the radicalization of religion can be said to originate mainly from those religious groups that have come into existence in the last ﬁfteen years. Though it is obvious that our Muslim population does not want to be treated as a second-class citizen. there is the need for them to continuously reappraise the positions they adopt against such perceived threats since resorting to radical reactions may pose a serious threat to the entire country. International organizations should also show a strong commitment to solving the problem. our current Head of State (a former opposition leader) is a Baptist and one of those encouraging the spread of new unorthodox Christian sects. the school system is in crisis and unemployment has become a serious threat to the entire population. In the early 1990’s. and their being viewed as a minority could lead to self-radicalization and self-alienation.also supporting the said President. Chad. Congo Brazzaville. where more than 30% of the population is below thirty years of age. Those leading our country should begin to take the problem of religious conﬂicts and radicalization more seriously. especially the political leadership. and which are exploiting some contemporary crisis situations like those associated with the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. where I observed how some social upheavals could be traced to mass unemployment. So. It is not unlikely that those Muslims calling for “their” national day are merely reacting to a feeling of exclusion from the socio-political mainstream in a country where Muslims are in all political parties. In the light of the foregoing. which are all experiencing problems similar to ours. a development whose portents have even been acknowledged by neighbouring countries like Sudan. Interestingly. it is also a country where the muchdesired national reconciliation is becoming a secondary issue. The threat posed by this prospect of self-radicalization can be serious in a country like ours. Incidentally. What we have is the manipulation of religions by certain members of the political class in a deeply divided country with serious ethnicity problems still calling for urgent attention after more than a decade of war – a country where those who urge people to be more sensitive to the threat of religious intolerance should be encouraged. let me recommend that: 1. The inter-religious dialogue about which we spoke at length yesterday should be commenced in earnest and without delay. especially among young people. 3. The African Union should make serious efforts to solve the problem at the continental level since we may not be very far from having serious inter-religious crises in our country. There is need to douse the tension we are experiencing at the political level. I Round Table Number Five 149 . 2. I believe it is easy to discern the true nature of such opposition – that there is nothing objective or principled about it. I was the Ambassador to Ivory Coast.
He remarked that the problems pointed out in the presentation are not peculiar to Central African Republic. and called on the UNESCO ofﬁcials to take the issues raised by Mr. Finally. Akinwumi Isola to make his presentation. let me mention that the economy of the 21st century will be mind-driven and advise our inter-religious organizations to brace up to face the challenges inherent in that possibility. which should require genuine mobilization and a commitment devoid of religious rivalries. then. more so as it has claimed the life of one of our former ministers. thanked Mr. invited Prof. but are evident in the whole of Africa. Ngoupandé seriously while making their recommendations. I should think a problem like the HIV/AIDS pandemic should be taken very seriously and as seriously as the need to train young people on strategies for ﬁghting the disease. Of course. 150 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. politicians. He. They can easily mobilize a large segment of our population for the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. Naturally. A fortnight ago. Prof. The chairman. we. Abimbola. Religions and Cultures . bearing in mind that they have greater potential for mobilization than can be ascribed to any other inﬂuential group in our population. He identiﬁed “the lack of a uniﬁed community” as one of the major problems facing Africans today.am happy that our deliberations yesterday also dwelt on how religious groups can indeed tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic. I said I would rather lose an election than embark on the kind of campaign that would pit any of our tribes against the other. ought to learn to think beyond our short-term interests. Ngoupandé for his presentation.
Some of us have attended perhaps over a hundred of such conferences. – Cultural Diversity Series. a cultural vacuum or void that has provided a fertile soil for the pervasive crisis stagnating development and democracy. SurRound Table Number Five T 151 . The real problems of culture and development. “Attend my church and you shall be rich. UNESCO. 1. for effect. No. Akinwumi Isola (Emeritus Professor of Obafemi Awolowo University. which. says the politician. divorced from the capabilities and interests of more than half the world population who are now in danger of cultural as well as ﬁnancial exclusion. have been eloquently presented in the academic discussions that accompany UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity booklet (Cultural Diversity Series. p. should require practical follow-ups that may never take place in West African countries for obvious reasons. Ours is the gospel of prosperity”. Your life will never be the same again. 1. No. The many books and articles published thereafter are in the libraries and bookshops. and other relevant issues. 2001. There is today. says the Pentecostal priest. The attention of politicians and priests is solely focused on providing only the tangible aspects of development. Political and religious leaders are just not taking any notice! They seem to be in calculated cahoots to subvert the progressive capacities of our culture. Ile-Ife) T he growing divides in literacy [digital and conventional] have made the renewal of cultural debate and resources an increasingly elite monopoly. UNESCO has done so much in the area of culture and development that this escalating trend of cultural genocide taking place in West Africa cannot but be simply amazing. But how much of the real practical impacts on the people can we identify? It all has to do largely with our elitist medium of words. of government policy and cultural sustainability. 2001).The challenges of engendering cultural power in women: the Oya example by Prof. 9 Preamble: the bad habit of talking to oneself he intensity of the enthusiasm that overtook my mind in the ﬁrst few hours of receiving the invitation to this international conference began to weaken when I started wondering about the possible ultimate effect this conference would have on the ordinary people of West Africa. “Vote for me and I’ll build roads and factories in your area”. in West Africa.
However. But. our chants. now that political leaders in West African countries show no real interest in the intangible aspects of our cultural heritage. which is in Yoruba. No 1. Declarations and Proclamations on culture. 12. from our culture and history. our proverbs. harmony. Religions and Cultures . p. dignity. should be very urgent. our songs and dances. hope. 152 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. sense of duty and so on. honesty. the need for African countries to go back to their cultural heritage. (A child not built-up morally will sell off the houses built by parents. the sequence recurs twice in the next paragraph. which is evident in its groundbreaking Conventions. meaning and belief (Cultural Diversity Series. want to import globalised ideas of legal moral monitoring or legalised corruption commissions.12) Interestingly. 11). a Yoruba person will say “Iwa lewa” (character is beauty). have neglected the intangible aspects of development in the form of honesty. Imported ofﬁcial images of the good life come sterile without the stabilising energies of the intangible aspects of development. well-being and justice. p. sometimes from inspiring episodes from their group history. hope. people who are old enough to remember the intangible aspects of our cultural heritage always make insightful comments on the deﬁciencies in the imported models. 9). and about the imposed white man’s legal system. but he wants you to be smart about it). do not appear in generic and universal forms.prisingly Muslim priests seem to have started copying the promises of instant miracles in night vigils! Political and religious leaders. For example. forgetting that ideas about dignity. tangible and especially intangible. [Editor’s Note] The author’s translation of the preceding statement. taboos and other humane qualities that constitute the main messages in our intangible cultural heritage – our language. Unfortunately for African countries. No 1. only UNESCO seems to be showing that sense of urgency. political and foreign religious leaders. 10). the comment is “Oyinbo loun o kole. and religious leaders have relentlessly attacked anything cultural over the years. each time there is a discussion on the real qualities of beauty. They are culturally framed and experienced (Cultural Diversity Series. But even UNESCO itself is involved in this bad habit of talking to oneself because this renewal of cultural debates and resources has become an elite monopoly out of the reach of the illiterate majority and those who do not have enough of the white man’s language to understand what we are talking about (Cultural Diversity Series. encouraged by their foreign masters or partners. hard-work. either deliberately or through ignorance. Now that the link between development and culture and the natural link between the capacity to aspire and the capacity to remember have been clearly demonstrated. we now experience a reduction in the “bank of images” of the good life. Omo ti a ko ko ni yoo gbe ile ti a ko ta. ijafara loun o fe” (the white man does not mind if you steal. People’s hopes and aspirations about what they want in life always appear in speciﬁc images of beauty. fraternity. No 1. Different groups and populations articulate them in terms of highly speciﬁc idioms of value. p.
published in 1970. on occasions. politicians are always reluctant to increase people’s awareness in the direction of the intangible cultural heritage that provides traditional moral sanctions for the excesses of their leaders. The story was eventually made into a ﬁlm. Reading or listening to a divination chant does not make you a devotee of the deity. to a record audience of forty thousand! Secondly. interested in the glamorous aspects of tangible cultural heritage. all the leaders and Members of Parliament are either Christian or Muslim and. Religious leaders themselves deliberately refuse to recognise the difference between matters of religious belief and of culture. I decided to write plays on the remarkable activities of powerful women in the Yoruba society of the 19th century. Ibadan. with the characteristic hostility of religious intolerance. UNESCO itself needs to expedite practical action in the direction of what is suggested on pages 27 and 28 (of Cultural Diversity Series. Efusetan Aniwura. The aim was to hold aloft gallant women’s banners for appreciation. they would not want to be seen promoting anything that might be remotely connected with Traditional African Religion. plays that can be performed on stage to enable me to reach even those who cannot read at all. some of us have decided to get out of the rut of talking just to ourselves by writing in African languages and talking directly to the people.If the hope is. No 1) in the form of ﬁlm-making and translation into African languages. The results have simply been overwhelming. in something they can show on television for entertainment and propaganda. the Liberty Stadium. But the obstacles are redoubtable. her temerity in confronting the male-dominated chieftaincy powers was highly appreciated. It gives you valuable information that may enrich activities in cultural reorientation (Abimbola: 1976. Many leaders are. In this regard. Efunsetan became a household name. was very popular. in Yoruba. First. They do not see the possibilities of a good Muslim or Christian believing in and truly living their culture. the performance took place in a football stadium. They could not ﬁnd a hall big enough to contain the number of people who bought tickets in advance. A lot of information about the mythological heroes and heroines and the legendary historical ﬁgures is embedded in the various oral literary chants in corpuses. the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State sponsored a production. that states and parties in Africa will take up the challenge to mobilise the people for cultural revival. Idowu: 1962). A statue was erected in her memory! It was the play that did it. I also wrote a play on the courageous nationalist activities of Madam Tinubu of Lagos. My own outreach has been in two directions. now that the leaders are refusing to take the lead in cultural matters for some of the reasons stated above. My ﬁrst play in Yoruba. In 1982. She challenged the inimical methods of colonial administraRound Table Number Five 153 . In spite of the fact that she was essentially rather unkind. Efunsetan Aniwura has been translated into French and English. First. But. At last. I write. Secondly. It worked. that hope is largely misplaced.
are not readily available to the younger generations of Yoruba people for reasons earlier stated. keeping the revolutionary spirit alive. about the eminent Yoruba women of the 19th century. decided to dramatically reconstruct the long Oya story into two riveting presentations that will clearly highlight the quintessential Oya achievements in women liberation among the Yoruba. the most outstanding is the goddess Oya who is the subject of this paper. Oya. Oya exploited fully the advantageous position conferred on her by her great beauty. the Yoruba audience. recorded in the memorably measured rhythms of the Ifa literary corpus. I discovered a good number. Iya Ofa.tion and trade in Lagos and resisted the gridlock of colonial control on the Oba of Lagos. the most powerful Yoruba gods. Efunsetan Aniwura. in the tradition of elite monologue. written a paper on the Oya phenomenon. is about her patriotic activities in Abeokuta when she mobilised the Egba women to resist the Dahomean invasion of 1851. Following the edifying example of Oya. but. Madam 154 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. set the pace by founding the egungun cult. it was performed to mark the centenary of the building of Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos. Only last year. without assessing the crucial contributions of Oya as a deﬁning factor in their reputations. therefore. Ogunmola’s daughter. Religions and Cultures . It has again come back as convocation play for Obafemi Awolowo University in 2003! The second play I wrote on Madame Tinubu. and locked up in that book on a library shelf. Legendary heroines like Moremi dared the men to save her people. Olu Omo has also been translated into English. But I know that. the information will never reach those who need it most. the goddess. in 1979. I have. The unique stories of the goddess Oya. myths and legends to see more Yoruba women whose banners of women liberation activities could also be held aloft for appreciation and as role models. Wole Soyinka as convocation play for the University of Ife. but also among mere mortals. by far. Yoruba women have since continued to assert themselves at every stage. She struggled to gain power in order to enhance the position of women not only in the abode of the gods. it has been performed many times. The success of these three plays Efusetan Aniwura. The English version was selected by Prof. especially in command performances in Lagos. Olu Omo. published in World Religions (New York. commissioned by the State Government. now Obafemi Awolowo University. Since then. Madam Tinubu and Olu Omo. made me search further back in Yoruba history. A summary of the Oya story Oya occupies a very signiﬁcant position in the pantheon of Yoruba gods because you cannot discuss the pre-eminence of Ogun and Sango. 1997). titled “Oya: Inspiration and Empowerment”. written in English. It has also been very successful. I have. Paragon. Modern day activists like Omosa.
