Towards Religious Understanding: An Assessment of the Ambivalence Roles of Religious Leaders in Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria

Rapheal Ojo Joseph ORCID iD

Issue: Vol.7  No.1  January 2021 Issue  Article 2 pp. 9-20
DOI :  |   Published online 21st January 2021.
© 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CCBY license (


The world today is becoming more violent than ever before. Sometimes, the violence can be political, ethnic, economic and or religious. In most cases, distinguishing the main cause of such violence from other causes might be difficult. The factors could be a combination of two issues viz: ethnoreligious conflicts or politico-religious conflicts. The religious experience in Nigeria today, as a multi-religious society so far has proven contrary to the general belief and the widespread expectation of people about religion as an institution that promotes social integration. Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria today (though being the dominant religions in Nigeria) is standing on shaky ground. The relationship is highly characterized by mutual suspicion, mistrust and distrust. In understanding this characterized reality in their interactions, this work interrogated the ambivalence roles played by religious leaders in Nigeria. And in doing this, the ethnographic research method was adopted. As part of its findings, it was discovered that there is a high level of intolerance among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria occasioned by unguarded utterances and abuse of freedom of speech by many uncensored religious leaders. Thus, setting the stage for avoidable and constant religious confrontations among the adherents of the two religious communities in Nigeria. The study recommends that peaceful co-existence can be possible if the government is responsible and responsive enough to address the basic needs of her masses which would reduce largely the manipulation of religion by clerics for personal gain. Furthermore, the place of meaningful dialogue should be embraced by religious leaders across different religious divides.

Keywords: Christian-Muslim Relations, Dialogue, Peaceful Co-existence, Religious leaders, Religious Understanding

Adekunle, J.O. “Religion and Politics in Transition,” in J.O. Adekunle, ed. Religion in Politics: Secularism and National Integration in Modern Nigeria, Eritrea: Africa World Press, Inc., 2009.

Akanmidu, R.A. “The Principles of Tolerance and Understanding: A Comparative Dimension of Coherence across Religious Boundaries in Nigeria,” in Suleiman, M.J. and Akanmidu, R.A. eds., Religious Experiences in a Multi-Religious State, First National CONFAB, 18th -22nd October, 2010.

Akinseye, F.A. “Religion and Violence: A Christian Discourse,” in R.A. Akanmidu, ed. et. al. Religion and Democracy in the 21st Century, National Association for the Study of Religions – NASR., 2010.

Akinwumi, O. “Before We Set the House Ablaze: Let us Consult our Oracle (History)”. The Third Inaugural Lecture Held at Nasarawa State University, Keffi on December 11th, 2009.

Alli, Y. and Omokhunu, G. “Nigeria’s Break-Up will be in Nobody’s Interest, Onaiyekan Warns-Oritsejafor to Jonathan: Expose Sponsors of Boko Haram”, in The Nation, Friday, May 31, 2013.

Arinze, F.C. Meeting Other Believers, Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 1997.

Audu, S.D. “A Historical Overview of the Violence of Religion and the ‘Religiousness’ of Violence,” in Insight: Journal of Religious Studies, Babcock University, Vol.4, September, 2008.

Best, S.G. ed. Religion and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in Northern Nigeria, Ibadan: John Archers Publishers Ltd., 2005.

Boer, J.H. Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations – Vol.2, Muslims: Why the Violence? In Nigeria’s Decades of Blood, 1980-2002, Vol.2, Jos: Honey City Press, 2004.

Branigin, W. “Obama Urges Florida Pastor to call off Koran Burning,” Accessed March 16, 2012.

Cathey, Libby “Weaponizing Religion: Trump’s attacks on Biden’s Faith, Calling his ‘against God’”, ABC News, 12 August, 2020.
Deedat, A. Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction? New York: Golden Empire Publications, 2011.

Ehioghae, E.M. “Religion and Violence in Contemporary Nigerian Society: A Proposal for Peaceful Co-Existence,” in Akanmidu, R.A. ed. Thoughts in the Humanity. Ilorin: Decency Printers & Stationary Ltd., 2011.

