Ending the Cycle of Religious Violence In Nigeria Through An Application Of New Testament Ethics of Nonviolence And Peacemaking
The challenge of religious pluralism in Nigeria has always been the cause of an incessant cycle of religious violence between Muslims and Christians, especially in the northern states. As a result of this, there has been continuous mutual distrust and a subterranean struggle for dominance over one another. However, since 2009, this conflict assumed a different dimension due to the insurgency of the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram. The sect’s activities have led to a large scale destruction of properties, suicide bombings, kidnappings, and the eventual formation of an Islamic caliphate in the northeast of Nigeria. Christians and their churches became part of their targets. In response to these attacks, Christians in northern Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have threatened to defend themselves if the government fails to stop these attacks.
The task of this thesis is to show that as regrettable as the Boko Haram insurgency is, it is rather a shoot of a deeper problem whose root lies in the recurring cycle of hostilities between the two competing religions. It argues that ending the insurgency of Boko Haram may not necessarily ad- dress the perennial religious conflict. Against this backdrop, it therefore proposes a non-retaliatory response to the attacks of Boko Haram. Rather, CAN should see the insurgency as an opportunity to lead the nation into a new proactive, broad-based, all-encompassing, and result-oriented dialogue, in order to bring to an end this cycle of religious violence.
To do this, the New Testament teachings on nonviolence vis-aÌ€-vis proactive peacemaking were adopted as a theological framework. In addition, qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (survey) methodologies were used to collect data through representative sampling of selected focus groups and a randomly selected population comprising adherents of both religions. This is to determine the general perception on the true identity of Boko Haram, and to examine the applicability and workability of the biblical principle of peacemaking in order to end the cycle of religious violence in Nigeria.
The results indicate that there is a consensus for an imperative need for dialogue between Mus- lims and Christians in order to deal with the root cause of Boko Haram. Although there are a few different opinions of the true identity of the sect, results indicate that its members are viewed as terrorists operating under the guise of Islam. Because this research employed the New Testament ethics of nonviolence and peacemaking, it particularly recommends that Christians should rekin- dle the light of the gospel which embodies proclamation, peacemaking through genuine dialogue, reconciliation, and absolute trust in God’s unfailing justice. To achieve this, they should avoid rhetorical statements that portray them as “Christian militants” fighting for the preservation of Christianity as a religion because of the alleged Islamization agenda by Muslims.