• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Ensuring peaceful and religious harmony among the citizens

Ensuring peaceful and religious harmony among the citizens

Religious harmony is vital for solidarity and team spirit in a community of more than one religion. To enjoy the benefits of living in a non-violent and harmonious society, it is imperative to accept other believers from different religions, as failure to achieve peaceful co-existence among different religions could plunge society into a state of chaos. According to experts, religious pluralism is the state where every individual in a religiously diverse society has the right, freedom, and safety to worship according to their conscience.

Religions can contribute to enhancing social harmony and peace in a multi-ethnic community, as most religions emphasise values such as compassion, empathy, and kindness, which usually serve as a common ground for building understanding and respect for one another.

Islam as a religion of peace acknowledges the acceptance of a wide range of religions practised across the globe, while Christianity acknowledges and appreciates the existence of other religions, even as it preaches salvation through belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, yet it welcomes believers from other sects (Islam) as serving the same God.

Hence, it is apt to say that all religious beliefs are acceptable before the Almighty, and it is crucial to recognise that every believer’s mode of worship and statements are legitimate and deserve the same acceptance. Recognising the origins of various religions in a multi-religious society is key to making sure that harmony and solidarity exist in the state. It is identified that various religious activities in a multi-religious society should be seen as a crucial component in preserving social harmony.

One major difference between Christianity and Islam is the nature of God. A unique occurrence in the year 2024 Easter and Ramadan celebrations is that both celebrations were within a space of about 9 days from each other. As per tradition, millions of Christians across the globe celebrated Easter in commemoration of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, beginning on March 29th, Good Friday, and climaxing on April 1st, Easter Sunday. The episode is important for Christians as it reminds them that Jesus was crucified to cleanse men of all sin.

Similarly, the end of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the month in which the religious text of Islam was revealed, a very crucial period for the Muslim community, was celebrated on the 10th of April, a little over a week after the Easter holidays. Muslims across the globe observed the period through prayer and fasting, which is one of the pillars of Islamic practice, where the faithful usually engage in charity work, among other activities.

Does such a rare occasion, where Easter and Ramadan share the same month of celebration as experienced this year, have any significance? Well, religious scholars believe this is an important opportunity for people of different faiths to come together, worship, and learn from one another.

Fasting is a way of denying ourselves the excesses of life so that we might be more attuned to the Lord’s voice. It is also a way of disciplining ourselves, strengthening our “spiritual muscles,” so to speak, so that when temptations arise in life, we can decline their request by saying, No.

Laying credence to the need for harmonious relationships, the 2024 Ramadan lecture organised by the Ogun State government had the sermon, presented by the guest lecturer, Prof. Tajudeen Olalekan Yusuf, emphasise government policies, especially those formulations that would bring about peaceful co-existence among the non-Muslims and non-Christians in the state.

He said the Quran emphasised principles of justice and equality among all, justice and equality for individuals regardless of their background, ethnicity, religious background, or social status, and noted that it was the responsibility of the government to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for all citizens within the state in order to avoid religious crises.

A society that is devoid of religious intolerance is one that is free from extremism and radicalism, as experienced in some states in the northern part of the country. In such areas, lives and property are unsafe, and many live in fear, unable to go about their businesses. This, to a large extent, reduces the purchasing power of the people and the internally generated revenue (IGR) of affected states.

Religious tolerance, as exemplified in Ogun and many other states, encourages stable economic and social development, building social trust, strengthening community bonds, and promoting innovation and prosperity.

To continually build a peaceful and prosperous society, Muslims, Christians, and other practitioners of other religions need to collaborate with the government for the development of the state and the nation at large.

It is hoped that the attendant effect of the exercise will be of immense benefit to the nation, as there has clearly never been a greater need for sharing with the less privileged and the needy than exists today when millions of Nigerians can hardly make ends meet due to the prevailing economic situation in the country.

By paying attention to the plight of the poor, as was amply demonstrated in the course of Ramadan and Lent, we invariably place the welfare of our neighbour as important as ours. By allowing others to partake of our wealth or material possessions, we honour the One who gave us the wealth in the first place. This, though at the heart of all religions, is a virtue hardly imbibed by many in Nigeria; it should, however, be collectively embraced and celebrated.

The exercise instils a sense of empathy within us, helping us understand the plight of the less fortunate, feel and experience the pain of hunger, and feel the pangs of thirst that our brothers and sisters—who are often forced to go without food and drink—feel every waking day. It awakens in us the need to look out for the well-being of others, as demonstrated by the state government through the distribution of food items as palliative to the poor, indigent, and less privileged at mosques and churches throughout the period, thereby displaying the government’s empathy and care for the people.

As a matter of fact, the coincidence of Lent with this year’s Ramadan teaches us to treat our fellow human beings with respect, irrespective of religion, and also to strengthen our brotherhood on how to maintain unity and love among the Muslim and Christian communities and relate peacefully with others who do not share the same faith with us.

 

Òrúnbon, an opinion writer, poet, journalist, and public affairs analyst, writes in from Federal Housing Estate, Olomore, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Can be reached via: orunbonibrahima[email protected], 08034493944, or 08029301122.