The Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church

The Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church
The Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church

The Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church


This study examined the Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church. Over the years, Nigerians of different ethnic background have co-existed harmoniously. However, things began to change gradually in the buildup of the 1966 coup. Since then, there seems to have been no peace. Religious and ethnic sentiments now dominate the country’s daily activities. Some individuals are of the view that the nation be divided into at least three nations. Could it then be concluded that these groups in Nigeria cannot co-exist? Is it possible for Nigeria to exist as an entity? What role can Christianity play to ensure peaceful co-existence?  The study adopted a descriptive survey method was used.  The research design adopted for this work is cross-sectional survey and descriptive analysis on a randomly selected sample of the different categories of churches. The questionnaires were delivered by hand to the various target groups.  The research revealed that the three main religions in the country all preach peace and oneness as it offers a deep sense of understanding, reconciliation and human fellowship. This study shows the role of the church in ensuring peace and harmony in Nigeria through their religious values and principles involving love, forgiveness, justice, peace and tolerance. Some avenues of achieving this is through dialogue, seminars and workshop, as media of evangelizing and restoring hope in the country with their gospel of peace.

The Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church




1.1 Background of the Study

Nigeria is made up of about two hundred and fifty ethnic groups. She is rich in diverse cultures (Ejikeme, 2016). The dominant religions include Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religion. Due to differences in tribes and religious beliefs, there are numerous incidences of hostilities, resulting in destruction of lives and properties. Hostilities are recorded along the line of tribes and religions. The element that underline conflict according to Higazi, (2011) include “ethnicity, politics and religion”. The hostilities have become so pronounced that unity of the nation is under threat. Some of these threats are political crisis, militancy, land disputes, trade disputes, and religious crisis among others. It has become very difficult for an individual to live in a different culture or religion in Nigeria without being afraid of being killed. This is probably why Olawale, (2013) tagged Nigeria a “security risk nation” to which many international communities have warned their nations not to live or even travel to Nigeria. Nigeria has been experiencing a number of crises, social vices, and lack of cordial relationship among her citizens since independence. The various political crisis that led to the 1967-1970 civil war have had devastating effects on unity and peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.

Obuseh (2016) is of the view that Nigeria cannot live in peace because “of

selfishness”. Supporting this view on why Nigerians would not co-exist peacefully is Oluwaseun (2014) who sees religion as a threat to Nigeria‟s peaceful co-existence. According to him, “it is easy for a Yoruba to marry an Efik than for a Muslim to marry a Christian” and vice versa. This also shows religious intolerance as a threat to unity. And the questions, what ought to be the relationship between Christianity and peacebuilding? The question here is, what role can Christianity play to ensuring peace in Nigeria? Some scholars are of the view that Christianity cannot play any role towards peacebuilding because “religion is arguably one of the single most significant cause of war and turmoil in human history (Abu-Nimer 2001, Gopin 1997 & Diez de Velasco 2007). So much malevolence have been done in the name of religion (Ayer 1976, Cited in Collins et al. 2006). However, so much good has also been done in the name of religion.

Peace is a universal phenomenon that everyone desires and wishes to enjoy endlessly. Traditions, cultures, religions and societies do have different prescriptions to attaining and enjoying peace. Whenever and wherever there is peace there tends to be development and longevity is enjoyed (Salawu, 2010). To this end, Christianity which is one of the predominant religions in the world today teaches peace and encourages all adherents to the faiths to pursue peace and live peacefully with one another. The above statement now seems to be questionable with the rise of intra, inter and ethno-religious conflicts in the world. While most Arab and some European countries are faced with intra-religious conflicts, an African country like Nigeria is faced with both intra and inter-religious conflicts. Nigeria, which is popularly known as Africa’s most populous black nation with a population of now about 170 million people, with more than 250 ethnic groups has Christianity and Islam as its predominant religions, though there is still in existence the African Traditional Religion (ATR).

The successful expansion of the Christian missions in Nigeria “began in the 19th century through the activities of freed slaves from Sierra Leone” (Anene, 1991). Missionaries” activities carried with it the building of schools, churches, roads, hospitals and of course other institutions of government. It should be borne in mind that social reforms came with Christianity-commitment to national, moral and political advancement.

