Church-state relationship in Nigeria : towards a peaceful co-existence in SearchWorks catalog
IN NIGERIA'S commerical capital, Lagos, the candle-like minarets of the Central Mosque look out over streets and alleyways filled with a. The Nigerian state will be better off if it hands-off issues of religion The untidy relationship between the church/mosque and state in Nigeria. Church-state relationship in Nigeria: towards a peaceful co-existence. Responsibility: by Anthony P. Okey Agbilibeazu. Imprint: Enugu: Cujane Printers and.
One, the relationship between citizens and their faith is a sacrosanct sphere which the freedom of worship and belief in the constitution makes an inalienable and fundamental right. The suspended regulation was an infringement on religious liberty and right to freedom of association as enshrined in our constitution. For any law to take away rights guaranteed in our constitution requires an amendment by the National Assembly.
Besides, it is difficult to adopt a regulatory template that would apply evenly and fairly across religious divides. What makes the guidelines even more dangerous is that politicians interested in manipulating the increasing influence of churches, mosques and other non-for-profit institutions can easily hide under these regulatory interests to cause religious upheaval in an already polarised polity. However, the challenge with the Pentecostal churches lies somewhere else: But since leaders of religious institutions and foundations are not above the law, it is an issue the authorities must deal with.
We believe the FRC board under the chairmanship of Mr. Adedotun Suleiman, in reviewing the suspended guidelines, should look at this issue. Since churches are registered as charity institutions, funds belonging to them cannot be diverted to establish investments cornered and privatised. For instance, all branches of Nigerian churches in the UK, USA and South Africa are regulated by law in those countries and indeed, many pastors have been sent to jail for sundry acts of fraud.
Thus de jure, religion was separated from politics, but de facto, it remained a veritable source of political legitimacy in the north before the end of the first republic. Between Secularity and Spirituality: Situating the Nigerian State A. The terms secularity and secularism have undergone intense scrutiny by various scholars, institutions, or groups seeking to conceptualize distinctions and impose definitions on the terms.
Although scholars have established a distinction between secularity and secularism, these concepts are commonly regarded as meaning the same thing: The words derive from the Latin, saeculum, which means both this age and this world, and combines a spatial sense and a temporal sense. In the Middle Ages, secular referred to priests who worked out in the world of local parishes, as opposed to priests who took vows of poverty and secluded themselves in monastic communities.
In all of these instances, the secular indicates a distancing from the sacred, the eternal, and the otherworldly. In the centuries that followed the secular began to separate itself from religious authority.
In terms of typologies, the soft and hard correspondingly moderate and strict variants of secularity and secularism have been identified. Kosmin used the historical divergence between the French and American revolutions to construct the theoretical divergence between soft and hard secularism.
According to him, the French revolution, which was anchored on a joint struggle against despotism, religion, the monarchy, and the Roman Catholic Church ie the French Jacobin traditionwas unreservedly antagonistic to religion and therefore promoted atheism.
In fact, the majority are liberal religionists. For the soft secularist, religion is properly a private lifestyle option, which must not threaten liberty and social harmony in a differentiated and pluralistic society. On the other hand, soft secularism safeguards guarantee the right to freedom of worship and religion to all persons, both leaders and the led, thereby protecting the rights of religious minorities.
Such a soft secularism, therefore, seeks to significantly reduce religious influence in public life, while at the same time guaranteeing freedom of religion and conscience to individuals and groups in the private realm.
A nation state could therefore adopt the hard strict variant of secularism or the soft moderate form. Nevertheless, in such systems religious symbols and connotations are commonly used in public institutions, while religious beliefs are widely considered a relevant part of the political discourse in many of these countries.
This is true of the United States, for instance, where religious sentiments are brought to bear on issues of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, etc. Thus even the soft or moderate conception of secularism is vehemently opposed by religious organizations as a threat to spirituality and a gradual recession to atheism.
Accordingly, a middle-of-the-road approach which seeks the limited integration of religion into the public realm what I refer to as moderate or concessional secularism 63 is hereby suggested as the most appropriate strategy. Is Nigeria a Secular State? Anyone saying Nigeria is a secular nation does not understand the meaning of the word secular.
There is nothing secular about the Nigerian nation since whatever we do will always put Islam and Christianity in the fore front. On the one hand, the Nigerian Christian community, particularly its leadership, has consistently held the view that the divine state has universally given way to the secular state, where the temporal secular ruler enjoys full autonomy as ruler with no control from religious or spiritual authorities. If you want to bring religion in, let it be after office hours.
