By Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant (Media & Communications) to the CAN President, His Eminence, Rev Dr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle.
The Federal Government should introduce Interreligious Education to all levels of Education with a view to reduce the menace of religious violence and its attendant problems in the country.
This call was made Tuesday by the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence, Rev Dr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle in his paper INTERRELIGIOUS EDUCATION AND COMMON CITIZENSHIP VALUES in Vienna, Austria at an Interfaith Seminar organised by KAICIID.
Ayokunle who traced the incessant religious riots in Nigeria to the absence of History, Civics and Interreligious Education in our schools calls on all religious groups and the government to wake up to their responsibilities in this regard if religious violence will become history.
“In those days in Nigeria when we used to study history and civics in primary and secondary schools, basic knowledge of at least Christianity and Islam were taught, but today, when history is no longer taught, Inter-religious education has become more difficult.
“This to an extent may be responsible for a surge in religious violence more rampart now in Nigeria. All religious groups in Nigeria in particular and the globe in general must make concerted effort towards government’s inclusion of Inter-religious Education in the schools curricula.”
According to him, “All over the world, the current trend is that educational institutions – colleges, universities (many are not religiously affiliated!) and even certain seminaries – are actively looking for ways to respond to the issues of education in a religiously multi-faceted world.
“They seek to entrench a transformational process through which students could be educated to become global citizens with an understanding of the diversity of religious traditions and with strategies of pluralism that engage diversity in creative and productive ways. Obviously, inter-religious education is increasingly essential for equipping people to be citizens of the world.
“Therefore, from a societal as well as pedagogical points of view, all academic institutions irrespective of their theological affiliation or inclination should be obliged to foster a religious dimension to citizenship.”
Speaking further, Ayokunle who also doubled as the President, Nigerian Baptist Convention said Interreligious education contributes effectively in the formation of people’s and societies’ religious identities, as well as in shaping perceptions about the other.
On the General Benefits of Inter-religious Education, the CAN President listed the following:
– It doused the tension of stereotype or resentment against other peoples’ religion which causes distance in relationships.
– It increases beneficial inter-relationships and widens the student’s family network.
– Religiously bi-literate or educated people who know the history and theology of other religions are likely to have better grasp or understanding of world politics, history, culture and literature.
– Inter-religious Education gives students or people ample opportunities to make informed decision in adulthood of the religion they have the conviction to practice in life.
– Inter-religious education reduces religious conflicts and promotes mutual co-existence.
– Inter-religious education gives in the opportunity to see the world from more than one religious perspective and make better informed decisions. This would in the end give room to the accommodation of other religious adherents in the practice of their faith and mural interaction.
– It gives us room to appreciate similarities in all religions, especially, the common factors God and peace. It also allows us to understand the reasons for differences in religious beliefs.
– It enhances inter-faith dialogue and makes it more productive.