since we cannot rely on our government to take programmes of cultural reorientation seriously. massive. who are clearly willing victims of globalisation. The ﬁrst is Wild Christian. Finally. I have gone into video ﬁlm-making in the attempt to reach the people quickly and directly. My belief is that access to the full Oya story (Isola: 1997) in riveting dramatic constructions will inspire women to have a greater proactive role in traditional society. For the beneﬁt of those who have no time to read even the Yoruba translation. a warm mother and manager in a traditional Yoruba society and the second is Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. They preach against all aspects of intangible cultural heritage and now build churches on every street! This kind of relentless assault cannot be repelled just by talking. I translated Death and the King’s Horseman to draw attention to the mature and moderating role of Iyaloja in the bizarre Elesinoba story. Adunni Oluwole. In conclusion. From my own practical experience. the “born-agains”. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. Mainframe Productions.Tinubu. we have to look for other means of reaching the people directly. oral and written. I also translated Ake: the Years of Childhood into Yoruba to allow the Yoruba society to rediscover two great women locked up in the story in English. We are also looking for funds to make a home video of the Yoruba translation of Death and the King’s Horseman. My interest in the role of powerful women in Yoruba society was partly responsible for my decision to translate two of Wole Soyinka’s great works. It is necessary to warn UNESCO and other world bodies interested in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage that the greatest threats to African cultural survival are the new Pentecostal movements. The emphasis so far has been so much on the word. and others. A popular actress. Biodun Duro-Ladipo of Oba Koso fame. that there is an urgent need in Africa for a shift to the image aspect. Round Table Number Five 155 . practical action is urgent. Mrs. have continued the struggle. The need for co-ordinated. it is pertinent to remind UNESCO of Article 1 of its Constitution. which assigns to it the duty of recommending necessary action “to promote the free ﬂow of ideas by word and image”. Recently. now bears the nickname Oya as a symbol of female solidarity. one of the most effective ways is through riveting dramatic constructions of cultural material or stories and present them directly to the people in the language they speak as stage performances or video ﬁlms. in collaboration with our technical partners. an audio recording of the whole story will accompany each copy of Ake: Ni Igba Ewe. a pioneer woman leader and political activist. They massively invade radio and television channels and install heavy loudspeakers in their churches.
1976 GLEASON. PARIS: UNESCO. Adedeji. 2001 UDOU. Abuja. would also be making a presentation and proceeded to invite Ms. Isola for his presentation. IBADAN: BOOKCRAFT LTD. Abimbola. 1962 DO ISOLA. D. Katumi Mahama to make hers. the Commandant of the National War College. BY WOLE SOYINKA) FOUNTAIN PUBLICATIONS. ONIBONOJE. He described him as a dependable revolutionary for purposes of “remoulding our communities”. IBADAN: OUP. then. Prof. A: UNE SOMBRE DESTINÉE (TRANSLATED BY M. 2003 MADAM TINUBU: IBADAN. 2001 YINKA. announced that Rear Admiral A. 1983 “OYA: INSPIRATION AND EMPOWERMENT”. W: IFA: AN EXPOSITION OF IFA LITERARY CORPUS. PARIS: KARTHALA. NEW YORK. Religions and Cultures . B: OLODUMARE: GOD OF YORUBA BELIEF. 2001 UNESCO: UNIVERSAL DECLARATION ON CULTURAL DIVERSITY. HEINEMANN 1998 OLU OMO: IBADAN. He urged the participants and the organisers of the Congress to take his recommendations to heart. He. 1992 IDOWU. BY WOLE SOYINKA). G. LONDON: LONGMAN. 156 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. IN WORLD RELIGIONS. NEW YORK: HARPER COLLINS. SACHNINE FROM THE YORUBA: EFUSETAN ANIWURA). 1997 AKE: NI IGBA EWE (A TRANSLATION OF AKE: YEARS OF CHILDHOOD. 1994 The chairman. J: OYA. UNESCO. especially those that touched on the revival of African indigenous languages as media for literary creativity in particular and the propagation of knowledge in general. (ED): FROM CHAINS TO BONDS: THE SLAVE TRADE REVISITED. thanked Prof.Works Cited ABIMBOLA. IN PRAISE OF AN AFRICAN GODDESS. W: IKU OLOKUN ESIN (A TRANSLATION OF DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN.
which is of course the highest. therefore. To emphasise this point made earlier. do not obey them”. Where is the marginalization of women according to this verse? Islam teaches that all men are equal. if every human being is independently equal in the spiritual arena. which says: “For Muslim men and women. everything else is a secondary issue. Then. Ghana) Your Excellencies. the situation on the ground in some Muslim communities. in what else can anyone be signiﬁcantly superior to another? Except for an individual’s relationship with his or her Creator. who fast and deny themselves. and so on. all other roles and functions of human beings are subordinate to this spiritual function. the most important function of humanity has to do with its relationship with the Creator. Your Eminencies. that our duty to our parents comes second to our duty to our God. them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward”. who give in charity. who guard their chastity. who are patient. This quotation is self-explanatory. make recommendations for redress. I will go on to discuss the reality. According to Islamic teaching. There are differences of abilities. You are to obey God and obey your parents. who are constant. for believing men and women. Katumi Mahama (President. potential. who humble themselves. socially and economically. Federation of Muslim Women. Thus. the Koran says: “But if they press you to associate with me what you know nothing of. The Koran 51:66 says: “I only created mankind indeed that they might worship me”. those that embrace the faith and do what is right”. wealth. T his paper proposes to do a few things. Man is used here in the generic sense to imply humankind.Islam and women’s/men’s expectations and realities by Ms. The Muslim believes that the Koran is the word of God and the book says in chapter 16:97: “We shall reward the steadfast according to their deed. for men and women who are true. It means. and ﬁnally come up with a conclusion. This being the case. Even in terms of our relationships with our parents. the paper will compare the two scenarios. But the association of God with something else is what you are advised not to accept. Thank you very much for another opportunity to address you. according to scholars. for men and women who are devout. I will ﬁrst examine the Islamic position on gender – spiritually. The differences Round Table Number Five 157 . but they are not necessarily identical. be they men or women. let me paraphrase the Koran 35:35. It means that God’s reward is based on one’s deed irrespective of gender.
Members are expected to fulﬁl these rights and responsibilities. therefore. Marriage Marriage and family are central to Islamic life and many passages in the Koran and statements from the Prophet of Islam go as far as to say that when a Muslim marries. The holy Prophet of Islam is reported to have said: “Whoever has the ability. Islam insists on assigning to every individual his rightful identity. The family In this presentation. Social life There are principles guiding the social life of the Muslim. security for the aged. The only distinction recognised by God is distinction in piety. But.do not by themselves establish a status of superiority of one man or race over another. so their roles in some respects are also different. In fact. Socially. and whoever does not. he has perfected half of his religion and should be God-conscious and careful with the other half. like all other duties in Islam. On the contrary. Muslim scholars. in their interpretation of the Koran. who created you from a single soul. provision. state that marriage is a religious duty. Each family member has rights and responsibilities prescribed by the religion. it must be fulﬁlled. One does not need to associate oneself to someone to get an identity. These principles are designed to secure happiness with prosperity for the individual and society in general. origin or work is null. There is. The Koran 4:16 says: “Men. Thus. But that does not mean that women are inferior. the ﬁrst creation of God. and it is the responsibility of those around to help the individual to do that. social injustice or second-class citizenship. One of these principles is the fact that humanity represents one family. have fear of your Lord. a moral safeguard and a social commitment. One is who he is through his or her lineage. and maximisation of the effort to ensure the peaceful continuity of the family. a family is deﬁned as a social group whose members are bound together by blood ties or a marital relationship. let him get married. no room for racial prejudice. The quest for gender equality must not lead us into ignoring the fact that men and women are different. From that soul he bestowed the earth with countless men and women”. in Islam. it is enjoined only upon those who are capable of 158 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. springing from the common heritage of Adam and Eve. let him go on with fasting and abstinence”. the Koran reminds humankind of the vital facts. superiority on account of class. it is an obligation for someone to identify himself or herself with his or her lineage. As a religious duty. Religions and Cultures . which also serve as the principles of the social strata of Islamic life. which pertain to identity and inheritance. affection for the young.
Islam has set the course of behaviour for husbands and wives. meaningful survival of the human race. What is not recommended for men is also not recommended for women. equity. Equality between the wives in treatment. It is permissible with certain conditions under certain circumstances. it is a duty as well as a virtue to earn one’s living through decent labour.meeting the responsibilities involved. as Abdah Lahdi puts it. consideration and goodwill in marriage are many. Islam builds marriage as a strong bond. Islam does not give blanket approval for polygamy or leave the institution unchecked and unrestricted. then only one”. So. A Muslim is enjoined by God to be self-supportive and keep away from being a liability to another person. three or four. security and compassion. Islam permits polygamy. Marriage in Islam is regarded ﬁrst and foremost as a religious act. “the ﬁnal attempt to solve some social and moral problems and to deal with inevitable difﬁculties”. compassion. a commitment to life itself. comfort and hope. But if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them. All Islamic scholars agree that the verse on polygamy was revealed after the battle of Uhud. love and peace. Although the religion permits it. This is in recognition of the fact that women’s needs are equally legitimate and are seriously taken into consideration. provision and kindness is a prerequisite for polygamy and a condition that must be fulﬁlled by anyone who maintains more than one wife. The permission is valid with a maximum of four wives and with the other wives enjoying the same rights and privileges. The Koranic verse relevant to this issue of polygamy says: “Marry women of your choice – two. an act of devotion and piety. love. Statements in the Koran that prescribe kindness. All kinds of work for anyone’s livelihood provided they are Round Table Number Five 159 . a social stigma and humiliating for an able. but also to God. to society and to the digniﬁed. I am referring to the issue of begging when you do not make any effort. But it is used in this paper to imply polygyny or plurality of wives. sympathy. Polygamy existed in its worst form before the inception of Islam. It is a sin. Polygamy Polygamy implies plurality of mates. self-realization. it does not encourage it as a rule. Economic life In Islam. Islamic provisions of marriage apply to men and women equally. It must be emphasised that polygamy is the last resort. This implies that a person must be fairly certain of his ability to meet the responsibilities of marriage before taking a spouse. That is not Islam. a challenging commitment. Marriage partners are expected to ﬁnd mutual fulﬁlment. It is a commitment that marriage partners make not only to one another. after which there were many widows and orphans who needed to be catered for. effortless person to depend on someone else for livelihood.