It seeks to undermine Islamic values, supplant the Islamic laws with those of its own and deface the sanctity of the Muslim society. Afterwards, an evaluation of these laws is made against the de facto relationship between religion and the state. This analysis attempts to isolate what ought to be from what is the actual relationship between religion and the Nigerian state.
The starting point, therefore, is to identify the characteristics of secularism in a constitutional democracy. Wing and Varol exhaustively circumscribed the attributes of secularism in the following passage: First, in secular regimes, sovereignty belongs to the nation and not to a divine body …. Second, religion is separate from the State in a secular government. Third, a secular government is neutral towards all religions. As such, the regime cannot have an official religion and does not protect one religion over another.
Likewise, all individuals, irrespective of their religion, are equal before the law. Fourth, a secular regime requires the education and the legal systems to be secular. The legal system does not contain laws based on religion, and the education system is based on logic and science, not religion or dogmas. Fifth, a secular government requires freedom of religion and conscience. Thus, secularism does not mean the absence of religion from society.
Individuals are free to exercise their religions and manifest their religious beliefs in both the private and the public sphere. On the basis of these characteristics, therefore, the following queries are appropriate: Where does sovereignty reside in Nigeria—in the state or in a divine body? To what extent are Nigerian laws insulated from religious dogmas? Is the Nigerian state neutral and fair in its dealings with all religions?
Are Nigerian legal and educational systems independent of religious dogmas? Does the Nigerian constitution guarantee freedom of religion and conscience? Does the Nigerian state adhere to the principle of religious pluralism respect for all religions? The state is therefore sovereign to the extent that the constitution permits. Consequently, Nigerians being a multi-religious people would not have conceded to the state the right to govern them on the basis of a particular religious creed.
This logic rationalizes the provision of Section 10 of the Constitution which says: It has been argued that the significance of this provision is that no aspect of governance, federal or state, should be run according to the exclusive dogmas or jurisprudence of any religion. In many instances, pupils in such institutions who profess faiths other than those recognized and instructed are not afforded the opportunity of receiving instructions in their religions.
As an instance, the Act of Supremacy inin which England's Henry VIII established a state church, placed ecclesiastical structures under the authority of the crown. In many German principalities the same Protestant principle was enshrined through the formula cuius regio eius religio, or "to each prince his own religion. Wars of religion, most notably the Thirty Years War, followed as Catholics and Protestants fought for control of the state churches and the faith of the people.
Separation of Church and State As in reference , the doctrine of the separation of church and state has undergone, and is undergoing, constant modification. Its origins long predate the wars of religion. Saint Augustine considered all earthly governments, regardless of their form, as representative of the fallen and imperfect "city of man. The church, for Augustine, represented the perfect and eternal "city of God," preserving the divine, otherworldly values of peace, hope, and charity.
Hence, church and state were separate but related: Saint Thomas Aquinas defined the state as author and executor of human law, whose charge is the punishment of vice and encouragement of virtue. The church, he held, is the interpreter of divine law through natural law, of which human law is an inferior part. Hence, for Aquinas, the church properly advises the state on many matters, especially those relating to moral legislation.
Martin Luther made a radical break with traditional Christian theology and Catholic church polity by leveling the institutional hierarchy through "the priesthood of all believers," and by separating church and state in this world.
By defining the state purely as a "hangman," charged with establishing worldly peace through punishment of crime, and considering the church as primarily concerned with spiritual matters unrelated to politics, Luther effectively sundered the secular authority from the ecclesiastical and placed the church under the governance of the state. The other leading Reformation theologian, John Calvin, subscribed to Luther's democratic "priesthood of all believers," but at the same time he reestablished a distinct church authority by prescribing a governance of presbyters, elders, and deacons.
Non-Christian Traditions The leading non-Christian religions of the world, Islamic in the Middle East and Africa and Hindu-Buddhist in Asia, exhibit various configurations of sacred and secular, religious and political. Middle East Reference,Although the Islamic holy book, the Koran, does not contain an explicit theory of politics, several traditions of relations between the sacred and the secular have developed since the far-flung Islamic empire was embraced in a single caliphate.
Islam today is divided into Sunnites, who hold that political and religious authority should be united in one person, an imam caliph, and Shiites, who regard spiritual leadership and sometimes nationhood as less all-embracing. Thus in Sunnism the separation of religion and politics is denied, while in Shiite Islam, in which imams are restricted for the most part to their religious vocation, political action devolves on secular leaders.
