Church and State in Montenegro: between National(istic) and Imperial Policies | Political Theology Network

A crisis is brewing in the tiny ex-Yugoslav country of Montenegro. There are massive street protests, attacks on priests, and fights in the Parliament. Various domestic, regional, and international actors, interests and policies are at stake here, giving us the opportunity to learn important lessons about national (and nationalistic) ideological projects, and the role of religion and international (also imperial) aspirations in their creation. And yet, mainstream Western media has shown little interest in the matter. One can speculate why.

The Government of Montenegro proposed new legislation on religious organizations called “The Law on the Freedom of Religion,” which was approved by the Parliament on December 27, 2019.  A draft version of the document is available from the website of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, both in the local language and in English. The legislation generated significant controversy due to its treatment of religious organizations, their internal procedures, as well as their property.

Article 4 specifies that:

“Prior to the appointment, i.e. announcement of the appointment if the highest religious leaders, a religious community shall confidentially notify the Government of Montenegro (hereinafter: the Government) about that.”

Article 16, § 1 requires that the application for registration of a religious community shall contain:

“The name of the religious community, which must be different from names of other religious communities and must not contain the official name of other state and its features”

For many, the most problematic article is 52, found under the
section “Transitional and Final Provisions”:

“Religious facilities and land used by the religious communities in the territory of Montenegro and for which is found to have been built or obtained from public resources of the state or have been in state ownership until 1 December 1918, as the cultural heritage of Montenegro, shall be the property of the state. Religious facilities for which if found to have been built on the territory of Montenegro from joint investments of the citizens until 1 December 1918, shall be the property of the state.”

The law caused an outrage among the members of the Orthodox Church
in Montenegro. Let me sketch some of the background which will, hopefully,
render the current crisis more intelligible.

There are four Orthodox dioceses (belonging to the Serbian
Orthodox Church, i.e. Patriarchate of Peć) whose territory is fully or in part
located on the territory of Montenegro. The Orthodox Church (i.e. these four dioceses)
is, by far, the largest religious organization in the country.

The majority of both the clergy and laity view the new legislation as a purposeful targeting of the Church by the Government. They interpret Article 16, § 1 as specifically crafted against the Orthodox Church, as the above-mentioned dioceses in Montenegro belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, the Article 52 appears to be a much more serious threat. Many these churches and monasteries are centuries old, predating even the formation of the modern state of Montenegro. If enacted, Article 52 could lead to the confiscation of Church property and its sacral objects.

Why would the government do this? Why would it go against the Church,
in a country where a significant majority of the population considers itself
Orthodox? This is where things get complicated.

Arguably the chief political authority in Montenegro, over the
past three decades, has been Milo Đukanović. He assumed the office of prime
minister in 1991, and has been in power ever since, performing the roles of
prime minister and president interchangeably (with a couple of years of break,
2006-2008, and 2010-2012). This style of rule brings to mind rulers in other
parts of Europe who have de facto been chief figures in the political
life of their countries for long periods of time, regardless of the name of the
office they would hold in a given moment. Not all long-lasting autocrats are
the same though: There are those who “we” (in the West) do not like very much,
since they refuse to obey us (branded as “evil autocrats”), and there are “our
kind of guys,” who are submissive enough to the Western political and economic
centers (branded as “democratic rulers”). Milo Đukanović, of course, belongs to
the latter group. During his pontificate the country joined the NATO alliance (in
2017), and he has successfully resisted a stronger Russian influence in the
country.

Đukanović, once upon a time, was loyal to Serbian president
Slobodan Milošević, and his allies in Montenegro. However, he switched sides just
in time, and his chief project became an independent Montenegro (proclaimed in
2006) and close cooperation with Western governments, military, and
multinational corporations. This where problems with the Serbian Orthodox
Church in Montenegro begin, in particular with the most prominent figure of
Montenegrin religious life—Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović). At times partners,
at other times in conflict, this turbulent relationship between the politician
and the metropolitan has ended up, as of now, in an open battle.