But.decent and free from wrongdoing are respected in Islam. such as the issues of divorce and inheritance. I want to say that. However. The status of the woman With regard to the status of the woman. “Your mother”. Islam recognises her as a full and equal partner of man in the procreation of humankind. let us look at the situation on the ground. not to be prevented from participating in congregational prayers. as a mother. due to lack of time. But. Let me look at the status of the woman. 160 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. I am talking about Ghana. The situation on the ground In the past. who next?” “Your father”. this is what I have come up with. let us now look at the situation on the ground. I have talked about the ideal situation. this is done according to the husband’s means. Three times. Ladies and Gentlemen. clothing. Now. She is entitled to three-fourth of her children’s love and kindness while the father is entitled to only one-fourth. Her sound opinions are taken into consideration and cannot be disregarded just because she happens to belong to the female gender. She is entitled to freedom of expression as much as man. it is the husband’s duty to fully maintain his wife. Lastly. With regard to education. Historical records show that women participated in public life with the early Muslims. general care and wellbeing. She has the right to lodging. The Prophet of Islam acknowledged this honour when he declared that Paradise is under the feet of mothers. “Then. let me limit myself. Only old women who had passed the age of menstruation went to the Mosque to pray. from the little I know of Islam. Women are. She is equal to man in bearing common and personal responsibilities and receiving a reward for her deeds. “Who next?” “Your mother”. in many Muslim communities. a woman is entitled to three times the love and kindness of her children and the husband is entitled to one. although I know we have similarities in Nigeria. When somebody asked him: “In this world whom should I be kind to? Whom should I love most?” The Prophet said. she enjoys more recognition and higher honour in the sight of God. from the little reading I have done. however. This is what the Koran teaches. it was the practice for women to pray at home and not to participate in congregational prayers. I am not an Islamic scholar. Whatever an individual earns through lawful means is his or her private possession and no one can justiﬁably claim it. This notwithstanding. “Who next?” “Your mother”. from the little knowledge I have of Islam. The Koran says that God does not charge a soul with more than what it can bear. Therefore. There are other issues too. Islam does not make congregational prayers mandatory to women although such prayers are said to be more rewarding. She is recognised as an independent personality in possession of qualities and worthy of spiritual aspiration. Religions and Cultures .
some of these women are striving hard to assert themselves. The very fact that there are more women than men in the world today is one good reason for this. and they are doing what they can to marginalize them. During our meetings. who are now at school. The result is that the level of formal education among Muslims is comparatively low. Western education was introduced by Christian missionaries whose main aim was to evangelise.the idea that the woman’s place is in the home . Besides. The situation is. many Muslim women do not have access to formal education for several reasons. the personal status of Muslim women has affected their social role. It should not come as a surprise to ﬁnd many men practising polygamy in Muslim communities. In many Muslim communities. Instead. There are still men who cannot come to terms with the fact that women are getting actively involved in public life. to school. therefore. there is still an undercurrent of male chauvinism. Even for some girls. the rate of Muslim women with formal education is steadily increasing although their best is not good enough. the inﬂuence of culture . who do not yet have access to basic education. we have organised ourselves into local associations and national federations. they have to engage in income-generating activities. well-versed in Islam. Many of them have not received any formal education. It is important to note that most of these women still uphold their Islamic identity. The national federations also have women in their leadership. In recent years. As they do not have the required qualiﬁcation to work in the formal sector. With regard to community participation. or hawk around to earn some money to support their families and help ﬁnance their male siblings to go to school. Some of the leaders of our associations have had the opportunity of studying Islam in Saudi Arabia. many of them work in the informal sector and are self-employed. small-scale industrialists and tradeswomen while many of them are engaged in petty trading. however. This positive development notwithstanding. however. A few of them are working as midwives. in spite of all odds. Islam allows the pracRound Table Number Five 161 . Again. we study Islam and discuss the rights and responsibilities in Islam and other issues affecting us and our families.greatly contributed to the denial of formal education to girls. not peculiar to the Muslim community alone.although Islam makes it compulsory for every Muslim to acquire knowledge. Then. the likelihood of dropping out of school is there. The situation of Muslim women is the lowest of the low. to weather the storm. In many parts of Africa. Many Muslim parents were apprehensive about sending their children. however. few Muslim women are involved in community activities. in many countries. They are. there are still girls. A few now serve on national and international councils and committees. A UNICEF report shows that a hundred and twenty million girls worldwide still do not go to school. making a mirage of the Dakar Declaration of Education for All by 2015. Despite these problems. especially girls. These days. who have formal Western education and are working in the civil and public service while others are working in private organisations.
Religions and Cultures . Polygamy is not the ideal form of marriage in Islam. One of the conditions laid down for the practice. Negligence of family responsibilities. still go round hawking from house to house these days when rapists are out there waiting to catch their prey. is keeping to a maximum of four wives. The Koran cautions men that. The number of such people. idle about and sometimes get involved in anti-social practices such as drug abuse and hooliganism. which the majority of polygamous men adheres to. We know that these problems exist today. that necessitates the passage of regulations on polygamy. what Islam as a religion prescribes and what its adherents are expected to live by is in most cases at variance with the reality on the ground. such as the ability to maintain the wives adequately. if they fear that their injustices can be conspicuous. far worse than what is heard becomes the norm. As a result. The irony of the situation is that although there are no statistics to back this claim. imply that all polygamous men are married to four wives. It only indicates that no committed Muslim man should go beyond marrying four wives. giving all sorts of excuses. however. are often overlooked. Child upbringing still leaves much to be desired. for society. during which more men are killed. then they should only marry once. All Islamic scholars agree on the problem. there is reason to believe that the few Muslims. who have had access to education at high levels and are occupying executive positions in their countries. Most women in polygamous homes. especially with numerous wars around the globe. There have been practical instances where men supposed to be polygamous have had numerous girlfriends. What 162 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. callous injustices in the treatment of wives and children in spite of Allah’s and the Prophet’s warnings lead to even greater problems. It is more like a problemsolving measure than a normal. Although Islam places a high premium on education and makes it compulsory for Muslim males and females to be educated. in some instances. Boys. meritorious practice. The manner in which some Muslim men practise polygamy clearly undermines its intended purpose. but the conditions under which polygamy ought to be practised are often ignored by the majority of Muslim men. especially girls. Children. is very limited in some countries. polygamy is a practical remedy in these circumstances. therefore. This does not. There are other advantages. have to strive hard to manage their homes and take care of their children. however. do perform. Other conditions that must be fulﬁlled before a man even takes a second wife. Expectations versus realities It is clear from the foregoing that. the reality is that only a few people are well-educated in many Muslim communities. Since it is degrading to humanity to suggest that the surplus of women should become sex workers or prostitutes.tice. who have either dropped out of school or have not been able to make it at their ﬁnal exams.
conscious efforts must be made to encourage parents to send their children. • The Muslim Ummah should re-examine their attitude towards polygamy. some Muslims feel scared sending their children to school. in fact. (I am convinced that. especially girls. I think a base-line study should be conducted to come up with statistics about issues vital to the development of communities and appropriate interventions should be initiated. looking at some of the things we see on our television screens. Whatever the situation on the ground. behave a certain way so that more Muslim parents ﬁnd education appealing. educated Muslim women should be role models in their communities. who have had access to formal Western education. I believe. When they see some educated Muslim women upholding their Islamic identity. therefore. educated Muslims themselves. to school. I must say that. put forward for consideration: • There must be programmes to raise the awareness of the Muslim public. It is important that Muslim women. with the vision of changing the Muslim community positively and with clearly stated objectives geared towards achieving these goals. these days. things deﬁnitely change. but what some Muslims practise is the worst. but against the background of the negative practices we have become accustomed to.Islam prescribes is the best in certain circumstances. Round Table Number Five 163 . should not only be encouraged. but also supported ﬁnancially by international organisations and. • More Muslim women should be encouraged to take up education as their profession. will encourage more Muslim parents to feel safe sending their children to school. national federations. if we look at couples that are educated. when a woman is educated. Promotion of the formation of women’s associations. This. prescribes. especially girls. their situations are not as bad as some instances that we have seen. which is clearly at variance in some Muslim communities. women especially. Every educated woman wishes to see her children better educated than she is. to be sensitive to the plight of outof-school children. Furthermore. Simply put. • Imams and other religious leaders should set up counselling centres in their communities to address social problems. not from the point of view of divine injunction whose wisdom we cannot question. I think it is a way of encouraging other women to educate their children. The following recommendations are. The way forward Having examined the Islamic prescription for creating a decent and harmonious society vis-à-vis the situation on the ground. and Islam for that matter. it is necessary to take steps to turn the tide so as to promote or create ideal Muslim societies that the Koran. That is why I stand for education for every Muslim woman). educated Muslims.
I think help from international NGOs would be greatly appreciated. all of us here. The question is what you can do to use the education you have had to change your community positively. if you have a child who is not doing well. you should congratulate him. Educational foundations should also be established to help in the education of children from Muslim communities. This implies that an Islamic community must be exemplary. as being bad. and identiﬁes with them whatever their situation. I want us to look back. above all. It would be helpful if the NGOs working in Muslim communities consider the norms and values of Muslims in drawing up programmes for those communities and in choosing role models for them. so that you may be witnesses over other people. irrespective of how highly educated you are. She 164 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the person reacts. any woman – has done to make it possible for you to sit where you are sitting today. relates well with her people. in addition to being well-educated and holding admirable qualiﬁcations. She must be one. then. is humble and respectful. upholds her Islamic identity. he does not make any effort. and the Messenger a witness over you”. I think the media has a role to play. It is the responsibility of the leadership in Muslim communities to ensure that the injustices and wrongs in their communities are addressed. that’s it. you are expected to relate to your people. it is necessary to recall the role of the Islamic community and the historic role of women as stated in Koran 2:143. as an educationist. who practises her faith. The verse says: “We have made you a middle leash. a role model must be someone who. Do not see them as being “down there” and you “up there”. I think this is very important). when he does something small that is good. must set high standards of performance. So. (What I am trying to say is that. think of something that a woman – it could be your mother. when an issue comes from the Muslim community. Ladies and Gentlemen. I am not a psychologist. This would go a long way in establishing fair. But I know that when you have two children and you brand one as being violent. Religions and Cultures . a balanced Ummah. Sometimes. must be a reference point for others and avoid excesses and extravagance. sister.• Well-to-do Muslims should themselves contribute to the improvement of their societies through the institution of the Zakat. Ladies and Gentlemen. I think. Ladies and Gentlemen. But. and urge him on. or aunty. must stride the middle course and know what to expect and what to reject. nothing good is seen in me”. you should praise him for that. and I think it is one of the reasons behind whatever hooliganism we see in our society. For Muslims. and. a well-integrated community. for a Muslim. which Islam prescribes. peaceful and harmonious societies. Whatever I do. you do not see anything good in that child – what happens? – The child says: “Well. the way in which it is blown out of proportion in the news media is usually alarming – you know when you push somebody to the wall. But the media continues to crow whatever happens in Muslim communities and blow it out of proportion in such a way that Muslims continue to get the idea that “we are not liked”.
was hungry. thanked her for her “brilliant and well-articulated” presentation. I think women need to be applauded. Thank you very much. She sat and waited to hear the cock crow. Round Table Number Five 165 . hoping to see you still alive so she could rush you to the hospital. She would not sleep though the night was long. Abimbola. but she did not feel hunger because you were sick. Japhet L. Mahama was applauded by an obviously appreciative audience. Ms. invited Dr. He described her as “a forward-looking and revolutionary Muslim woman” and called on the participants and the organisers of the Congress to “take her recommendations very seriously”. He. Agboka to make his presentation. after which the chairman. Prof. then.