In the 19th century, responding to European colonial domination, Islamic fundamentalism emerged, altering Muslim perspectives on religion and politics. Seeing Islamic weakness as the result of corruption by Western practices and beliefs, Islamic fundamentalism in the next century spread across the Middle East, enjoining military and political action to create an "Islamic republic" that would sweep away Western influence and establish a single state with the religious authorities in control.
With the proliferation of new nation states after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire innational governments in the Islamic world followed both Sunnite and Shiite tendencies. The oil-rich Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, combined religious and secular power in the figure of an absolute monarch Kuwait introduced its first constitution inSaudi Arabia only in In both states the Islamic Sharia is the foundation of the legal system.
Since the fall of the shah inShiite Iran has been constituted as an Islamic republic. Israel, although a modern democratic state in most respects, adheres to the traditional Jewish law, halachah, in some matters of personal conduct, including marriage and divorce.
Between The Church And The State
Moreover, the Orthodox community, through its political parties, seeks to extend the halachah to other areas of life. Asia Reference , Hindu views on religion and politics, which dominate social philosophy in India, rely less on formal institutional mechanisms than on an underlying theology that informs the proper ordering of society.
For Hinduism, the universe is made up of a God, or divine intelligence, that operates through cosmic laws properly ordering everything in existence. Each thing in the universe, including individuals and groups in society, should keep to its divinely ordained place and fulfill the duties of that place. Law, then, exists to maintain by force the performance of these obligations, which include one's caste duties and those duties associated with one's role as husband, wife, father, mother, son, or daughter.
The secular government in Delhi has had to contend with repeated outbreaks of Hindu militance, much of it directed against Muslims. As in reference , Buddhism, an offshoot of Hinduism, adheres to the basic view of the state as punishing crime and disorder but eliminates the divine origin of its cosmology and the caste-based definition of social harmony. Buddhism in Southeast Asia maintains its temporal power through close association with secular rulers.
In China, Japan, and elsewhere in Asia it influences government, if at all, largely through suasion. There are some sections of the Church which have stressed the utter hopelessness of this world and called upon the individual to concentrate solely on preparing his soul for the world to come. By ignoring the need for social reform, religion is divorced from the mainstream of human life. Christianity is not meant just for the soul; it is for the whole person. The Church must seek to transform both individual lives and the social situation that bring to many people anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.
The validity of this sort of church involvement in politics hangs on consistency in pointing out error and providing worthy example in leadership. Regrettably, the church in Kenya as in many African states has failed as a consistent critic as well as worthy example.
However, the church ought to strive to be right and persist, directed by the word of God. Unfortunately the church in Africa has sometimes, out of convenience, engaged in politics on the same plane as the world. As in reference, In the reign of the retired President Moi, these two institutions were on the forefront in pointing out evil limiting the freedom of the people.
But times seem to have changed when the present government took over power. The question is what has actually changed apart from the people in government?
Why did these institutions relegate their prophetic role? This inconsistency reflects badly on the church as conscience of society. In many African states, tribalism is in many cases the deciding factor behind voting trends. Party manifestos are written for legal purposes and kept away on shelves. As in reference,The wider populace is largely ignorant of the manifestos content and rally behind individual politicians from their ethnic group. This evil results to the rampant nepotism.
The church in Kenya has no moral basis to point out this vice because it is also largely organized and split along tribal lines. The colonial church did not attempt to make matters better when it divided the land among different mission agencies.
As a result, many people who plunge into politics, Christians and non-Christians alike, consciously exploit tribal feelings to their advantage. Linked to the problem of negative ethnicity in Kenyan politics is corruption and abuse of office. Corruption negates the welfare of the poor and the disadvantaged and creates bitterness which is a recipe for insecurity. Kenyans have lost billions of shillings through corrupt dealings by politicians and their powerful allies.
First there was the Goldenberg scandal followed by the dubious dealings of the government with the Anglo Leasing and Finance Limited. Kamlesh Pattni who was embroiled in the Goldenberg scandal where allegedly about 61 billions disappeared from the Kenyan Treasury has since converted to Christianity.
The impact of religion on a secular state: the Nigerian experience
The primary task has to be validating his political ambition as a Christian given his past dealings. It is not just Kamlesh who has to explain his position on corruption but indeed other church leaders who seek political positions. What is at stake here is first and foremost the individual witness in terms of integrity, the personal life of the politician concerned. Another question has to be how Christians hope to provide transparent political witness in a land where corruption seems to be tolerated by both church and state.
The church must also guard against involvement in politics as a defence of its own interests as this greatly compromises the Christian witness. In Kenya some churches have had a sort of established status by their association with the head of state. Woe to the shepherds… you eat the curds, cloth yourselves with wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. Conclusions The issue as to whether the church should be involved in politics is no longer a debate.