Ejenobo, D.T. “Religious Leaders as Political Actors: The Example of Israelite Prophets,” in Abubakre, R.D. eds. Religion and Politics in Nigeria, Nigerian Association for the Study of Religions – NASR, 1993.

Emenalo, P.N. “The Relationship between Islam and Christianity in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects” a B.A. Thesis submitted to the Department of Religious Studies, University of Jos, 1989.

FABC Office of Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs – OEIA, FABC, Paper S.NO. 131, Dialogue in Asia 30Th Anniversary First Bishops’ Institute for Interreligious Affairs BIRA, 2012.

Gamaliel, J.D. “An Analysis of Religion under the 1999 Constitution and Prospects for Peacebuilding in Nigeria,” in S.G. Best, ed. Religion and Post Conflict Peacebuilding in Northern Nigeria. Ibadan: John Archers Publishers Ltd., 2011.

Gwamna, J.D. “Ethnic Conflicts and Political Development in Africa: The Challenge for the Church”, BETFA Journal of the Ogbomosho Circle, 3, 2004.

Gwamna, J.D. Religion and Politics in Nigeria, Bukuru: ACTS Bookshop, 2010.

Holborn, H. and Haralambos, M. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 7th Edition, London: Harper Collins Publishers Limited, 2008.

Hornby, A.S. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, Eight Edition, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Igboin, B.O. “The Concomitance of Religious Conflicts in Nigeria: Secularity, Tolerance and Dialogue,” in Chepkwony, A.K.A. and Hess, P.M.J eds. Human Views on God: Variety Not Monotony, Essay in Honour of Ade P. Dopamu.

Eldoret: Moi University Press, 2010.

Isiramen, C.O. “Religious Crises and Development in Nigeria,” in C.O. Isiramen, (eds.) Religion and the Nigerian Nation: Some Topical Issues, Ibadan: En-Joy Press & Books, 2010.

Liman, S.H. “Shari’a and Politics: Crises, Conflicts and Resolutions,” in Adekunle, J.O.ed. Religion in Politics: Secularism and National Integration in Modern Nigeria, Eritrea: Africa World Press, Inc., 2009.

Lindt, G. “Leadership”, in Encyclopaedia of Religion, Vol.8. 2nd edition, Jones, Lindsay ed. Detroit: Thomas Gale, 2005.

Molloy, M. Experiencing the World’s Religions, London: Mayfield, 2002.

Moshay, G.J.O. Anatomy of the Qur’an, Ontario: Chick Publications, 2007.

Moshay, G.J.O. Who is this Allah? Ontario: Chick Publications, 2010.

Ojo, J.O. “Exegetical Study of Joshua 1:5-9 and the Need for Credible Leadership in African Christianity”, in Fatokun, S.A. et al, eds. African Christianity in Local and Global Context, Ibadan: Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, 2019.

Omoregbe, J.I. Comparative Religion: Christianity and other World Religions in Dialogue, Lagos: JOJA Press Ltd,1999.

Omotosho, A.O. “Religious Violence in Nigeria – the Causes and Solutions: An Islamic Perspective,” in Swedish Missiological Theme, 2003.

Onaiyekan, J.O. “Dividend of Religion in Nigeria”, Being a Public Lecture Delivered at the University of Ilorin, Ilorin on 12th May, 2010.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended in 2011.

Ukpe, J.I.J. and Tsendzuul, T.G. “Leadership and the Challenge of Development in Nigeria”, Religions: Journal of the Nigerian Association for the Study of Religions, Vol.28,1, January, 2018.

Umejesi, I.O. Oriental Religions: A Quest for Liberation and Wisdom, Ekpoma: Pon Publishers Ltd, 2010.

“Religious leaders in Nigeria call for Peace and Interreligious Cooperation.” Accessed February 20th, 2012.

Rapheal Ojo Joseph (M.A), is a PhD candidate and a Lecturer, with the Department of Religion and African Culture, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.

Ojo, R. J.,  “Towards Religious Understanding: An Assessment of the Ambivalence Roles of Religious Leaders in Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria” E-Journal of Religious and Theological Studies, 7 no.1 (2021): 9-20

© 2021 The Author(s). Published and Maintained by Noyam Publishers. This is an open access article under the CCBY license (