OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA
His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,
President and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria,
Aso Rock Villa, Abuja
SUGGESTION ON FEDERAL RESPONSE TO ONE OF THE CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES FACING THE NATION: CREATION OF FEDERAL MINISTRY OF INTERRELIGIOUS AFFAIRS TO PROVIDE FRAMEWORK AND PLATFORM TO REDUCE RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED INSECURITY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
I am a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dedicated to advancing quality education of all, by all and for all. I have watched with deep concern the increasing cases of religious intolerance in our nation and around the world. Despite these challenges, I believe that we need to educate the citizens of the world and promote interreligious relationship as international relations are being championed in several ways. I believe that we have the human and material resources to make a commitment to building a world of education of all and for all, in which everyone can live in freedom, harmony, cooperation, and prosperity as informed global citizens.
Our nation is blessed with huge human and material resources and to whom much is given, much is also expected but yet our nation faces huge development challenges. Our world is at the threshold of a religious world war and our nation is providentially in a trigger point of such a global crisis, with Christians and Muslims relating with each other in suspicion. As you may be aware, Your Excellency, religions have dual potentials, either as a tool for sustainable development or an object of eternal destruction. I believe that we need to address the situation of religious intolerance in our nation and offer a model for the nations of the world as the days ahead shall witness several religiously motivated crisis in our nation and the world.
I have noted with great concern the several challenges facing the Nigeria nation despite the huge potentials in the human and natural resources of the country. I am deeply troubled by the increasing cases of religious intolerance leading to ethnic resentments and national insecurity and corruption. I do admit that no nation exists without challenges but I also understand that the greatness of any nation lies in her ability to respond to her national challenges.
I am deeply concerned by the continuing cases of religious intolerance and the growing challenges along religious lines in Nigeria and around the world. After a careful study of the challenges facing the nation at this time, I have identified three core areas, namely religions, regions and resources that require national policy and institutional structural response:
- There is the need to look into the challenges arising from religious intolerance and animosity among the different religious groups and faith based organization. This requires a national response toward promoting religious harmony and cooperation, which is essential for national development.
- There is the need to look into the challenges arising from regional and ethnic resentments and unhealthy competition among citizens from different regions of the country. This also requires a national response toward promoting regional harmony and integration for national development.
- There is the need to look into the challenges emerging from resources development and utilization by the leadership and citizens. This requires a national response toward ensuring effective nationwide resources development and utilization for sustainable national development.
I recognize the critical factor of religious intolerance in advancing regional ethnic disharmony as well as resources mismanagement, which has negatively affected our efforts toward sustainable national development. Highly troubled by the current wave of insecurity which is using religion as a tool to create fear and destabilize the nation, I am sending this open letter to propose critical contemporary response that the Federal Government of Nigeria can facilitate to curb the root causes of insecurity and provide a framework for other ways of addressing and combating insecurity in Nigeria.
I am aware that several legislative and executive measures and structures have been taken to address issues around regional ethnicity and resources mismanagement. However, I have noted that much has not been done in the areas of promoting religious harmony and cooperation, which is at the root of many other challenges the nation is facing. Some have felt that religion does not contribute to national development. I think that human beings are naturally both spiritually and physically endowed with potentials and religion if positively expressed influences inner spiritual development while other scientific efforts contribute toward outer physical development.
Proposal for Your Consideration
To this end, I am proposing for your esteemed consideration and urgent action, the need for institutional response by your esteemed office and the National Assembly to consider the need for the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Interreligious Affairs and a corresponding National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs. It may also be necessary to consider directing the Federal Ministry of Education to create a Department of Interreligious Education in the Ministry and to commence actions toward the teaching and learning of interreligious studies in schools, colleges and universities in order to raise a new generation of Nigerians with interreligious background as we march toward the 100th anniversary of the historic 1914 amalgamation by 2014.
It is my strong belief based on global best practices and even current reform efforts at the United Nations that the creation of the Federal Ministry of Interreligious Affairs and the National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs will contribute significantly to the promotion of religious harmony, tolerance and cooperation. The Ministry and Committee will provide the executive and legislative platform for discussions and understanding of religious issues and will facilitate the realization of religious harmony and cooperation.
The National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Interreligious Affairs can work together to provide the needed interreligious leadership and engage religious leaders and groups to initiate and implement programs to promote religious harmony, tolerance and cooperation. Such a ministry and committee at the Federal Executive Council and National Assembly respectively will encourage interreligious dialogue and facilitate initiatives like the following:
- Interreligious education in schools
- Interreligious day celebration by all religious groups and faith based organization to demonstrate religious brotherhood
- Interreligious Pilgrimage
- Establishment of Community/state/zonal Interreligious councils
- Establishment of interreligious centers and committees in local communities
- Interreligious community youth service and soccer/sports tournaments
- Other interreligious dialogue initiatives
In broad terms, I think that the 3 major mandates for the proposed Federal Ministry of Interreligious Affairs and National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs should cover the following:
- Establishment of a National Interreligious Culture
- National Policy on Interreligious Relationship
- National Interreligious Code of Conduct for Families
- National Interreligious Curriculum for Schools and other educational institutions
- National Interreligious Constitution for the nation and communities
- Building of National Interreligious Communities, Institutions and Programs, and
- Creation and Utilization of a National Interreligious Fund and other resources development.
It is my hope that the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly of Nigeria under your able leadership will use the available opportunity to take the lead in creating institutional response to the re-occurring religious intolerance in Nigeria and lay a strong foundation for the future generations. I am hopeful that you will consider the above proposal to save our nation from several problems, embarrassment and challenges by seriously and urgently facilitating the creation of the Ministry and National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs. Without doubt, the wisdom of our religious leaders working together under the Federal Executive Council and National Assembly Committee framework and guidance can help resolve the problems of intolerance, ethnic resentments, corruption and insecurity.
I am therefore praying the Almighty to continue to guide and protect you as you consider the suggestion on the need for a Ministry for Interreligious Affairs and National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs in the interest of our people, nation and the world. While assuring you of my availability and many other Nigerians to provide a more detailed framework for the focus of the proposed ministry and committee on Interreligious Affairs, our nation will ever remember your outstanding leadership at a time of global crisis and national challenges.
I will appreciate your kind consideration and response to this proposal for the creation of the Federal Ministry of Interreligious Affairs and National Assembly Committees on Interreligious Affairs to address the increasing wave of religious intolerance and other religiously motivated ills.
Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko
Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN)