By Linda Ike
Professor Usman Mohammed of the International Relations Department, Kaduna state University, Nigeria has challenged ECOWAS Parliamentarians to prevail on the authorities at the National levels to domesticate laws to reduce religious intolerance in the sub-region.
He made the charge at a Delocalised meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament committees on Education, Science and Culture; Health, Telecommunications and Information Technology in Praia, Carpe Verde.
Presenting the paper titled: Religious Tolerance and Stability: key factors to peace and development in the ECOWAS region, Professor Mohammed said it would be impossible to eradicate religious intolerance hence the need for the implementation of appropriate laws that could put such tendency in check.
He further said that general assumption was that religion is a fundamental human rights as enshrined by the United Nations chattered, admitting that although states could differ when it comes to the issue of guaranteeing equal treatments under the law and constitution,
He said, “the inclination to have religious dogmatic adherences were bound, which posed a fundamental challenge in the region.
“We cannot deceive ourselves and say that we are going to eradicate religious intolerance , as it is human behaviour which is very unpredictable.
“The essence of studying human behaviour is to reduce, to control and to minimise and not to eradicate. This is a basic fact. So let us understand on the basic of this fact that there are behaviours that need to be controlled and in controlling it, we need laws. And in enacting laws , we need laws either from domestic to international or from regional to domestication, at the level of the states where democracy happens. This is very important.
“Therefore, you have a very significant role in the discharge of reduction of violence and religious intolerance in West Africa; to see to it that you talk to authorities at the national levels to domesticate laws that will be useful in reducing this intolerance.”
Professor mohammed liked Africa to a pot of porridge with a combination of several ingredients which if cooked properly would produce a delicious meal and if not handled with care, would disrupt the anatomy of the system.
“So, in diverse societies such as west Africa, people from different backgrounds practice multiple faiths, even within the same religion, multiple philosophical adherences are there, differences about social, economic and racial issues also come up, which may lead to religious intolerance to a large extent, if not carefully handled.”
He explained that different interpretations of religious scripture posed yet another factor which could give raise to religious intolerance.
“In the churches, in the mosques , we hear this issues of religious tolerance, interpretation of these scripture however, becomes another issue.
“The belief in them , whether it is dogmatic belief , or school of thoughts that gives the interpretation becomes another problem even within the same religion. So this is where we are , this is our source of problem . How do we believe in the scripture simple and straight forward , without subtraction, without addition , without some other scholars bringing their own belief into what the scriptures are saying?. You have different interpretations, different believes , different schools of thought , different sects. Again, the crises even within the same religion is there, in Islam we have different sects, in Christianity there are different sects. This is another problem.”
“The international Relations Scholar pointed to the fact that religious motivated violence is more present particularly in countries that have a high level of political instability or active insurgency.
He said religious violence may not always be caused by religious groups but secular groups such as political parties, ethnic associations and community unions might also incite religious violence to suit their political ideological agenda.
Prof mohammed therefore charged members of the ECOWAS Parliament to come out with solutions to be domesticated at the National level..
“Can ECOWAS Parliament interfere with solutions to be domesticated in all the 15 member countries? Can we talk to power the truth and let all National parliaments domesticate some of the good laws that may come out from your own deliberations? If you cant then what is the meaning of this meeting? What is the meaning of coming here to waste resources to come and talk? . It has become a talk shop. Let us understand that what ever we do here must come out with a good communique, where member countries will really see sense in them and try to go back to their parliament for implementation , for domestication and that is where we will find good result.”