how to work through a problem situation without damaging relationships. which we must learn to respect. Religions and Cultures . In the intimacy of family life. we inevitably brush against the boundaries of one another’s personal space. Only then did he realise that he had not the slightest idea what to do next! No one had ever helped him to understand what went on behind his parents’ closed doors! When people in conﬂict respect the rights and differences of each other. which means to respect everyone’s viewpoint. Conﬂicts can affect individuals as well as families. they always went to their bedroom and shut the door. Abidjan) ur world today is plagued with all forms of conﬂicts. That we have such differences. it is not unusual for even married couples and families to ﬁnd themselves uncomfortable with the differences that they encounter in one another. he asked her to come with him into their bedroom. or whatever. Discomfort unresolved will likely heat up into anger. than how we deal with the issues that arise from them. He shut the door. differ in temperament. The time came when he himself got married and he and his wife had their ﬁrst real quarrel. conﬂict resolution becomes a mutual experience. One man reported that he knew his parents had conﬂicts.Advocacy of religious tolerance: solution of ethnic. International Religious Liberty Association. However. When they came out. or individuals living in various societies. which is reﬂected in the scripture of different religions as follows: 166 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. we are able to tolerate a certain form of dissimilarity. is the need to tolerate one another. The fear of conﬂict. Each conﬂict has its underlying causes. Many are at a loss as to how to resolve conﬂicts. The way each one communicates and deals with conﬂicts also varies. of religion. The world’s major religions place strong emphasis on what has come to be known as The Golden Rule. Family members. cultural and religious conflicts by Dr. or the denial of its existence. Japhet L. may leave us unable to face it squarely. He had observed that whenever they found themselves in conﬂict. in points of view. in lifestyle. The underlying principle in the exercise of freedom of speech. Not knowing what else to do. in habit. Sometimes. varying from one society to the other. and perhaps even in fundamental values. discomfort. however. the conﬂict was seemingly resolved. anger and conﬂict is less important. Anger unresolved will likely lead to conﬂict. Others are simply uncertain as regards how to confront it constructively. Agboka (Secretary-General. O Conflict resolution Conﬂict is inevitable in close relationships.
to change one’s religious belief in line with Round Table Number Five 167 . and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. (Jesus Christ: Matthew 7:12) That in each of these religions is a tenet of attestation alluding to tolerance is an indication that religion plays a major role in human life and society. accordingly. social. do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. We swim together or perish all at once. wherein lies the strength of our existence. This state of affairs attributes freedom of worship to the benevolence of the state. 31a) Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would ﬁnd hurtful. This way. be it political. What we can rightfully demand of governments is to create a favourable environment under which this Godgiven freedom of religion can be realised. While religious freedom may be enshrined in most African constitutions. That is the entire Law. Thus. For instance. The modern man desires to be more reasonable. all believers in God would respect one another in our African situation. a vital necessity for the survival of societies and states everywhere. The need for tolerance in today’s world We live in a pluralistic world in which no known system. Mankind realises more and more that human survival must be collective rather than selective. appreciating what they all have in common would help religious people. cultural or religious. to adopt the religion or belief of one’s choice. where we have a great heritage of religious tolerance and freedom. and that respect for freedom of religion and belief constitutes a fundamental basis for human relations and is. more tolerant. Our belief is that religious liberty is our God-given right. a world civilisation where international covenants denouncing anything that divides or discriminates against people come up year after year. Shabbat. Our belief is that this religious freedom is our God-given right . Neither can governments nor other institutions claim to be in a position to take this God-given right away since they did not give it in the ﬁrst place.Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. and more open to new ideas. The truth is that governments do not give freedom of worship. Modern means of communication and human interaction have produced a global village.our natural and inalienable right – to have or not to have a religion. do not do to your fellow men. (The Talmud. (Udana-Varga: 5:18) Taoism: Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain. governments often remind religious people that they must be thankful (to the government) for the freedom they enjoy from the latter. the state’s and the church’s understanding of this freedom has not always been clear. (Sunnah) Judaism: What is hateful to you. (T’ai Shangkan Ying P’ien) Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you. all the rest is commentary. Our respect for each other’s religious viewpoint will unite our cultural and socio-religious oneness. can take full control of large numbers of people.
and teaching. Agboka’s presentation was followed by one more presentation by Ms. Udenta standing in as the moderator. G. with their own. racism. to manifest one’s religion individually or in community with others through worship. observances. practice. and maintain communication with fellow believers at national and international levels.the dictates of one’s conscience. And. tribalism. linguistic enmity. Religions and Cultures . Tolerance. 168 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. responsiveness. Abuja) on behalf of Rear Admiral A. Julie Sanda (a Research Fellow at the National War College. Dialogue is certainly much better than diatribe. and friendship among peoples. Conclusion I would like to conclude with this Statement of Tolerance issued by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1995 in support of the United Nations’ Proclamation of 1995 as the Year of Tolerance: This Proclamation comes at an opportune time when intolerance is abounding on all continents – bigoted religious extremism. but moving in benevolence. lastly. Finally. Christians. but without reaching the boiling point of violent words or actions. Adedeji. but even conﬂict. Udenta O. the capacity to endure unfavourable circumstances. but partnership and respect for equal rights of others. must go well beyond this negative concept and develop sympathy for beliefs and practices that not only differ. observe days of rest and celebrate holidays in accordance with the tenets of one’s religion. so that all may enjoy its inestimable blessings. Human beings must learn to agree or disagree without violence. and all people of goodwill. ethnic cleansing. we believe that the spirit of true religious liberty is epitomised in The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This does not mean docility or abject submission. propagation. with Mr. we believe that citizens should use lawful and honourable means to prevent the reduction of religious freedom. subject only to respect the equivalent rights of others. Every person has the right and the responsibility to express both ideas and ideals with verve and vigour. solicit or receive voluntary ﬁnancial contributions. they must be able to discuss varying viewpoints without hate or rancour. and other forms of terrorism and violence. We also believe that religious liberty and the elimination of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief are essential to promote understanding. The International Religious Liberty Association believes that religious liberty also includes the freedom to establish and operate appropriate charitable or educational institutions. tolerance at its best means not only acceptance of other views and people. peace. who was absent. Furthermore. is only a beginning. and understanding towards others – towards every other human being. Dr. Christians and other religious people carry their share of the blame for prejudice and inhumanity toward humans.
has been considered Nigeria’s constituency. conﬂicts and wars bedevilling our world. within this context. Adedeji (Commandant. in order to meet the challenges of peacekeeping missions. G. Historical overview The pursuit of global peace and security is. I will try to examine Nigeria’s role in sub-regional peacekeeping missions in West Africa. the black race. since the period preceding her independence. In the second section of this paper. in international peacekeeping missions. the United Nations has intervened in various conﬂict areas of the world. In the light of this. One of the measures taken to address this has been through peacekeeping missions. Nigeria has thus contributed to the stability of the continent and the sub-region in diverse ways. from the pioneer outing. Nigeria has always been a ﬁrm believer in the principle of African brotherhood. Nigeria. she has participated in over twenty-ﬁve peacekeeping operations globally. with the United Nations Operation in Congo Round Table Number Five 169 . from 1960–1964. that I would like to ﬁrst provide a brief historical overview of Nigeria’s participation in peacekeeping missions. It is. among other African nations. and its dignity of primary concern. In the concentric-circles conceptualisation of her foreign policy interests. has been involved. wherever found. West Africa forms the inner core. However. All these were also consistent with the then OAU Charter. a matter of national interest. for Nigeria. and often played the big brother in this regard. The third and concluding section will reﬂect on Nigeria’s experience in peacekeeping missions generally. In the course of this. National War College. Since 1960. Abuja) Introduction The continuous threats to international peace and security since the Second World War have made the United Nations and its Member States commit themselves to saving succeeding generations from the crises. certain clauses in Articles 52–54 of the United Nations Charter make room for regional organisations to support the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security in various regions of the world. Besides.Nigeria’s experience in peacekeeping missions: an overview and reflection on Nigeria’s role in the West African sub-region by Rear Admiral A.
Ekoko. given the phenomenon of military rule in Nigeria in the last millennium. therefore. 2. that the ECOMOG did not properly conclude its ﬁrst mandate. At a time when the world looked askance.A. resulting in another round 13. the appropriate model of civilian-military relations has been put in place. Since 1999. Vogt and A. funding and human rights abuses later cropped up. The decision-making political authorities are. The Nigerian military has been involved in peacekeeping under principally four arrangements: 1. [Author’s Endnote] M. 170 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. therefore. with the advent of democratic rule. now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A. as indeed it has been. not obscured the major role Nigeria played ﬁrst in reducing the human misery being perpetuated in that country. This introduced another banner under which Nigeria was to participate in peacekeeping: the sub-regional level. essentially be reﬂections on the last thirteen years (1990–2003) and principally on ECOMOG in Liberia. again in the Congo. however. Peacekeeping in the West African Sub-Region Perhaps this last category provided the real watershed when Nigeria singlehandedly mobilised West Africa to intervene in the Liberian crisis under the ECOMOG banner in 1990. “Nigeria and Peace-Keeping: Introduction” (published in M. these authorities have been both civilian and military. Vogt. the problem in Nigeria’s backyard simply could not be ignored. this was dealt with by converting the peacekeeping operation into a peaceenforcement operation once it was obvious that there was no peace to be kept. Nigeria in International Peacekeeping: 1960-1992. as far as peacekeeping is concerned. E. and 4. democratically elected civilians. Lagos: Malthouse Press Limited. p. Internationally organised peace-keeping by the United Nations. This has also been one of the more controversial operations Nigeria has been engaged in. It was to revert afterwards to peacekeeping operations. 1993. Bilaterally arranged assistance programme(s) between Nigeria and various African countries13. It could be argued. These have. to the latest. In Nigeria.(UNOC). bringing into sharp focus her decades-long experience in international peacekeeping. While the initial controversy centred on the mandate of the force. vii). would. though the decision to participate is taken by political authorities. Peacekeeping is essentially a military affair. Where there was initial confusion about the mandate of the regional force. however. This operation was to extend into Sierra Leone and Guinea. Religions and Cultures . Sub-regional peace support operations under the aegis of the ECOWAS. Africa has always been the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. Regionally coordinated peace-keeping by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). 3. It is also noteworthy that this “mandate conversion” was later to be adopted by the Allied Forces in the Kosovo operation. Reﬂections on Nigeria’s role in the sub-region.
The packaging of this second operation has not only shown that valuable lessons were learnt from Liberia I. the region is better off for these actions. The point being made was that the US was not indifferent about Liberia at that time. preferring to bolster African capabilities for keeping peace in Africa. Yet. This resulted in the destabilisation of that country too. not only did Nigeria intervene to reverse the Major Johnny Paul Koromah-led coup in 1998. This position is countered when we face the fact that Charles Taylor. as the US insisted on regime change in Iraq. S. A major US foreign policy thrust had become one of mobilising world leaders in the ﬁght against terrorism. Today. Round Table Number Five 171 .of violence breaking out a few years later. the US has promoted a policy of engagement in Africa “by proxy”. This time. This was not to be. demobilise. The horrendous atrocities committed by the Foday Sankoh-led Revolutionary United Forces (RUF) could not be ignored. Being implemented through the due process which democratic governance calls for. to rebuild it. 14. Thus. reneged on the agreement to allow the ECOMOG to build a new national army for the country. Zabadi. it became clear in Liberia that a limited mandate might well be a waste of valuable resources. p. despite the fact that troops and resources have again been mobilised for what might be termed Liberia II. 2003. it has also brought about a greater appreciation of Nigeria’s leadership role in the sub-region. as has been the case since the Somali ﬁasco. reintegrate and train the erstwhile rebels into a professional national armed force. a hybrid of the ﬁrst two14.210). Iraq. [Author’s Endnote] I. then. “ACRI and the Emerging Security Environment in Africa” (published in The African Crisis Response Initiative: Issues and Perspectives. it aimed to train and equip troops of participating African countries for peace support operations on the continent. Again. as was feared a decade earlier. and credibility for its armed forces. As with Liberia I. but also – and more importantly – to Nigerians who have had cause to be proud of their “men in uniform”. again. The activities of his forces showed their support for the rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Through such initiatives as the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI). The major departure for the US then was that 9/11 had happened. Abuja: National War College. This would have involved ECOMOG remaining in Liberia for a while longer after the 1997 elections to disarm. They are being shown in their professional splendour not only to the world. pursue his original dream of hegemony: to become the major power in the Mano River Basin region. but also a Nigerian led the contingent and eventually the Armed Forces of that country. but also used his position of power to send ECOMOG troops out of the country and. It was anxious to reassure Africa that it was an ally and not marginal to global security discourse. Operation Focus Relief (OFR) and the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA). ECOMOG went in. giving sharper and more urgent impetus to US interventionism around the globe. the intervention in Liberia II was coming at a time when the US was preoccupied with events in the Middle East – speciﬁcally. erstwhile President of Liberia. as Taylor not only reneged.
