ETHICS OF RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
This study is intended to examine the high scale and increasing frequency of violence witnessed in Nigeria today. As a study in ethics, it is mainly concerned with examining how peoples of Nigeria evaluate the rightness and wrongness of violence. It will further determine if there are socio-cultural, political, ethnic, psychological or religious reasons, the different groups of people in Nigeria use in justifying or rejecting violence. The study employed the use of quantitative and qualitative methods. Specifically the questionnaire and oral sources formed the main primary source for collecting data, while many secondary sources were also used. The research findings reveal that there are some traditional cultural, ethnic, political, psychological and religious roots of violence in Nigeria. Although religion has been blamed to be the major source of violence in Nigeria, some of the problems associated with the phenomenon are not totally religious. If anything, people use religion for their selfish interests. Thus, the manipulators of religion should be checked. Findings have also revealed that violent oriented films influence the attitudes of children towards violence in Nigeria. Some modest recommendations have also been made on how to check the frequency of violence and its consequences in Nigeria.
TABLE OF CONTENT
Background of the study
Statement of problem
Purpose of the study
Significance of the study
Definition of terms
Administration of questionnaire
Method of data collection
Reliability and validity of instrument
Method of data analysis
Presentation and analysis of data
Responses made by school heads
Responses made by teachers
Summary of finding
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Violence is a common feature of social life in all types of societies. The scale, trend and patterns of violence vary across societies and periods (Alemika 2002). The prevalence of violence both locally and internationally has manifested a lot of devastation in human civilization. The acts of violence have in no small measure debilitated advancement in developing countries. Even in the most advanced countries, the phenomenon of violence has continued to be a reoccurring saga and thus poses a need for collaborative efforts in combating its dangers. Violence has consequently affected the behavioural patterns of various social groups and religious adherents. The consequences of violence therefore have continually drawn the attention of various governments, voluntary agencies, religious organizations and the academia towards controlling the spectre of its persistence.
The Nigerian situation presents a good case for examining the intricate patterns of persistent violent actions. Moreover, there is a complete admixture of the effects of the triad religious faiths, African Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity. Notably, Islam and Christianity are pitched to be the major rallying forces in escalating the scale of violent actions in Nigeria. It has therefore become necessary to give religion a premium as the basis for all objective analysis because religion transcends all barriers invented or imposed on human social existence. There are various religious faiths with different doctrines and traditions in Nigeria. These variations have also affected the attitudes of various religious adherents and have invariably widened their ethical dimensions towards violent actions. The primordial tendencies of various ethnic groups towards violence have also inevitably aggravated the scale and propensity of violent actions in different forms. The perennial eruption of various ethnic militia in Nigeria and the preponderant religious fundamentalism have in no small measure triggered and widened the scope of violence in various ramifications (Egwu 2001). It has therefore become necessary to find out the sources and various ethical beliefs towards violent actions in which Nigeria is seen as a major purveyor of these actions.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The phenomenon of violence is not a new one. Every society whether in the primitive or modern times has demonstrated some elements of violent activities at a particular stage of its development or civilization. The historic account in the Holy Bible has vividly portrayed how Cain brutally killed his brother Abel, (Revised Standard Bible. Gen. 4.8). There were also wars, which led to the conquest of Canaan (Jericho and Ai). Heroes such as Samson among the Judges, Saul and David among the kings are few examples of warlords that depicted the prevalence of violence from the early societies (Revised Standard Bible. Jos. 6 - 8, cf Judg. 14-16, 1 Sam. 11, 1 Sam. 17). History has also clearly shown that from the early Stone Age to the modern times, wars and violence have been the major characteristics of life at this time. Empires attacked and conquered each other right from the early Greek city states up to the modern times (Wesley et al 2001). What is “new” is the scale and widespread nature of violence in the world today. The preponderance of violence globally in forms of war, torture, assassinations, protests, riots, revolutions, ethno-religious conflicts, genocide, nuclear threats, biological warfare and other forms of violence cannot be quantified. A few examples will suffice to suggest the enormity and the wide spread scale of violence in the world today.