Đukanović’s vision of independent Montenegro and the new
Montenegrin identity also includes the vision of an autocephalous (“self-governed”)
“Montenegrin church” which would be loyal (some would suggest obedient as a much better word choice) to the State (i.e., his regime). Amfilohije and
other bishops do not seem to share the same vision. For them, there is no conflict
between an “authentic” Montenegrin identity and Serbian identity, and therefore
no problem with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro being part of the Serbian
Orthodox Church. (Nota bene, many figures and structures within the Serbian
Orthodox Church are by no means innocent in the political games that have been
played in the region, particularly when it comes to Serbian nationalism and the
policies of various autocrats from Belgrade, but that is a topic for another analysis.)

To foster a new Montenegrin identity, Đukanović’s regime started
to promote “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” as an “autocephalous” organization,
headed by the colorful figure of Miraš Dedejić. According to some sources, Dedejić
used to be an admirer of Slobodan Milošević and his policies. He had also been a
priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until he was excommunicated by Patriarch
Bartholomew. This organization is not recognized by any of the canonical
Orthodox Churches. Even Đukanović’s support has not been full or unconditional.
One is tempted to say that its purpose has primarily been to put pressure on Amfilohije
to follow the “right path.”  

This is how one can understand the recent actions, at least in one
of their complex and intertwined dimensions: Just as the Ukrainian political
leadership was advancing the (formerly) uncanonical church structures and their
autocephaly in the hope that it would strengthen Ukrainian national identity, as
well as the political elite who championed the project, Montenegrin leadership
might hope that promoting one group, which would be loyal to one political
project and obedient to the political authorities (Amfilohije has not proven
himself in that role), would lead to the recognition of autocephaly of that
group, with same or similar political results. Probably working out of these
hopes, the regime has, then, threatened the confiscation of Church property of
the “disloyal” Church, which is quietly accepted (if not blessed) by the
Western political centers. The trade seems straight-forward, based on a
widely-practiced strategy: “We” (political/economic centers in the West) will
turn a blind eye to violence, undemocratic policies, the autocratic style of
rule, breach of various rights, and so forth, and “you” (local political
elites) will ensure that the (military, economic, political) interests of those
centers are protected and advanced locally.

An obstacle in the case of Montenegro (unlike in the case of
Ukraine) is the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not seem willing to intervene
to support the formation of a new autocephalous Church, which would advance the
local national identity, being closely connected to the State. Not yet at least,
and not with Miraš’s team as a new autocephalous
church. It seems that there is awareness that right now there are no credible
candidates in Montenegro who would be willing to lead a potential autocephalous
church, neither there is popular support for such project.

For those less familiar with Orthodox ecclesiology, it is worth noting that in Orthodoxy there is no equivalent role to the one of the Roman pontiff. Orthodox ecclesiology has advanced the principle of conciliarity instead of the (universal) primacy of power of one ecclesiastical/imperial center. This does not mean, of course, that there have been no attempts of ecclesiastical seats to assume such power. Indeed, just as the seat of Rome infused the universalist aspirations to power into the emptied shell of the Western (Roman) Empire, so the bishops of “New Rome” (Constantinople) have occasionally aspired to assume both universal ecclesial, and even political authority (at times when the Empire was weakened). This universalism is reflected also in the title of the bishop/patriarch of Constantinople – “Ecumenical” – as the authority of this episcopal seat, as well as the authority of the (Roman) emperor, should ideally stretch over the entire oikoumene (inhabited world). What one can see, based on the recent actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is the (renewed) aspiration to usurp a position within the Orthodox world which would be, in some aspects at least, comparable to the position which the Roman pontiff gradually acquired in the West. This, predictably, provokes a lot of criticism.

The entire episode can thus be understood as yet another example of how the whole concept of autocephaly, the way it is generally understood and practiced in “Orthodox countries” nowadays, is highly problematic. If autocephaly is understood as something “naturally” linked to national/ethnic identities (and/or nation states), it is both theologically unacceptable and very harmful to the body of the Church in long term. Serious Orthodox ecclesiology does not operate with the concept of “national Churches,” although it has been widely (and mistakenly) used both in the public discourse and, sometimes, in academia. Local Churches (i.e. dioceses) are organized as administrative regional ecclesiastical unites, that gather the faithful of a certain territory (for the sake of serving the Liturgy) regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, race, etc. The predominant culture or customs have always been embraced in the Orthodox tradition, leaving a trace on how the service is conducted, which language is spoken, etc. However, the identity of the Church is not derived from the ethnic, national or other identities of the majority population of a certain territory, but from the Eucharist as the icon of the Kingdom of God. This is why an autocephalous Church makes sense as a self-governing administrative organization of dioceses of a certain region, having one of the local bishops as their own “head” (having the title of metropolitan, archbishop, pope or patriarch), but not as a “national” institution, or a Church of certain ethnic group (which, following Orthodox ecclesiology, amounts to nothing less than a heresy).