Church and politics are inseparable. The question therefore, is not whether the churches should be involved in politics but how and to what extent the church can contribute to democratic politics without losing sight of its mission, vision and indeed, credibility. The church should review its approach to the promotion of democratic governance, especially considering the lack of consensus among churches, in order to forge an ecumenical consensus that would credibly enhance maximum input of Christians in shaping the destiny of African countries.
Today, it is common for individuals, church leaders, denominations and church organisations to make pronouncements in the mass media, criticising various government sectors for "undemocratic" practices. One only needs to peruse the dailies to see the frequent accusations and counteraccusations between churches and state.
This adversarial approach does not augur well with both parties. In practice, it tends to strain the relations between the governments and the churches involved, with each side blaming the other instead of mutual co-operation. The various religious organisations should rethink about their mission of religion in politics and identify the appropriate approach to political issues.
In this way, realistic strategies may be formulated, that can create better working relationships with secular institutions through identification of common interests between religion and politics. Religion has an obligation to participate in re-building the nations of Africa on the principles of genuine freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation. The task of religious leaders is not merely to vibrate the current waves of public emotion but to seek to understand, and help others understand the national situation in order to be able to change it for the better.
Reference shows the confrontational approach does not seem to bear any positive results. Religion has a great opportunity to contribute to the reconciliation of the state and the states. Many religions are based on the basic principle of "Love of God and neighbour". It is with such contributions that religion can gain respect and relevance in the secular world. One of the most effective ways of imparting religious ideals is through schools. This avenue for direct religious influence, however, has been blocked by government takeover of schools founded by religious organisations, putting both the church and the state in the horns of a dilemma.
Many people, especially parents, today see the necessity of bringing up their children on religious principles. The need is even becoming more urgent in the face of indiscipline, riots and even mass murders as in Machakos District in Kenya where over 60 students were burnt to death in an inferno when their dormitory was set on fire purportedly by fellow students in our schools today.
The State must note that the problem of the young people and of countries can only be solved if genuine religious principles are used as a moral basis of the civil code. This can be done if the religious principles are inculcated in schools through the teaching of Religious education. Recommendations Having examined the various relationships between different religions and politics we note that there is no way religion can be separated from politics.
It must be emphasised that the state is a divine institution of God for human society all over the world. It is created to keep law and order in society.
Without outward civil order, no society can exist.
Religion comes in an institution by God to bring the mind of God to bear upon total human life and to contribute to the building of value systems upon which a sound human society is built. Whilst religion does not claim temporal power over people, it however appeals to their hearts and consciences.
The two institutions have a lot of common ends. They can work together in a task of building healthy and viable societies and in the moral and material development of the people.
The foundation for such co-operation must be a friendly relationship between the Church and the state, based on mutual respect. Reference suggests another very important type of relationship. He suggests that a happy relationship between religion and politics will depend on each recognising the other as an independent and distinct body in their entire office and function.
The State must recognise that the church has a divine right from God to possess and to use the rights of correction and admonition invested in it without threat or interference from the State. The different religious groups have the right to expect protection from the State in the interest of freedom of worship which comes from God. Reference shows that the Church on the other hand should recognise that the administration of public affairs belongs to the State. The formation of legislation and the enforcement of the same, are the responsibility of government.
It is also important that religious organisation do not act in isolation and in contradiction as though the same God is speaking different things to different people.
If the religious bodies speak about the love and unity that must characterise the nation, they must be seen as the champions in their own lives. Divisions and oppositions between the various religious bodies diminishes, if not totally rendering useless, the moral authority of religion to speak about related issues in politics.
This means that the various ecumenical councils which brings together several religious denominations must be consolidated. These councils or whatever name they are referred to, help denominations to work together on certain social programs co-operatively and provides them with a platform for dialogue between them and the State. Because it is drawn from different religious denominations, the "National" Councils are likely to be looked at by government officials as having a stronger voice than just isolated individual religious leaders.
Reference shows religious leaders must reject to compromise or to be bribed by the state to rationalise political issues. They must remember that they have dual functions: To carry out the spiritual mission of building the kingdom of God and also as citizens of their earthly country, they cannot avoid political involvement.
Therefore, religion and politics cannot be separated. They go together, though politics is subset of religion because as in notes, men and women and their hopes extend beyond the thing that is the State and beyond the sphere of political activity. This is where religion rightly should come in to help form a just and humane society.
One Spirit many Peoples.