There was violence perpetrated in the Kashmir region. Gunmen and women were seen killing and bombing buses, cars and buildings with the claim of responsibility. This situation has helped in filling the terror camps in Afghanistan posing one of the most dare threats to stability in the region (Newsweek Oct. 2000). In Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant clashes are the most recurrent violent clashes. An explosion of violence in Ulster reveals that Northern Ireland was locked in its prison of bitter sectarian hostility (Time Magazine – July 1996). On a more serious note is the “America”Ÿs Black September,” of recent global threat of terrorism waged upon the United States of America (U.S.A.), where the World Trade Centre (W.T.C.) in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were attacked destroying thousands of human beings and inestimable property (Tell Magazine – Sept. 2001:44). Consequent to this was the eruption of anthrax posing a threat to the global community (Sunday Punch – Dec. 2000). These situations have also bridled the fragile peace process in progress in the Middle East (M.E.) and have also triggered the already existing violence amongst the Israelites and the Palestinians.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
One of the objectives of this study is to determine how traditional, colonial, religious and western values bequeathed to Nigerians have influenced their attitudes towards violence. Secondly, consideration shall be given to why there are increasing cases of religious bred violence in contemporary societies, and what has led to the increase in the frequency and the scale of violence inspite of the religious teaching on morality. Thirdly, the study will examine the ethical view points of the major religions (Islam and Christianity) in Nigeria on the issue of violence and determine whether there are similarities of teachings on peaceful co-existence.
Another objective is to determine what moral principles that can be used in justifying the various grounds for violence in contemporary times and to find out whether there can be conditions that can justify the use of violence for resolving misunderstandings and crises. Finally, the study will examine how tele-violence aggravates aggressive tendencies among children.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. Does different value system steer up ethnic violence in Nigeria?
2. Does traditional cultural values steer up aggressive behaviour among Nigeria youths?
3. Does religious value and belief steer up violence in Nigeria?
4. Does political and economic contestation steer up violence in Nigeria?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of this study is to increase the awareness of the dangers of violence to students in various institutions of learning, Christians, Muslims, the government, private sector, various social and ethnic groups in order to stimulate strategies and ways of combating the re-occurrence of violent actions in Nigeria. This work hopes to enlighten and alert religious adherents in Nigeria on their role in keeping peace and maintaining the virtues of religious tolerance while shunning the tendencies of religious provocation. The researcher intends to make valuable contributions to government, voluntary organizations and various religious groups on the need to create fora for intra and inter-faith dialogue, conferences and workshops on the need for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. Finally, this study intends to remind the government of the need to find out the fundamental causes of various violent actions in Nigeria with the hope of reducing the tempo of violence and impose appropriate punishment on the culprits.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The prevalence of violence has preceded the period of Nigeria”Ÿs independence. Even after independence, there have been glaring incidences of political violence and other forms of violent activities that characterized our nationhood. As a way of focus, the researcher intends to cover the period between 1980 - 2002. This period has witnessed incessant eruption of
violent religious actions compared to any other period in the history of Nigeria after independence. There were also incidences of political and communal violence especially from 1980 to 2002. This is further corroborated by Bala Usman in his analysis of violent communal conflicts in the central Nigerian uplands and the Middle Belt Basin; “communal violence in Nigeria has since from 1980 become more frequent, more widespread, more violently destructive of life and property” (Scope Newspaper Feb. 2002:8).
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Below is the clarification of terms relevant to this research work.
Like any other concept, ethics has defied a simple and universally accepted definition. In some cases, the definition is so vague and all inclusive that it does not sufficiently delimit ethics from other areas of human endeavour like psychology, law, economics, journalism and so on. In a general sense ethics is seen as a system or code of morals of a particular profession, group or religion (Udor 7).
Morality comes originally from the Latin “mores”, which simply means customs and usage of people. It has come to mean what is right or wrong in human conduct (Okeke 52). Mozia on the other hand, sees morality from the philosophical point of view which considers the nature of moral obligations and analyses or describes the values, obligations, finality, freedom and good conscience of moral actions of the individual within any given society (2).
The word violence has no precise or commonly accepted definition. The concept often serves as a catch for every variety of protest, militancy and coercion, destruction or condemnation (Anifowose 1). However, in whichever way violence is defined or
discussed, it will naturally encompass the dictionary meaning, “intention to hurt or kill; very strong feeling that is not controlled”
(Hornby 755). So situations like riots, coups, massacre, wars, pogrom, genocide, revolution, clashes, conflict, jihad and crusades, all fall within the ambit of violence. The etymological survey of the concept violence may help us have a clearer understanding of the word.
Justice in its Greek original “dikaiosyne” combines the notion of
observing the law, doing the right thing, honesty, respect for other persons property and rights and fair play (equity) (Cited in Ahmadu 131). The Oxford Advanced Learner”Ÿs Dictionary defines justice as “the right and fair behaviour or treatment: the quality of being fair or reasonable” (Hornby 645). Okullu is of the opinion that: Justice provides the standard by which the benefits and burdens of being together in society are distributed.
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