HARMONIOUS RELIGIOUS COEXISTENCE IN THE BARRACKS, A MODEL APPROACH FOR HUMANITY
1.1 Background of the Study
At the very heart of nature and human existence is religion. Not only does it give order to a just society, it also offers explanation to the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly in relation to other human beings. Thus Nottingham (2004) describes religion as;
A cultural tool by means of which man has been able to accommodate himself to his experience in his total environment including his fellow group members, the sacred and the world of nature
Therefore for the survival of any nation, religion must be seen as making an essential contribution. However, a cursory glance at religion today indicates that, it has become the source of disunity among people of the same religion and those of other religions. In many parts of the world, religion has become the source of unrest; Battles have been fought, won and lost, all in the name of religion due to the activities of religious extremists fanatics, politicians and trouble shooters.3 Thus the word of the psalmist thus comes to bear and is questioned here;
How wonderful it is, how pleasant for God’s people to live together in harmony it is, like the precious anointing oil, running down from Aaron’s head and beard.4
Islam and Christianity along with Judaism are the three world’s major monotheistic religions. That is the religions which believe in one God. All three religions were founded in the Middle East; all three of them make reference to the Torah, the revealed will of God as expressed in the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy5. The number of Muslims in the world is about eight to nine hundred million below the total number of Christians, but almost the same as the number of Catholics estimated at about nine hundred seventy six million(in 1996).6
The world of Islam stretches in a broad band by Senegal in the west coast of Africa to Indonesia in the eastern side of the Asian continent not far north of Australia. Apart from overwhelmingly Muslim countries of North Africa there are few countries south of the Sahara which does not have a sizeable Muslim population. Present day Europe and the United States of America in particular have a large followership of the Islamic religion too.
An increasing number of Catholics in Africa and Nigeria in particular have as neighbors or work colleagues, fellow Christians of other denomination as well as Muslims and even traditionalists. They pass by Protestant, Pentecostal churches and even Mosques to go to school, or to the market. They hear the early morning calling of the muezzin to Muslim prayers. But how much do we Christians know about our different faith beliefs and how much do we know about Islam? What prejudices do we harbor against Muslims and as Catholics, what prejudices do we have against other Christians and they against us?
Christianity did exist as one single unit following the injunctions of Christ for his followers “that all may be one”, “so that the world may believe” (Jn.l7:21,23); however there came two great divisions that shook the whole of Christendom. First, it was the Eastern Church which broke away from the western church, taking with her a stance of “autonomy” and “orthodoxy” in 1054; then came the second division, which occurred within the western church four centuries later because of the reformation.
In the midst of all these divisions came the advent of Islam and with religious tension, violence and intolerance among different religious adherents today. It is rather pathetic that co-existence among Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims is not cordial. There is total distrust and intolerance among them. Why is this so? Is this the world God created and is it how he had wanted it to be? Is it the unity Christ prayed for? In this work I will want to explore these problems of lack of peaceful co-existence among Christians and Muslims in the barracks. Because the experience which is happening in the secular society is gradually creeping into the barracks and the situation which is happening in Eastern Europe is in the offing.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The necessity of peaceful co-existence in the world is acknowledged by almost all the populace of the world. Very often though, this idea is not given the practical interpretation it deserves. Even though this dilemma is pathetic, the real problem is not so much in their differences of doctrines, faith, governance and theology, but rather the inability of people who claim the same creator, made in his own image and likeness and believe their final destiny lies with the same God, to stay together in peace and harmony.
Growing up in the barracks, the researcher experienced some of his best moments in life. A period when Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike and Muslims shared a lot in common without an iota of distrust. However, years after leaving the barracks, he returned to his roots again. The situation this time around has changed. Christians no longer live as one and there is constant tension between Christians and Muslims all waiting for the day of doom.
Why this sudden change? Is it because of outside influence or from within? Where has the military discipline gone to and how do we manage this impending danger before it gets out of hand? In this work, we will try to point out the causes of this problem and draw out modalities to stop them and return to the status quo ante.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The objective of this study is to see how possible the harmonious coexistence among people in the barracks the researcher experienced as a kid will be revisited and once again re-applied to this present day situation and how this can serve as a model approach to improve the level of co-existence among people in similar situations.