Christianity featured prominently in the “series of events that led to the development of Nigerian nation, and were able to bring about certain political, economic and technological changes in the region” (Ajayi, 1991). Their activities helped to break down ethic prejudices and to bring their converts in loyalty transcending ethnicities. Hence, patriotic Nigerians came to believe that by practicing Christianity they were paving the way for the creation of the Nigerian nation. The Nigeria state of their dream was one in which Christianity would flourish, inter-tribal wars would cease and the industrial, technological and intellectual revolutions which had occurred in Europe would repeat themselves in Nigeria. By encouraging a common consciousness, Christianity would reduce to a minimum all other sectional loyalties such as the many incipient tribal/crisis groups that divided Nigeria.

It becomes very necessary to ask if Christianity, being a major religion in Nigeria, has no capacity to contribute to Nigeria’s peaceful co-existence. Peaceful co-existence in Nigeria means Christians, Muslims and African Traditional religionists engaging in ecumenical discourse and working together in different contexts to engage with and proffer solutions to social, political, economic and cultural problems instead of the hate-filled antagonistic discourse of superiority and dominance. Whether Islam or Christian, what is common to both sides is that adherents of both faiths are human beings and faith also binds them together as Nigerians.

Christianity as a word means followers of Christ or Christ like. Christians therefore are those who follow and act the teaching of Christ in all ways of life. One of the climaxes of Christianity or Christian virtue is peace. Christians are enjoined in the Bible to embrace and live peacefully with their neighbors’. The following scriptures confirm this: Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34 vs 14). Blessed are the Peace makers for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5 vs 9). Let him eschew evil and do well; let him seek peace and ensue it (1 Peter 3 vs 11). Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12 vs 14). If it be possible, as much as it lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom 12 vs 18)

The word Peace in Christianity is translated from the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, which is a key word in the Bible and it’s at the center of how God wants us to live on earth. One of the key things Jesus came to give humanity is Peace and expects us to live in peace as cited in the scriptural verses above. Peace was not only what Jesus taught but He also lived it, this in most cases is what scholars call pacifism, as Jesus never taught violence, even at his arrest by the Pharisees and one of his disciples struck the ears of the priest, Jesus rebuked the disciple and said that “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Mathew 26:52, NKJV). In another place Jesus taught the people not to retaliate any evil done to them as it used to be, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, if one should strike you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek (Mathew 5:38-39, NKJV) but now to always forgive those that offend them and he charged them to forgive their neighbors even seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22, KJV). With all these scriptural teachings of the church, Christians are supposed to live in peace and harmony in the society.

Peaceful co-existence in Nigeria implies recognizing our differences and appreciating them. Importantly, Nigerians should focus on areas where they concur and work together to strengthen the common ties and design a mechanism that will enable them to actually appreciate their areas of disagreement with mutual respect for one another. It is the responsibility of Nigerians to work collectively to protect and safeguard our co-existence. In doing so, Nigerians must avoid extremism, exercise caution by recognizing the religious differences, show high level of understanding and respect for one another such that all and sundry are given equal opportunity so that Nigerians can live in peace with one another irrespective of their tribal and religious affiliations.

What practical ways and potential responsibilities can be explored by Christianity so as to sustain peaceful co-existence? These are the problems that this research resolves. The research adopted historical phenomenological in view of need to draw conclusions from the historical setting of problems associated with the quest for peaceful co-existence. The goal of this study is to examine the threats to sustainable peace in Nigeria; the role of the church.

The Threats to Sustainable Peace in Nigeria; the Role of the Church


1.2     Statement of the Problem

There are many factors that contribute to the unending conflict in Nigeria. The persistence of the turmoil in the country is related to insecurity, gradual economic decline, corruption, and political degradation. Supported by an increased decline of social justice, the non-equitable distribution of natural resources remains assumingly the main cause of the increasing conflict and violence in the country. This characterizes the weak performance in governance that has protracted conflicts and prevented the establishment of sustainable peace. All these problems call to question the role of the Church in still contributing to the provision of needed succor in these problem areas. In view of these problems and issues, the big question is the relevance of the Church in the present situation. Since relevance is an important feature of any meaningful phenomenon, event or institution, especially in the sphere of human life, the Church’s role in the solution of problems in the 21st century Nigerian society may be definitive in the justification of its existence among the Nigerian people.

However, moving from the great signs of vitality and great contributions of the Church to community development since the advent of the early missionaries to Eastern Nigerian, this work will look at the role of the Church in Nigeria today and set how it can help address itself to several problems of poverty and other social problems facing the people and see how it can further join the government and other stakeholders in bringing sustainable development among the people for which it was a source of hope in the past. This study therefore aim  to examine the threats to sustainable peace in Nigeria; the role of the church.

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