on 15 October 2003. ECOMIL. was no doubt a response to the negative criticisms that had been unleashed against the ECOMOG initiative. 211–212.Thus. The diplomatic support was so high that the United Nations has taken over the Liberian operation. therefore. It is alleged that this group is supported by the Gbagbo-led government of Ivory Coast against the MPCI.15 Practically. Not only was the United Nations (UN) involved. While Liberia seems to be under control now. Religions and Cultures . While logistics had been a major challenge faced by ECOMOG. Ironically. has been “incorporated into the new mechanism for a permanent intervention force”. they were unilateral. and thus bolster her leadership credentials. purpose. Thus. is based in western Ivory Coast. therefore. This has implications for the stability of the region and. Therefore. arrangements were made for a transfer of the entire mission from a sub-regional to a global responsibility. with a Nigerian as Force Commander. had argued in Accra that the situation in Liberia was not only an ECOWAS problem. the US was only to “empower” African soldiers to move in Africa. while US troops have been deployed in certain conﬂict situations around the world (as in Bosnia). 172 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. included forming the nucleus of and preparing the ground for the deployment of an International Stabilisation Force. ECOMOG would not only have recorded unqualiﬁed success. it has served some useful. like similar initiatives by foreign powers. [Author’s Endnote] Ibid. It had about 1. ECOMIL gave way to UNML. even if limited. the multinational United Nations force in Liberia. [Author’s Endnote] Ibid. ECOMIL was able to garner the required logistic and diplomatic support that ECOMOG lacked in the ﬁrst outing. a burden that Nigeria had shouldered alone to the distress of her citizens. One of the protagonists in the Liberian crisis.500. particularly. this time Nigeria’s leaders ensured that burden sharing was effected. the sub-regional monitoring group. the second ECOWAS mission in Liberia. the US handled that aspect of the operation this time. the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). its peace and security. 211. Funding had also been a major constraint. was deployed on 4 August 2003. This policy has not gone un-criticised. This position. mainly on the grounds that. The Nigerian President. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. an Ivorian group that is linked to Charles Taylor (erstwhile Liberian President) and Blaise Compaoré (President of Burkina Faso). ECOMOG. pp. In West Africa. the US interest in Liberia this time has served to underscore how critical Nigeria has been in the resolution of the Liberian crisis. These complex relationships serve to underscore the reality that the sub-region is far from getting out of the woods. 16. Ivory Coast and other countries in the sub-region cannot and must not be ignored. but also a matter of international peace and security as Liberia belonged to the community of nations. disregarding the existing multilateral structures on the continent. ECOMIL was a vanguard interposition force whose tasks. among others. had this support been in place. It has been argued that. it would have done so in a much shorter period16. p. 15.500 Nigerian troops out of a total of 3. which ECOWAS shared.
there could be no development as these pursuits were two sides of the same coin. Round Table Number Five 173 . Once Nigeria took the lead concerning Liberia. a role she has always accepted. a traditional US ally. Nigeria’s national interest was at stake in Liberia. not just a humanitarian issue. as it were. The Liberian crisis broke out at a time when the world was turning its back on Africa. Ahmadu Bello University. Reflections The intervention in Liberia was. 18. had another preoccupation of greater consequence. and using that opportunity to reassert its hegemony in the Middle East.Indeed. [Author’s Endnote] Gani Yoroms. No other country in the sub-region. This operation. she was able to rally other countries to chip in their quota in the ECOWAS spirit of cooperation. At that time. had either the clout (no matter how deﬁned). or on the continent in fact. Abuja. The second one. the US. which was louder in its silence or seeming apathy. August 14 2003). by her sheer size and population. a recently uncovered coup plot in Burkina Faso may not be unconnected with these intrigues. the US was busy mobilising the world (or its other allies) against Iraq. hence overwhelming existing health facilities. which were hanging over the continent. it was acutely aware that. despite the Francophone-Anglophone rivalry that threatened this alliance. 17. it is also clear that Nigeria’s intervention was timely and something that had to be done.000 people18 trapped in refugee camps in Monrovia without access to food and drinking water. saw 300. “Regime Security Interest and Mechanisms for Conﬂict Resolution in Africa: The Case of Nigeria in ECOMOG” (a PhD Dissertation. Apart from international “pressure” and expectation. the bogey of being de-linked or marginalized from the mainstream of global concerns. it was understood and accepted in certain diplomatic circles that Liberia was going to be a “Nigerian responsibility”. etc. and which also marked the beginning of donor fatigue. particularly security. without security. [Author’s Endnote] Gani Yoroms. “The Impact of Peace Keeping on Target and Intervening States in West Africa: The Case of Liberia and the Nigeria-led Regional ECOMOG/ECOMIL in Liberia” (a paper presented at a Roundtable on “The Renewed Conﬂict in Liberia and Challenges of Peace and Regional Stability” at The Institute for Peace and Conﬂict Resolution. The major world power. While it is argued in some quarters that regime interest17 came to play. Both Liberian crises threw up serious humanitarian challenges.000–700. leadership has been thrust on Nigeria by “nature”. exposing them to malaria and diarrhoea among other diseases. but also one of enlightened self-interest. Zaria. While ECOWAS was essentially created to work towards the economic development of the sub-region. 2001). as Liberia. ECOMOG weathered the storm and took up the gauntlet. both crucial elements of security. for example. Thus. Hence. therefore. as far as its national interest was concerned: reversing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. burned itself up. or the wherewithal. to face the problem head on. Since assuming statehood.
The Peacekeeping Training School in Zambakro. the lessons have been well learnt. The college has been involved in peacekeeping at theoretical rather than practical level. It is clear that the sub-region is still grappling with some “internal” contradictions. a task it had already been performing.which cost Nigeria the invaluable lives of its soldiers and citizens (about two thousand) and $12b19 over the seven years it lasted. The hitherto cool relations between Nigeria and Ivory Coast also did not augur well for Nigeria playing a more visible and assertive role in this case. National War College. Similar action is being pursued in Zimbabwe. France has jealously kept her traditional politico-cultural hold on Francophone West Africa. undoubtedly took its toll on the economy and the willingness of Nigerians to support any such endeavour in future. but it is also a practical reality that countries like Bangladesh and India have always exploited. As mentioned earlier. The importance of the role Nigeria has played over the years is underscored by the work of the National War College. It collates. as it were. Author’s Endnote] Gani Yoroms. about $80m. also spearheaded by Nigeria. among others. as if on feet of clay. The present economic realities in the country dictate this. ECOWAS wobbled. Nigeria is yet to be reimbursed by the United Nations for undertaking these tasks on behalf of the international community. Ivory Coast stands out as a case in point. staving off any contenders to its sphere of inﬂuence. This is being done to forestall the kind of crises that have been witnessed in Liberia. In furtherance of this role. 19. It is important that this posture be maintained. “The Second Liberian Peace Process and the Problem of Post Conﬂict Peace Building in West Africa: Some Contending Issues and Interests” (being a background paper for a proposed research project on “Regional Security and Post Conﬂict Reconstruction and Peace Building in West Africa”. both critical for development. that have clouded its effectiveness particularly in matters of peace and security. Abuja. this was not the ﬁrst time Nigeria was to take up such an onerous responsibility single-handedly. as the age-long AnglophoneFrancophone divide came into play. had been borne by Nigeria. ﬁeld experiences and criticizes them. Till date. The costs of the 1979 Chad operation. the college has been mandated by the sub-regional body to undertake strategic level training for regional peacekeeping forces. Nigeria recognises the fact that the burden of peacekeeping can be eased up through preventive diplomacy and concerted action as was done in São Tome and Principe. is tasked with providing tactical training while the Koﬁ Annan Centre for Peacekeeping is responsible for operational level training. October 2003). Ivory Coast. Yet. Religions and Cultures . which has been recognised by ECOWAS. subjecting them to rigorous intellectual analysis with a view to reﬁning both policy and praxis. 174 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. Nigeria should not get involved without a commitment from the UN. particularly as regards funding.
Round Table Number Five 175 . Nigeria’s peacekeeping efforts in the West African sub-region have contributed in stabilising the region immensely. in training its ofﬁcers for peace support operations. After the presentation by Ms. In conclusion. As a leader. The intervention in Liberia. Sanda (on behalf of Rear Admiral Adedeji). Nigeria will continue to act in concert with other nations in pursuance of her national interest in the region and beyond. permit me to commend UNESCO’s work in the area of promoting a culture of peace. therefore. consistent with Nigeria’s foreign policy stance since Independence.Conclusion This paper takes the following positions by way of summarising its main arguments. the world will largely expect her to maintain her stabilising role in the sub-region. 2. 4. Given Nigeria’s historical leadership role and its improved prospects with the democratisation of the polity. that: 1. the participants debated vigorously on the draft copy. being her ﬁrst and major peacekeeping assignment in the sub-region. Afterwards. Esohe Molokwu read a draft copy of The Abuja Statement to the participants. Dr. The National War College would like to beneﬁt from UNESCO’s curricula in this regard. who later adopted it unanimously in the following form. 3. It was then modiﬁed to reﬂect the inputs and observations of the participants. was. and still is.
NGOs or associations have to be encouraged in their grassroots activities and should be UNESCO’s partners in the ﬁeld. cradle to many civilisations which interacted and enriched one another during centuries to present days. Religions and Cultures . which deserves to be better known and taught. They recognised the deep impact of religious leaders on their communities and encouraged them to work jointly for the well-being of communities and individuals. This Civilisation spread to many parts of the world. mostly the Americas. regardless of their origins and backgrounds. 176 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. ethnical and religious walks of life that compose the main wealth. Religions and Cultures in West Africa” held in Abuja (Nigeria) from 15-17 December 2003. who represented the President of Nigeria. Personalities present. reconciliation. the African culture and spirituality blended with other cultures and enriched them profoundly. However. among them the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The Congress follows similar initiatives in areas such as the Mediterranean Basin and Central Asia. and the Minister of Culture and Tourism. and to address issues such as the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. acknowledged that it is only through dialogue. as well as participants from different countries and agencies of the United Nations system. despite this tragedy. For these purposes. mediation and reciprocal knowledge and mutual understanding that conﬂicts can be prevented and resolved. the creation of local Inter-religious Dialogue Councils. 15 – 17 December 2003 “The International Congress on Dialogue of Civilisations. is the ﬁrst UNESCO attempt to root dialogue in its diverse forms in Africa. to promote equality between women and men. human rights.FINAL DECLARATION The Abuja Statement “The International Congress on Dialogue of Civilisations. because of the Slave Trade.Religions and Cultures in West Africa” Abuja. Dialogue is understood as a unique way to foster peace among different communities belonging to various cultural.