1.4 Significance of the Study
It is a well known and accepted fact that almost all places where people of different faiths and creeds stay, there might be some level of tension and clash of interests. In some cases these lead to full blown conflicts and open confrontations, while in others it is just a matter of time for violence to rear its ugly head.
The significance of this study in this regard, is in consonance with many other works already written, initiatives already taken and modalities already adopted. This work will seek to shed more light on coexistence in the barracks, the military way of life and how we can imbibe some of them for the larger society.
1.5 Sources and Methods of Data Collection
The sources and methods of data collection shall be made through documentary and library research, and interview method, in order to meet with present day challenges.
1.6 Clarification of Concepts
i. Religion: Like human nature, religion is complex because what it may mean to one person may mean something else for another person based on cultural background and experience. “Everyone has some idea about religion and perhaps some mental pictures to go with it, but in trying to put that idea or picture into a comprehensive definition, the task becomes surprisingly difficult.”7 Religion according to the Oxford Dictionary is defined as a belief in the existence of God or gods.8 It also went further to explain it as a controlling influence on one’s life9. According to Bouguet,( 2009 ) a true religion since it acknowledges the existence of God or gods, should also value all of God’s creation. Therefore, religion, unless it is a contradiction in terms must promote unity and value the right to life.”10
At water ( 2007 ), on his part sees religion as “a system of beliefs and practices having reference to human relations with God. It is the sum total of beliefs, sentiments and practices, individual or social groups, which have their objective a power which man/ woman recognizes as supreme, on which he/or she depends and with which he/she can enter or has entered into relation.” It is obvious that religion means different things to different people. While in this the researcher does not intend to define religion since any attempt may not succeed in giving a unified definition of religion, his essential point in shedding light towards an appreciation, understanding and workings of religion in society has to do with a document of the Second Vatican Council “Nostra Aetate which points out religion as an avenue that man falls back to for “an answer to the unsolved riddles of human existence.”I2 It is thus important to note that whichever way religion is viewed, one cannot ignore its human dimension which has given rise to religion to meet certain human concerns and yearnings.
ii. Co-existence – According to the International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary ( ) co-existence is the state of co-existingl3 that is peaceful coexistence. It is an act of existing at the same time, side by side by individuals, groups, communities, states with opposing political systems, social and religious systems and beliefs. However as this work implies, coexistence is “a meeting of hearts and minds across religious frontiers. It is a meeting of people with different backgrounds who are willing to tolerate and stay together. Their coexisting may involve a campaign against injustice, fanaticism, violence and contribution to the social wellbeing of the people. The end results of which will be cooperation in harmony, mutual respect, peace, unity and development. Coexistence thus, pre-supposes respect of one another and the other’s belief system. There is little room for tension or conflict when such exists rather what is obtainable is peace and tranquility.
iii. Harmonious – The Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary ( ) defines it as; a state characterized by harmony or agreement. The people or groups that constitute this state are in agreement in feelings, interests and opinions and regardless of their differences, they work in harmony.
iv. Humanity– Man has a nature, widespread and persistent that is obviously characteristic of his kind and notably different from other natures of other living things. Humanity is then taken to be a resultant of man’s characteristic experience in any and all societies so far every where man lives, man has lived with groups with similar basic necessities and activities. He has known intimate and personal relationships, he has recognized differences between people close to him and of his own kind and other people further away and off another kind. The Oxford Dictionary thus defines humanity as human beings thought of as a group or the entire human race.14
l.7 Scope and Delimitation
In this research work, we will try to look at how the three religious bodies in the barrack that is the Roman Catholic, Protestants and the Islamic bodies coexisted, and how things have taken a new dimension. We shall in this study take into cognizance the influence of civil bodies in the present situation in the barracks we shall use the Ribadu Cantonment Barracks Kaduna as a point of reference for this study and due to difficult military bureaucracies the researcher will resort to scanty information received from people willing to assist. This work intends to serve as a model for coexistence among people of the entire human race with the barracks as a case study.
1.8 Structural Organization of the Work
This essay is made up of five chapters. Chapter one starts by stating what problem it hopes to look into, what inspired the research, the significance of the essay and what strategy will be used to unravel the situation. The second chapter reviews literatures and their usefulness to the work. Chapter three makes the methodology of the research work. The fourth chapter is the presentation and analysis of data of the research work, while chapter five summarizes, concludes and provides recommendations towards harmonious co-existence in the work.