In practice, however, just as local ecclesiastical and political
elites are eager to exploit the (seriously flawed) understanding of autocephaly
as “national institutions,” for the sake of their own power struggles, so is
the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (Neo)imperial policies of ecclesiastical centers
(in this case of Phanar) can thus be very similar to the (neo)imperial policies
of States; both try to manipulate local nationalisms to their own advantage.
Therefore, if they serve the (neo)imperial agendas of “New Rome,” local
nationalisms and local “national” churches will be blessed. If they don’t,
local nationalisms and their cravings for autocephaly will be condemned in the
name of (neo)imperial “universalisms.”

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Persecution of Muslims in China and India Reveals Important Facts About Religion and Geopolitics

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India, China and Myanmar are three Asian countries currently engrossed in carrying out physical and cultural genocides on their Muslim populations. While the plight of Rohingya Muslims and Uighur Muslims is well known, the recent introduction of a new law expressly aimed at dispossessing Muslims of Indian citizenship has alerted many to the reality that India’s ruling BJP government sees itself as Hindu first and foremost.

Questions such as “Why aren’t the rich Arab countries saying anything?” have come up, with the implicit inference that Muslim-dominated countries are supposed to stick up for Muslims everywhere in the world. Others have pointed out that despite suffering oppression in some parts of the world, Muslims are also responsible for brutal acts of oppression against other minority groups elsewhere, which allegedly negates the sufferings of the prior group.

In this article, I will pick through these questions and viewpoints with a goal of isolating some useful truths about how religion, geopolitics and human nature constantly interplay and produce much of the world around us.

Oppression is a Matter of Perspective

Which religion is the most oppressed? I like to troll my Christian friends with the image below whenever the topic comes up about some religion or the other allegedly imposing its will at their expense.

The truth is however, that this image could apply to just about every religion on earth. As a general rule of thumb, the only limiting factor on whether or not a religion functions as an oppressive tyranny in a particular jurisdiction is the proportion of the population that practises it there. Similarly, the only thing stopping any religion from being an oppressed and downtrodden identity is whether it is a small enough minority for that to be possible.

While Muslims in India, Myanmar and China are going through untold degrees of horror because of their religious identities, Muslims in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Northern Nigeria are simultaneously visiting very similar horrors on Bah’ai, Shia Muslims, Christians, Budhists and other minorities in those areas. It turns out that the mere fact of belonging to a religious identity does not in fact, confer unrestricted global victimhood.

This point is important because it disproves the notion held by every major religion that its adherents follow a single set of standards and do things in the manner of a global “brotherhood.” In reality, Islam according to a Rohingya Muslim hiding from the Burmese military, and the same religion according to an itinerant herder in Kogi State bear almost no similarity to each other save for the most basic tenets. Environmental factors in fact have a bigger influence on how religions are practised than their own holy books. 

The current antics of India’s ruling BJP and its Hindu fundamentalist support base provide an important case in point as to how this works. Looking at the evolution of Hinduism from a passive philosophy into an openly militant ideology gives an important insight into how religion is in fact, a thoroughly contrived and amorphous set of ideas that can be changed, adjusted, aligned and revised at a moment’s notice in justification of anything at all. 

Hinduism traditionally sees itself as a religion of thoughtful, considered spirituality as against the angry dogmas of its Abrahamic neighbours, but something interesting is happening. Some argue that it started in the days of Gandhi, and some ascribe it to current Prime Minister Nanendra Modi, but whoever started it is a side note. The key point to note is that based on political factors, i.e anticolonial senitment against the British and anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by India’s national rivalry with Pakistan, Hinduism has somehow been coopted into the narrative of a jingoistic, monotheistic, mono-ethnic state which is  historical nonsense.

India has always been a pointedly pluralistic society, and in fact the geographical area now known as “India” does not even cover the geographical area of the India of antiquity. That India was a place of Hindus, Budhists, Muslims, Zoroastrians and everything in between. Hinduism never saw a problem with pluralism because Hinduism itself is a very plural religion – it has at least 13 major deities. The conversion of the Hindu identity into a political identity movement is a recent and contrived phenomenon first exploited by Gandhi as a means of opposing British colonialism, and now by Modi to oppose the Pakistanis/Muslims – it is a historical falsity.