justice and solidarity to mankind. together with other partners. while recognising what they have in common. essentially. as speciﬁed in the preamble of its constitution. which are. whereby children and youth learn to live together respectful of each other’s differences. They agreed that UNESCO is a neutral forum and it should continue its efforts in promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. In this regard. which are part of ancient civilisations and cultures. a UNESCO Chair on Intercultural FINAL DECLARATION 177 . Dialogue among cultures and religions should be a beacon Programme of the United Nations system. In this respect. and in particular for UNESCO. In the light of the international and regional context. sharing their experiences and good practices. should not be stereotyped nor lead to amalgams. given the strong proximity of the different communities and mixed families. especially of political leaders. Religious leaders shall stand for life and teach that their Sacred Teachings condemn every act of killing in the name of the values they uphold and the messages they wish to convey. the participants in the Congress call the attention. express their willingness to work together for the reconciliation of their communities.The participants worked in a spirit of brotherhood and understanding. but also for goals such as poverty alleviation and the eradication of HIV/AIDS in human rights and in cultural approaches. in particular those who live situations of war and inter-ethnic. Furthermore. The religious leaders of all denominations present in Abuja wish to convey a common message of peace. Moreover. Religious leaders alongside decision-makers. A change of mentality and behavioural patterns should be brought about. reciprocal knowledge and respect should be strongly promoted through appropriate education. far beyond tolerance. The religious leaders and participants of the Congress strongly stated that their beliefs and practices should not be manipulated or misinterpreted for political or ethnical purposes. as the West African example demonstrates. The participants felt that it is very important to recognise a set of shared values that link all humankind in its diversity. since humanistic values transcend all boundaries and are all equally committed to the common good. not only for the spiritual well-being of their communities. In order to achieve this aim. wish to work. rather than a threat to identities. They are aware that ignorance and mistrust of the “other” may be conducive to extremist attitudes. and the foundation of the daily lives of the populations in West Africa. religious leaders. they were able to freely express their convictions and viewpoints. multiple. by promoting dialogue among believers belonging to various denominations and non-believers alike. with the aim of building “peace in the minds of men”. inter-religious or intra-religious tension or conﬂicts. These beliefs and practices. ranging from entrenched identities to the rejection of the “other” and even to open fanaticism based on the idea that his/her belief is the only truth. considered as an asset. who must avoid the manipulation of religious differences to electoral ends. be they academic or political.
including the traditional ones. non-formal and peer education. In conclusion.making) through formal. drama and oral stories for a better understanding among the various African communities. • Recognise religious leaders. as well as at the continental level. extended to all the team. in the framework of the Inter-religious Dia- 178 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. the participants wish to recommend: • The creation of “Inter-religious Dialogue Council” within the UN System. • Use contextual methods of counselling and prevention adapted to local realities and cultures. a common enemy attacking and killing all human beings. mainly in West Africa. to the President of the General Conference of UNESCO for his full support. • Encourage traditional expressions such as music. to all the ofﬁcers of the UNESCO Ofﬁce in Abuja and to the UNESCO Secretariat at Paris Headquarters. covering all the continents. in order to share knowledge and wisdom. including the ﬁght against HIV/AIDS. • Encourage the use of religious media channels to transmit messages of compassion. and Inter-religious Dialogue Council within the AU and ECOWAS. • Ensure better participation of women and youth at all levels (including decision. • Reinforce capacities of Faith Leaders and communities at all levels. • Encourage national and regional networks for common interfaith action. discrimination and give support to those infected and affected by HIV/ AIDS. This sort of teaching may prove to be an efﬁcient means of combating fanaticism. In order to ensure a continuation of this fruitful discussion. and their role as mediators in preventing or solving conﬂicts and in the ﬁght against HIV/ AIDS. Religions and Cultures . solidarity and tolerance. • Map potential areas of tension or conﬂict before they occur in order to prevent them. prejudices and stereotypes. the participants wish to express their gratitude to the Government of Nigeria. and could be part of a UNITWIN network of chairs in this ﬁeld. in order to build effective prevention and care.and Inter-religious dialogue is desirable. in particular to the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism. • Mobilise religious leadership in order to ﬁght HIV/AIDS. • Foster reciprocal knowledge through the design and production of pedagogical tools including NTCs and encourage UNESCO to set up Chairs on Intercultural and Inter-religious Dialogue in Africa. Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue. Such councils will promote and implement inter-religious dialogue on concrete issues. • Declare a joint war against HIV/AIDS. • Encourage the training of religious leaders to learn about other religious traditions. related stigma. • Bring together high proﬁle persons coming from different walks of life.
with Prof. Abuja. the victims of conﬂicts and all those who suffer from HIV/AIDS and other diseases. marginalized populations. women. which is considered by all as an important step in raising awareness to the urgent need of addressing the issue of reconstruction and reconciliation through a more proactive attitude in handling potential situations of conﬂict rather than reacting to them when they occur. Omolewa as chairman and Ms. 17 December 2003 The Closing Ceremony A brief closing ceremony was conducted after the adoption of The Abuja Statement. They all express their willingness to extend this initiative to other parts of Africa and deepen this dialogue targeting speciﬁc publics such as youth. FINAL DECLARATION 179 . hindering sustainable development and creating mistrust among populations. mainly.logue Programme – for the successful accomplishment of the Congress. Fatoumata Bintou Sanankoua as moderator.
DECLARATION FINALE Déclaration d’Abuja«Congrès international sur le dialogue des civilisations, des religions et des cultures en Afrique de l’Ouest» Abuja, 15-17 décembre 2003
«Le Congrès international sur le dialogue des civilisations, des religions et des cultures en Afrique de l’Ouest», tenu à Abuja (Nigeria) du 15 au 17 décembre 2003, est la première tentative que fait l’UNESCO pour ancrer le dialogue, dans toutes ses formes, en Afrique. Il s’inscrit dans le prolongement d’initiatives analogues dans des régions comme le bassin méditerranéen et l’Asie centrale. Le dialogue est un moyen unique de favoriser la paix entre des communautés différentes aux antécédents culturels, ethniques et religieux variés, qui constituent la principale richesse et le berceau de nombreuses civilisations interagissant et s’enrichissant mutuellement depuis des siècles. La civilisation africaine s’est étendue à bien des régions du monde, essentiellement aux Amériques, en raison de la traite des esclaves. Mais en dépit de cette tragédie, qui mérite qu’on la connaisse et qu’on la fasse connaître davantage, la culture et la spiritualité africaines se sont mêlées à d’autres cultures et les ont considérablement enrichies. Les personnalités présentes, dont le Secrétaire au Gouvernement de la Fédération qui représentait le Président du Nigeria et le Ministre de la culture et du tourisme, ainsi que les représentants de différents pays et organismes du système des Nations Unies, sont convenus que la prévention et le règlement des conﬂits passaient nécessairement par le dialogue, la réconciliation, la médiation, la connaissance réciproque et la compréhension mutuelle.
20. [Editor’s Note] A French version of “The Abuja Statement”.
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Ils ont reconnu la profonde inﬂuence des dirigeants religieux sur la collectivité et les ont encouragés à oeuvrer de concert au bien-être individuel et collectif, indépendamment de toutes considérations historiques ou d’origine, pour promouvoir l’égalité des hommes et des femmes et les droits de l’homme, et pour traiter de questions comme la pandémie de VIH/sida ; d’où la nécessité d’encourager à ces ﬁns la création d’ONG, d’associations ou de conseils locaux pour le dialogue interreligieux qui mèneraient des activités à la base et seraient les partenaires de l’UNESCO sur le terrain. Les participants ont travaillé dans un esprit de fraternité et de compréhension, mettant en commun leurs expériences et leurs bonnes pratiques et exprimant librement leurs convictions et leurs points de vue. Ils sont convenus que l’UNESCO était une instance neutre et qu’elle devait poursuivre ses efforts en encourageant le dialogue interculturel et interreligieux. Etant donné le contexte international et régional, le dialogue entre les cultures et les religions devrait être un programme phare du système des Nations Unies, et de l’UNESCO en particulier, en vue d’élever «les défenses de la paix» dans l’esprit des hommes, conformément aux dispositions de l’Acte constitutif de l’Organisation. Les participants ont souligné qu’il était de la plus haute importance d’identiﬁer un ensemble de valeurs partagées qui réunissent l’humanité tout entière dans sa diversité, diversité qui doit être considérée comme un atout et non comme une menace pesant sur les différentes identités, qui sont par essence multiples du fait de l’étroite proximité des communautés et du caractère composite des familles, comme en témoigne l’exemple de l’Afrique de l’Ouest. Les chefs religieux et les participants au Congrès ont fermement déclaré que leurs convictions et pratiques ne devaient pas être manipulées ou mal interprétées à des ﬁns politiques ou ethniques. Ces convictions et pratiques, qui font partie d’anciennes civilisations et cultures et sont le fondement de la vie quotidienne des populations d’Afrique de l’Ouest, ne sauraient être stéréotypées ni conduire à des amalgames. Les chefs religieux de toutes confessions présents à Abuja tiennent à adresser à l’humanité un message commun de paix, de justice et de solidarité. Les chefs religieux, aux côtés des décideurs, qu’ils représentent le monde universitaire ou le monde politique, expriment leur volonté de travailler ensemble à la réconciliation des communautés auxquelles ils appartiennent, en particulier de celles qui sont en proie à la guerre ou à des tensions ou conﬂits interethniques, interreligieux ou intra-religieux. Ils savent que l’ignorance et la déﬁance envers «autrui» peuvent conduire à des comportements extrémistes, allant du retranchement identitaire au rejet de «l’autre», voire à un fanatisme afﬁché prenant racine sur la conviction que telle ou telle foi incarne la seule vérité. Les chefs religieux se feront les défenseurs de la vie et leur enseignement sacré condamnera tout meurtre, quel qu’il soit, au nom des valeurs qu’ils chérissent et du message qu’ils souhaitent transmettre. A cet égard, les participants au Congrès lancent un appel, en particulier aux dirigeants politiques, pour qu’il n’y ait pas de manipulation des différends religieux à des ﬁns électorales.
Il faut promouvoir un changement de mentalité et de comportement, bien au-delà de la tolérance, en encourageant le dialogue entre croyants de diverses confessions comme entre non-croyants, étant donné que les valeurs humanistes transcendent toutes les frontières et se rattachent toutes également au bien commun. En outre, les chefs religieux, avec d’autres partenaires, veulent oeuvrer non seulement au bien-être spirituel des communautés dont ils ont la charge, mais aussi à des objectifs tels que l’atténuation de la pauvreté et l’éradication du VIH/sida, dans le cadre d’approches culturelles et fondées sur les droits de l’homme. A cet égard, la connaissance et le respect de l’autre doivent être fortement encouragés au moyen d’une éducation appropriée qui permette aux enfants et aux jeunes d’apprendre à vivre ensemble et dans le respect des différences, tout en reconnaissant ce qu’ils ont en commun. A cette ﬁn, il serait bon de créer une chaire UNESCO pour le dialogue interculturel et interreligieux, qui pourrait faire partie du réseau UNITWIN dans ce domaine et couvrir tous les continents. Aﬁn que ce débat fructueux puisse être poursuivi, les participants tiennent à recommander ce qui suit : • création d’un «Conseil interreligieux pour le dialogue» au sein du système des Nations Unies, ainsi qu’à l’échelle du continent et au sein de l’Union africaine et de la CEDEAO. Ces instances encourageront le dialogue interreligieux et le mettront en œuvre autour de questions concrètes ; • promotion de réseaux nationaux et régionaux d’action interreligieuse commune, notamment pour lutter contre le VIH/sida ; • réunion de personnalités éminentes venant de divers horizons, pour qu’elles puissent faire partager leur savoir et leur sagesse ; • reconnaissance des chefs religieux, y compris des chefs traditionnels, et de leur rôle de médiateurs dans la prévention et le règlement des conﬂits et dans la lutte contre le VIH/sida ; • promotion de la formation des chefs religieux à des traditions religieuses autres que les leurs, ce qui pourrait être un bon moyen de combattre le fanatisme, les préjugés et les stéréotypes ; • déclaration d’une guerre conjointe contre le VIH/sida, ennemi commun qui attaque et tue tous les êtres humains ; • mobilisation des chefs religieux pour lutter contre la stigmatisation et la discrimination liées au VIH/sida, et pour venir en aide aux personnes infectées ou affectées par le VIH/sida ; • renforcement des capacités des communautés et des chefs religieux à tous les niveaux, pour mettre en place une prévention et des soins efﬁcaces ; • utilisation de méthodes contextuelles de conseil et de prévention adaptées aux réalités et aux cultures locales ; • promotion de l’utilisation des médias religieux pour transmettre des messages de compassion, de solidarité et de tolérance ;
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• promotion d’une participation accrue des femmes et des jeunes à tous les niveaux (y compris au niveau de la prise de décision) au moyen de l’éducation formelle, non-formelle et de l’éducation par les pairs ; • recensement des zones potentielles de tension ou de conﬂit à des ﬁns de prévention ; • promotion de la connaissance réciproque grâce à l’élaboration et à la production d’outils pédagogiques, y compris les NTI, et sensibilisation de l’UNESCO à la nécessité de créer des chaires du dialogue interculturel et interreligieux en Afrique, essentiellement en Afrique de l’Ouest ; • promotion des expressions traditionnelles, comme la musique, le théâtre et les récits oraux, aﬁn d’amener les différentes communautés africaines à mieux se comprendre entre elles. En conclusion, les participants tiennent à exprimer leur gratitude au Gouvernement nigérian, en particulier au Ministère fédéral de la culture et du tourisme, au Président de la Conférence générale de l’UNESCO pour son plein appui, à tous les fonctionnaires du Bureau de l’UNESCO à Abuja et du Siège à Paris, ainsi qu’à la Division des politiques culturelles et du dialogue interculturel, dans le cadre de son Programme sur le dialogue interreligieux, pour tout ce qu’ils ont fait aﬁn d’assurer la réussite du Congrès. De l’avis général, celui-ci est décisif pour mieux sensibiliser à la pressante nécessité d’aborder les questions de reconstruction et de réconciliation en anticipant les conﬂits potentiels plutôt qu’en y réagissant lorsqu’ils se produisent, ce qui entrave le développement durable et suscite la déﬁance au sein des populations. Les participants expriment leur volonté unanime d’étendre cette initiative à d’autres régions d’Afrique et d’approfondir le dialogue, notamment avec les jeunes, les femmes et les populations marginalisées, ainsi qu’avec les victimes de conﬂit et tous ceux qui souffrent du VIH/sida ou d’autres maladies. Abuja, 17 décembre 2003
therefore. and even stimulating the further unfolding of existing civilisations? The answer. therefore. public arenas (and. To the extent that religions continue to express their concerns in both ways. For. [Editor’s Note] This and the subsequent appendix are presentations meant for delivery at the congress were not delivered owing to certain constraints. William Vendley (Secretary-General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace) Religions and the emergence of a universal civilisation: the question of political order H ow can religions contribute to the possibility of the development of an ever-thicker universal civilisation emerging out of. Religions and Cultures . their relationships with the civilisation to which they are intimately related) and to express their commitments in wider. if religion provides 21. forging new relationships with and contributing to an emerging universal civilisation). they will continue to contribute to the mutually creative dialogue among civilisations toward an ever-thicker universal civilisation. in short. co-abiding with. the question of political order. is to recognise that religions are in fact learning how to both retain their identities (and. often global. speciﬁcally the question of a global political order by which different states related to different civilisations can ﬂourish together. One example seems especially relevant.Appendix II21 The role of religion in the dialogue among civilisations by Dr. 184 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.
let alone an emerging universal civilisation with a universal government. negotiate treaties. are deemed irrelevant to public life and its challenges.a foundation for civilisation. collect taxes. Not withstanding its merits. and the moral basis for political order was no longer founded formally upon a religion. but that is increasingly an individual and private affair. especially in countries with religiously plural populations. Although the Enlightenment’s reasons for the banishment of religions from the public arena were many. in turn. are served by political institutions that express the meanings and values of a given culture and civilisation. then. believers themselves were often the ﬁrst to acknowledge the fact that religion was very often abused when it was fused with the state.22 Nevertheless. Ever more limited forms of rationality. ﬁght wars. “They do not. One may believe in one’s religion if one wants. particularly technical rationality and its economic correlates. in turn. establish justice. understood as the great receptacles of communal memory. religions have fought each other. p. the latter. [Author’s Note] Huntington. think in broad strokes about the limits of the Enlightenment arrangement: religion remains formally banished from the public arena. Therefore. it is worthwhile to examine very brieﬂy the relationship of religion to political order. religion was formally removed from the public arena. Religious commitments and the intellectual “warrants” for belief were to be kept out of public life and decision-making. A peculiar form of amnesia rules public life. maintain order. This contributed signiﬁcantly to the Enlightenment’s separation of religion from the state. as such. regarding the development of a notion of political order that can be constructively informed by and serve diverse religious-civilisational heritages. typically. 44. In this arrangement. no religion was given entitlement by the state. Appendix II 185 . an arrangement that was increasingly adopted around the world. Religious intolerance and the rejection of pluralism were only one manifestation of the disorder to which a fused religion-state relation was prone. but upon an Enlightenment version of a commitment to some form of public rationality. The vast and subtle realms of human memory. develops shared meanings and values that are given expression in political institutions that serve particular notions of political order. often over the question of political order. The question arises. or do any of the other things that governments do”. In short. The question should not lead to a confusion of religion or civilisation with government. reign as the basis of political and economic order. remain formally relegated to the sidelines. The public tries to face the future by making a social compact to 22. Civilisations are cultural not political entities. Historically. contained especially in the world’s religions. insofar as religions. Critical proponents of all particular religions and civilisations now know that they cannot make a ﬁnal claim to determine political order for everyone. which. religions and civilisations impact notions of political order.
the great repositories of memory. the foundations of civilisations. memory. If religions can ﬁnd a safe way to re-enter the public arena. think about religions ﬁnding a safe way to re-enter the public arena together. The religious engagement of secondary public language is the way for religions to re-enter the public arena to address the fundamental challenges that confront the human family. this public arena is increasingly global. Surely the public arena will still require public forms of rationality. Today. Today. what needs to be forged is an ever-thicker universal set of meaning and values that can inform common ways of life. have deﬁned most of human history. On the other hand. they will continue to both strengthen existing civilisational legacies and help to transpose those deep legacies into a common heritage in the service of the common good. Religions and Cultures . are now beginning to mediate their riches into the public arena in public terms. To the extent that they continue to do so. instead of public amnesia. yet still assist public language to more nearly approximate the moral ranges that religious languages know to be essential to humanity? If religions can ﬁnd the appropriate ways to re-enter the public arena. it would suggest that the Enlightenment solution of effectively keeping religion out of the public square might be more of a “creative pause” than an historical endpoint. a universal civilisation. In this scenario. Religions. All that was good in previous human experience becomes an analogue to inform the creativity of spirit we need in our own day. Surely one religion cannot dominate the others as was the temptation in the past. 186 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.formally forget the past. but need they necessarily be reductive? Must public language necessarily be closed to the realms of meaning to which religious languages refer? Could not public language be creatively engaged and transformed by the religions? Could not this transformation of public language both respect its non-sectarian character. becomes a resource for our collective creativity. that arena itself becomes the locus of historical continuity and encounter. in short. They are learning to both retain their primary languages and speak a secondary public language. deep memory of what it means to be a human being in community. insofar as it resides in religious carriers of meaning that have been used and. in fact.
political and economic – since ignorance is considered a sin with destructive tendencies. boasts the most appropriate creed for the prevention of conﬂict. In the past. traditional institutions had religions as their foundation and that arrangement had a strong historical component as exempliﬁed by the roles of such personages as Kankou Moussa. They serve as advisers and have a lot of inﬂuence on the population. (S2V208) The responsibility of Islam is great and highly sensible. were highly in demand by the authorities in times of secular crisis. for those who understood its tenets. but also as righteous and upright men. As a religion that recommends tolerance and peace in all situations. and between workers. yet. the government and political parties. They played their roles fully (as religious institutions) and. A similar situation could be observed in Mali where religious leaders were members of the mediation committee in a dispute that occurred between shepherds and farmers. They are perceived not only as representatives of God on earth and moral guides of society and embodiments of mystical power. Always. and in crises between the government and unions. (S8V60) and “Oh. Islam. in particular.Appendix III How religious leaders can contribute to the prevention of ethnic. as a place of worship. ethnic and religious conﬂicts. and so can play a prominent role in resolving cultural. The Koran says: “If one is inclined to peace one should truly be inclined to it and place one’s faith in Allah. is a kind of parliament that accomAppendix III L 187 . The leader is accountable to both God and men and. believers. such a leader’s stand must be decisive and objective. the Almighty. must be endowed with knowledge in both spiritual and secular matters – social. you should fully incline towards peace and do not follow the devil’s footsteps for he is a professed enemy”. the Omniscient”. schools. Askia Mohamed and Samory Touré. cultural and religious conflicts by Mamadou Traoré (A Delegate from Mali) eaders of the monotheistic religions are very important personalities in our African societies. therefore. A mosque. etc.
they were mistaken for the heads of such groups or men who were merely versed in Arabic. Religious leaders wield unparalleled inﬂuence in our society. who themselves had their representatives.modates everyone regardless of race. I thank you for listening. To conclude. I recommend that: 1. Religions and Cultures . Africa (as a whole) has speciﬁc values that none of the other civilisations can fully comprehend. 2. It is also ethical and inaugurates a high sense of decency. Most conﬂicts result from injustice and oppression. and it must rely on such values in order to achieve social peace and sustainable development. and only an honest and wise leader can resolve them. which is why our religious leaders should be involved in conﬂict resolution. Inter-religious dialogue involving members of all religions and the intellectual class be revived. Only the imam occupies an elevated position. (our) religious leaders were responsible for the maintenance of brotherhoods (tarikas) like the tidjaniya and the kadriya. ethnicity or social status. Quite often. Contrary to the notion that Islam is Arabic. it takes interest in African culture and accommodates it perfectly. In the past. 188 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. economic and social endeavours. Religious leaders become involved in political. such roles are usually more restricted (compared to those of religious leaders). Though politicians and judges also have their roles.
Ivory Coast Obafemi Awolowo University.) Akinwumi Isola (Prof. Obafemi Awolowo University. Cotonou Nigerian Network of People living Political Council for Inter-religions Dialogue UNESCO Institute of Science and Humanities. Nigeria Abuja UNESCO (Abuja) Nigerian Network of People living with HIV/AIDS The ECWA AIDS Ministry (TEAM) Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria 23.) Helena Drobnà (Ms) His Excellency Frank Nchita Ogbuewu (Mr) Hubert J.) Godson Lawson (Rev.) Aldo Landi (Mr. Charles (Mr) Ibrahim Doma (Mr) Isa Farma Bello (Rev. Ile-Ife UNAIDS (Country Representative) Country Nigeria Ivory Coast Nigeria Italy Orthodox Diocese of Nigeria. of Geography.) Organisation/Contact Address C/o Dept. Bamako UNESCO Methodist Church of Togo UNESCO Benin Nigeria Vatican City Benin Mali Benin Togo France Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism.) Fatoumata Bintou Sanankoua (Ms) Finagnon Mathias Oke (Prof. whose names are in the following List of Participants.) Aimé Pierre Kipré (Prof. Ile-Ife C/o Ministry of Education. organisers or contributors from the ﬂoor. Annex I 189 .Annex I List of Speakers23 Name Afolabi Ojo (Prof. Benin and Nigeria Togo RECADES. [Editor’s Note] This is a list of those who made presentations or delivered other forms of formal speeches at the congress as opposed to those who might have spoken as facilitators.) Alexander-George Gianniris (Bishop) Aligbononnon Oundogni (Mr) Chukwuma Jumbo (Mrs) with HIV/AIDS Denis Isizoh (Monsignor) Elisée Soumonni (Prof.
