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1.1   Background to the Study

        Nigeria is associated with a history of violence that has always been caused by conflict between Christian and Muslim groups. These clashes seem endemic, with the Plateau and Kaduna States experiencing some of the worst violence. More recently, the terrorist group associated with Islamist group known as Boko Haram which has been responsible for numerous brutal attacks and thousands of deaths in the North eastern regions like Yobe, Borno, Adamawa and Gombe State. Religion is only one factor in these conflicts; other factors include ethnic divisions, disputes between locals and migrants, land ownership, class conflict, and the burden of a colonial past. Local administrators have made efforts towards conflict resolution, but some stipulated aspects of the proposed solutions have been rejected by religious leaders. Since 1995, however, a new effort has taken place in Kaduna, Plateau, and other areas, with notable success and growing international recognition. More specifically, this study focuses on the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria.

        Nigeria is a state where Islam, Christianity and traditional African religions are freely practised. Nigeria’s two major religions, Islam and Christianity, are sometimes seen as heavyweights that confront each other in the battle field. Religious beliefs and values are an important feature of the daily lives of many families and communities in the country (Kukah 1993). It should also be noted that traditional beliefs, values and practices have a powerful impact upon our patterns of life and social interaction, as do the beliefs, values and practices of the many religions that have flourished in the country. Nigeria is clearly a prototype state in accommodating divergent religious fault-lines. With a population of over 150 million and over 250 ethno-linguistic groups, it is the only country with a population of approximately half Christians and half Muslims (Paden 2008; Kwaja 2009). Still today most violent conflicts contain religious elements linked up with ethno national, inter-state, economic, territorial and cultural issues. Conflicts based on religion tend to become dogged, tenacious and brutal (Kazah-Toure 2003; Kwaja 2008).

        In Nigeria, religious crisis are so common nowadays that some of them are now obviously fuelled by self-seeking individuals and groups to feather their selfish interests. There are various examples of the religious crises which are not even related with religion but primarily based on ethnic and political origin. Religion is exploited in this manner because it is the most vulnerable since adherents of the various religions, which are considered divine, can be very easily manipulated to fight for “God’s cause” dogmatically without reservation. Also, the continued terrorist attacks by Boko Haram have muffled any possibility of a meaningful and healthy engagement between the Christian and Muslim communities. Instead of working together to advance shared values, the conflict often inspires anti-Islam bigotry and extreme hate Islam sentiments.

        However, religion should be seen as a versatile tool for fostering brotherhood and sisterhood among all human races. The diversity in religions as well as different ethnic background therefore must be a source of harmony and unity. In order for true development to buoyant in our society, we need unity and harmony at all levels of religion in the country. We must all have it at the back of our minds that we all came to this world with nothing and shall go back with nothing except the evidence of our hand work. This study will investigate the strategies for improving inter-faith relationships in Nigeria.

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