In June of 2008, I re-presented a paper on religious crises in Nigeria. The thesis of the paper, which originally was presented at the Metro Urban Institute of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is that religious crises did not exist in Nigeria. Well, as I expected, the presentation met with the stiffest of criticism from the Religious Studies constituency there. Cataloguing factual recurrences of religious imbroglio from pre-Independence Nigeria to the post-colonial (2008), Dr. Samson Fatokun, a professor of Church History, argued that in fact, religious crises were veritable and verifiable perennial evils in Nigeria.
Other eminently respected academics made significant contributions as well. But the symbolic trajectory of that particular paper was not to catalogue what was generally deemed as recurring religious wars, but it was a litmus test to determine:
- Openness of religious studies to engage discourse outside of inherited colonial discursive constructs;
- Identify the percentage of willing sojourners on the ‘new unpopular’ outside-the-box lane; and finally to
- Unravel the locations of the old christianity-oriented paradigm of non-engaging end-of-discourse.
To start with, the theme of the paper was violence freighted in the name of religion, that is, the category of violence which often is designated under the religious or God label. Importantly, the character of this violence is generally assumed to belong to an-other group, Islam (typified in the northern Nigeria brand). An ideological assumptive premise is that the Islam or Christianity in southern Nigeria are generally exempted from, or inoculated against the psychological or emotive malaise of religion. My imperative therefore, was in fact to point just to the contrariness of such logic. But to be able to do so, there is need to open up the conversation on religion more broadly.
There are two departments of religious studies on the campus of Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan:
- The Department of Religious Studies; and
- The Department of Islamic and Arabic Studies.
We may actually, for polemical purposes, simply conjure up arguments that there is actually only ONE department of religious studies at this great university. However, to do so we will also have inadvertently but successfully provided response to point #2 above.
To be continued