O.) Julie Sanda (Ms) Kaine Nwashili (Rev. Ade Ajayi (Prof.S. O. Religions and Cultures .A.) Wole Soyinka (Prof. GA 91785.) J.) Organisation/Contact Address International Religious Liberty Association Federation of Protestant Churches. Country Ivory Coast Cameroon Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Ghana Nigeria Senegal Mali Brazil Nigeria Benin France Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria 190 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.Name Japheth L. Garki. Cameroon University of Ibadan Catholic Church. 32. Emory University. Soares (Prof. Abuja Obafemi Awolowo University. Box 256. rue Kléber – BP 1908 (H. Upland. Abuja National War College. Lagos District Education Ofﬁce Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs Secrétariat épiscopal de Pastorale (SEP). P. U. Agboka (Dr) Jean-Emile Ngué (Rev. IleIfe. Lagos UNESCO UNESCO The Presidency. Abuja The Presidency. F. Abuja Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria.) Rosa Guerreiro (Ms) Ufot Ekaette (Chief) Wande Abimbola (Prof.) John Onaiyekan (Rev.) Katumi Mahama (Ms) Lateef Adegbite (Dr) Leon Diouf (Fr) Mamadou Traore (Mr) Mariza C. Box 847. P.M) HAVT Council Islamique Du Mali Federal University of Fluminense Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria.) Mohammed Kabir Kassim (Mr) Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai (Prof.C.I.
James O.) Organisation/Contact Address Jamaaiu Nasir Islam.Annex II List of Participants24 Name Abdulkadir Orire (Justice) Abiodun Adeyemi (Mr. M Sagay (Mr.) A.) A. Abuja Arts and Culture Delta Abuja Youth Organisation (NGO) Super Screen Television.) Agbai Mba (Mr. Abuja Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism.) Bamidele Ajayi (Mr.) Amaka Ene (Ms. Edeh (Mr.) A. he does not seem to have completed the original list of participants at the congress venue from which the current compilation is derived. Lagos Star Rockers Musical Entertainment. Lagos Abuja Council for Arts and Culture Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria 24. Oludare (Mr. Adeoy Agatha M.) Adeleye A. Abuja Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs National Council for Arts and Culture. Williams should be part of this list.) Banudele J. Onasuve (Mr.) Abubakar M.) Bala Abu (Mr. since I have credited him as having made a (valuable) contribution from the ﬂoor.) Adam A. Isme (Mr. Kaduna News Agency of Nigeria Centre/Patriot Magazine. Annex II 191 .) Austine Aruagboke (Mr. [Author’s Note] I wish to acknowledge that the name of Dr.) Arthur F. Ozo (Ms. Nigeria Abuja National Ambassador Newspaper. Umuahia Financial Standard. O.) Akin Oladokun (Mr. Abuja NATCOM-UNESCO Country Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Ologun (Mr. O. Idoko (Sheik) Adanna Anne-Marie Georgewill (Ms. and to list him here requires more personal information than is currently available. based of course on tangible evidence. Unfortunately. Yaba. Abuja Psychiatric Hospital. Abuja FRCN. Nigeria Abuja Federal Ministry of Education.
Adams (Mr. Owerri Culture and Tourism Youth Group (NGO). Nigeria Abuja Lagos State University NTDC. Abuja WOTCLEF. Abuja Super Screen Television.) Binuyo Nurudeen A. Akamisoko (Ven. Loko (Mr.) Duke T. Abuja Tradenews Publishing Ltd.) Cecil Mazzacurati (Ms.) Cecilia Uzodike (Ms.) Boni Okere (Mr. (Mr.) Dapo Asaju (Prof.) David Daouda Kiazolu (Mr. Abuja New Age Newspaper.) Emmanuel E.) Ese Awhotu (Ms.) Dogara M. Abuja Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria 192 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations.) Benson Awobusuyi (Mr.) Chinyelu C. Ude (Ms.) Chidi Amadi (Mr. Abuja UNESCO. Gonyok (Mr. Abuja Aso Radio. Abuja Grassroots Development Organisation.Name Beatrice Brown-Diogo (Mrs. Achi (Mr.) Organisation/Contact Address Black Creation International Band.) Emma Arinze (Mr. Okafor (Mr. Abuja Imo Broadcasting Corporation.) Emma Okere (Mr.) Bolaji Alabi (Mr. Omene. Abuja NICO Aso Radio.) C. (Abuja Correspondent) Newsworld Magazine.) Bonny C. Abuja Country Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism. K. Abuja Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim NATCOM-UNESCO NATCOM-UNESCO UNESCO Catholic Church.) Emmanuel Oghenete (Mr.) Eke Maria (Chief) Elisha Akaleme (Mr.) Bridget Okpa (Mr. O. Amos (Mr.) B. Abuja National Council for Arts and Culture.) Clinton Agbor (Mr. Abuja Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Paris Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Liberia Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria International Federation for World Peace Nigeria National Council for Arts and Culture. Religions and Cultures . Abuja University of Lagos Inter-religious Council of Liberia Glory International Churches.) Carolynn T.) Benedict Onoja (Mr. (Mrs.) Benedict E.) Deji Adekoya (Pastor) Denja Abdullah (Mr.
Abdulafata (Mr.) James Momoh (Mr.) Joshua Obeize (Mr.) Jonathan Ipaa (Mr. Abuja People Home Crusade. Olufemi (Mr.) J.Name Esohe Molokwu (Dr.) Ilori Olusegun (Ms. Abuja KTH Television. Abuja South-East Muslim Leaders’ Forum NTA.) Fabowale A.) Haroun O.) Evelyn Dadu (Ms. Abuja NTA .) John Kolawole (Mr. UNICEF Community Consultative Forum. C. Olugbon (Mr.) Jibrin Usman (Mr. Kalu (Mr. Gbadebo (Mr.) Jibiya Aliyu (Mr.) Kalu N.) Ferdinand Nwonye (Mr. Abuja National Compendium Media. L. Odekina (Mr. Abuja Federal Ministry of Education. Nigeria Abuja Black Creation International Band.) Fadila N. Abuja Futures Foundation International. Kaura (Mr. Abuja University of Ibadan The Monitor (Newspaper). Asubiojo (Mr.) Organisation/Contact Address UNESCO. Abuja Hear and Say Associates. Abuja African Youth Peace Movement.) Howana Strauss (Ms. C. O. Abuja Empower Nigeria (NGO).) John K. Abuja Federal Ministry of Education. Abuja Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Annex II 193 . Nsukka BPO.) Ibrahim A. Ekeson (Mr. Yusuff (Mr.) Joseph Noel (Mr. Abuja Committee for Art (CORA) Federal Ministry of Sports and Social Development. Ajah Hauwa Rufus (Ms. Enugu State Nigeria Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism.) Ikeogu Oke (Mr.) Funso E.) Johnson Asiboye (Mr. M. Abuja Editorial Director.) J.) John B. Abuja Country Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Canada Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Muslim Women Association. Idoko (Mrs.) Joseph Brown-Diogo (Mr.) Joseph Ibekwe (Mr.) Jahman.Abuja Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs NICO. O.) James N.) Johnson A. Abuja Canada Helk Committee University of Abuja University of Nigeria. Anikulapo (Mr. News Ministry of Foreign Affairs.) Kenneth Okafa (Mr. Abuja Women Today Newspaper.) Jackson Adebayo (Mr. Abuja New Nigeria Newspapers. Makaraba Abuja P.
Box 335. Nigeria Abuja The Presidency.) Nwankwo R.) Ogu Chidi (Mr.) Martins Orbenego (Mr. Kaduna Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria 194 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. O. Shehu (Mr. Abuja Department of Physics. Kaduna National Council for Arts and Culture. Abuja Emir’s Palace. Husseni (Ms.) Nwagbo Nwamkpa (Mr.) Matthias S. Edun (Ms. Mba (Ms. Olowu (Mr. Abuja National Crime Prevention Organisation. University of Abuja ONTORB (Nig. Magudu (Mr. P.) Odekanyin S. Adebiyi (Mr.) Mohammed S. Aminu (Mr. Ajaeroh (Mr. Nigeria Abuja Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism.) Organisation/Contact Address Hear and Say Associates.) Ogwaje Jumoh (Mr. Abuja Country Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism. M. GLOBAL Ltd. University of Abuja Jama’atu Nasril Islam Headquarters.) Oderaa I.) M.) Mong Eke (Mr. Abuja Grassroots Development Organisation. National Secretariat Godian Religion.P. A. Nasarawa State Daily Trust Newspaper. Uguri (Mr.) Moses Moore Emerson (Mr. Abuja MODETOLL Nig Ltd.) Mohammed B. Lokoja Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Abuja State House.) Nubo Eniola (Mr.A. M. Abuja Tripod Consultants. Abuja Law Department.D. Abuja Egbede Committee for the Handicapped. Abuja Impression Magazine.) O..Name Laissi Agani (Mr.) Nduka Nzedinya (Mr. Wamba. Abuja Hear and Say Associates.) Ngozi I. Aboh Mbaise G. Abuja Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs National Search Light News Paper.) Marcellin A.) Ltd. Ogueri (Mr. Abuja P.) M.) M. Uguri (Mr. Religions and Cultures .) Musa Kareem (Mr. Abuja Action for Religious Peace and Tolerance (NGO).) Nwoke Uduma (Mr.) Nafsatu A.) Miobalu Molid Raj (Mr. T. Onasanya (Mr.) Leo Ekpenyong (Mr.) Larry Koinyan (Mr.
Abuja Organisation of African Instituted Churches.) Shaagee Orikula (Mr.) Olufemi Ajayi (Mr.) O.) Udenta O. Nwankwo (Mr. K.) Ukpong U.) Taiwo Adeshina (Mr. Agbiara (Mr.) Rieca Niehele (Ms. Abuja UNESCO. Abuja Godian Religion. Abuja The Beam Newspaper. Abuja The Presidency.Name Ojah Okpo (Mr. Abuja NCMM.) Povenna Igwe (Ms. Ogun State Aso Radio. Abuja Prestige Rosh (Nig. Abakaliki State House.) Tony Ofam (Mr.) Rashid Aderinoye (Dr.) S. Ubong (Mr. Abuja Country Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Italy Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria Annex II 195 .) Uchechi A.) Sani Muhammad (Mr. Umo (Mr. Abuja International Red Cross Hear and Say Associates. Abuja VON. Abuja Business Day Media Hear and Say Associates. Abuja God’s Army Network Ministries.) Sampson Nwancho (Mr. P.) Ltd. Suoha (Ms.) Uwemedimo A.) Ukim Uwinana (Mr. Abuja Daily Independent Newspaper.) Tunde Adeniran (Mr. Box 3624.) Oluyemi K. Udenta (Mr. Ibadan Social Assisted Project Minaj Broadcasting International.) Tunde Adeniyi (Mr.) Oluyemi Omotosho (Mr.) Saldu Abibe (Mr.A. Hear and Say Associates.) Thelma Onwusanyo (Ms.) Veronica Lekwot (Ms.) Reuben C.) Tunde Adeniyi (Mr.) Organisation/Contact Address NICO. Obotuko (Mr) Oshinowo Olutoyin (Mr. Abuja C.) Taiwo Adeshina (Mr. Abuja Godian Religion.) Paul Douglas (Mr.) Sani Muhammad (Mr.) Rose Uhuegbu (Mr. Abuja Poverty Forum (NGO). Abuja 39. Abuja Daily Trust Newspaper. Abuja The Presidency. Dayo (Mr.) Oyelowo Mobolaji (Mr. Abuja Business Day Media.C Agbala Hura. Garki. Abuja State House. O. Uga Street. Abuja Breaking News Papers. Abuja VON.) Pierre Bossou (Mr.
his Assistant. without whose assistance this publication would not have seen the light of day. Nor should we forget Professor Ikeogu Oke and Ms Armelle Nadeau-Russell for having edited and revised the text. Finally our gratitude goes to Ambassador Michael Omolewa. the Representative. as well as to his entire team. for his untiring support throughout the proceedings. UNESCO’s Team (Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue) Rosa Guerreiro Helena Drobna Cécile Mazzacurati Vittoria Fresco Claire Moretain 196 Report of the International Congress of Dialogue on Civilisations. with particular gratitude to Mr Hubert Charles. Secretary-General of the World Conference on Religion for Peace. President of the General Conference of UNESCO. Religions and Cultures . We should also like to voice our thanks to Dr William Vendley. Ms Angela Chukwyunyem.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The Interreligious Dialogue Programme wishes to record its appreciation of the work of the UNESCO Abuja Ofﬁce.
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