What African Families Can Do to Help Stop Religious Violence in 2020

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In February 2018, in Dapchi town, Nigeria, 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the infamous Boko Haram terrorist group. Out of the 110 girls, only one, Leah Sharibu, was a Christians, and the rest were Muslims. When Leah was asked to recite the Islamic declaration and put on the Hijab by her friends, she refused to, claiming that it was not her religion and belief. This act of rebellion caused her to be secluded from her friends during the release. However, it was later confirmed that Leah is alive and still holding onto her faith. This ordeal is one of the many unlawful acts that arise from religious conflicts.

Religion has numerous impacts on societal structures. It disrupts norms, values, and the view of society across the world. In Africa, religious violence is one of its common products, among many others. By definition, it’s a situation where violent behaviors are born out of religious precepts, doctrines, and texts. Now and then, there are stories of unrest between religious groups like Muslims and Christians. Provided that these vicious behaviors emerge from people, an attempt to end them will also circle back to the same people. To clarify, Africans are in the position to stop religious violence even at the smallest unit of society, that is, family. This article looks into the causes of religious violence and possible solutions to end it in Africa. 

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The Main Religions in Africa

religion in Africa

More than 84% of the world’s population identify themselves with a religious group. Owing to that, most Africans are utterly religious. However, an attempt to generalize African religion will only wrongly imply that all African cultures are homogeneous. Most of these religions practiced in Africa have been passed across generations. Hence, their relevance is only known to those who practice it. Religion is partially identified by the supreme being that is praised. The most dominant religions across Africa are Christianity and Islam, with Christians leading in South and Islam in the North.

The Most Common Cause of Religious Violence

Most hostilities arising from religious violence come from indifferences in beliefs and strive for dominance and validity. Moreover, recent studies show that many of these animosities in different countries resulted from mob violence from religion, harassment of women for violating religion codes, et cetera. Let’s look at these causes in much detail.

  • Extremism and Fundamentalism

religious violence
Women holding signs take part in a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a video it had obtained. Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girl secondary school in Chibok, in Borno state, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA)

Leaders or followers can propel violent behavior in religious groups. Islamic groups are known for being too much of extremisms in the sense that they oppose democracy, mutual respect, or tolerance for other faith groups. They believe that they are superior and deserve to rule. Such beliefs have led to terror groups such as Jihad and ISIS. These groups believe in violent approaches to all kinds of problems as viable solutions. 

  • Intolerance 

Most violent behaviors emanating from religion have the parties involved so convinced that their actions are justified. To a certain extent, they will view their enemies as an embodiment of evil that must be defeated. This trait, which was shared among the Zealots in the early days, is common in Africa. Different religious groups fail to tolerate the doctrines observed by others, and this leads to conflicts. Provided that religious leaders pass on most of these beliefs, followers adopt the teachings by default. Consequently, Christians, for instance, lack tolerance for Muslim violent behavior, thus leading to conflicts.

  • Harassment by Government and Social Groups

report published by Pew Research showed that most religious groups were harassed by either the government or social groups in 2016. The top three religions that were confronted were Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Since Africa has a huge percentage of Christians and Muslims, these harassments led to believers’ violent behaviors. In a bid to express hunger, most religious groups were forced to protest and fight other religions that they felt were being ‘wanted.’ Ultimately, these protests and riots led to religious violence.

  • The Influence of Crusades

In the early days, there existed groups within religious communities, primarily Christians, referred to as Crusaders. They had one goal, to forcefully reclaim ‘holy lands.’ For instance, Christians fought the Muslims out of Jerusalem around 1095 – 1202 CE. During those days, the campaigns were led by military forces under the directives of religious leaders. Nowadays, we can’t really trace crusaders, but some actions are attributed to it. For example, some religions in Africa that are Islamophobic include Christians. Borrowing from this, we have seen violence in the fight for dominance. 

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The Role of Parents in Stopping Religious Violence 

Christians Africa

Ending religious conflicts will call for everyone’s collective effort, regardless of their social, political, or economic status. However, for this case, our interest is in the role of family in stopping religious violence.

#1 – Educating their kids on the effects of religious violence 

Parents can do more than just nurturing spirituality in their kids. After all, family being the basic unit in society, this is where the child gathers much of their knowledge. Parents can help reduce religious violence by teaching their kids about their effects. These teachings should aim at educating kids on the major causes of religious conflicts. In effect, as these kids grow, they learn to appreciate religious differences, thus promoting unity.

#2 – Parents need to act as religious leaders in the family 

A religious leader of a faithful group needs to lead the followers in the right direction. In this case, the right direction that’s accepted by society. Since the general duty of a leader is to show direction, parents can advocate for what’s right in many ways—for instance, practicing spirituality together with the rest of the family. A family that grows in faith together, passes on respectful offsprings generations after generations. 

#3 – Parents should be able to direct children in the exercise of freedom of religion correctly

A parent should translate what the law stipulates about practicing religion in a certain African nation. These regulations are there to moderate activities and set standards for the betterment of the nation. Again, by understanding this, the child will get acquainted with why doing this or that is right or wrong. Furthermore, these regulations can be followed when disputing acts of violence arising from religious differences and such. 

The Current State of Religious Violence in Africa 

Matthias Basedau, a German political scientist, and Researcher pointed out that religious violence is on the rise in Africa. He argued that many African nations are weak. He also noted that religious conflicts are not purely based on religion. What does this mean? Several influences can lead to these conflicts; take, for example, political differences, or ethnicity. Ultimately, the most effective way of ending religious violence in Africa is first understanding the root. When the root cause is established, dealing with it will undoubtedly become easy. So, we’d love to know what are you doing to help stop religious violence in your country?


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