The creation of Hindu fundamentalist movements like the RSS (which PM Modi belongs to) is something done in response to environmental factors. Spectacles like the RSS march below are evidence of yet another religion undergoing constant and ongoing evolution into whatever suits its purposes.

Something similar happened when medieval Europe turned into colonial Europe and European Christianity transitioned into a peaceful and pacifist ideology after centuries of being a bloodthirsty doctrine. The environmental factors that created the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, book burnings and witch hunts went away with the introduction of an industrial society, and thus the religion too transitioned.

In plain English, what all this means is that nobody actually practises a religion in the pure sense they imagine they do. Everyone who subscribes to a religion merely practises a version of it that is subject to the culture and circumstances of their environment and era. This is directly connected to the next major insight raised by these events.

Geopolitics is all About Self-Interest…Everyone Gets it Except Africa

While anti-Muslim violence has continued apace for years in China, Mynammar and India, the question has often been asked: “Why are the wealthy Arab nations not saying anything?” There is a perception that since the Arabian peninsula is the birthplace of Islam and Arabs – particularly Saudis – are viewed as the global gatekeepers of the faith, they must be at the forefront of promoting the interests of Muslims worldwide.

To many, the fabulous wealth and international influence that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE enjoy, in addition to the presence of two of Islam’s holiest cities – Mecca and Meddinah – in Saudi Arabia, means that they have a responsibility to speak for the global Muslim Ummah and stand up for them when they are unfairly targeted and mistreated. Unfortunately for such people, the wealthy nations of the Arab Gulf region tend to respond to such questions with little more than an irritated silence – and with good reason.

To begin with, these countries are not democracies led by the wishes of their almost uniformly Muslim populations. They are autocracies led by royal families who came to power in the colonially-influenced 20th century scramble for power and influence. Saudi Arabia, which houses Islam’s holiest sites, is named after the House of Saud, its royal family which came into power in its current form at the turn of the 19th century. The priority of the regimes in these countries first and foremost is self-preservation.

Self-preservation means that before throwing their significant diplomatic and economic weight behind any attempt to help out fellow Muslims, the first consideration is how doing so will benefit them. India for example, is a country that has close diplomatic ties with the UAE, and supplies most of their cheap labour for construction and low-skilled functions. India has even coordinated with UAE special forces to repatriate the dissident Princess Latika when she made an audacious escape attempt in 2018.

What does the UAE stand to gain if it napalms its diplomatic relationship with India by criticising Modi’s blatantly anti-Muslim policy direction? It might win a few brownie points with Islamic hardliners and possibly buy some goodwill among poor Muslims in South Asia, but how much is that worth? The regime and nation’s self-interest is best served by looking the other way, so that is exactly what they will do.

The Saudis make a similar calculation. At a time when they are investing heavily in military hardware to keep up with their eternal rivals Turkey and Iran, and simultaneously preparing for the end of oil by liberalising their society and economy, does it pay them to jump into an issue in India that does not particularly affect them? As the status of their diplomatic relationship with the U.S. remains unclear following the Jamal Khasshoggi incident, are they going to risk pissing off the Chinese because of Uighur Muslims?

In fact self-interest like that mentioned here is the basis of the considerations that underpin all international relations. Well I say “all,” but what I really meant to say was “all except African countries.” It is only African countries that take diplomatic decisions based on little more than flimsy emotions and feelings of religious affinity. Gambia for example, has dragged Myanmar before the UN and filed a genocide case against it on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims.

This would be commendable and great were it not that Gambia itself is hardly a human rights luminary, and generally has little business fighting an Asian battle when its own worse African battles lie unfought. The only thing Gambia stands to gain from fighting a diplomatic war that the rest of the world seems unwilling to touch is the temporary goodwill of a few Muslims in Asia and around the world – goodwill that cannot translate into something tangible for it.

To coin an aphorism from social media lingo, you could call it ”diplomatic clout chasing.’

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BUK Emerges Top in Global Digital Challenge, Gets Facebook Honorable Mention – PRNigeria News

BUK Emerges Top in Global Digital Challenge, Gets Facebook Honorable Mention

Bayero University Kano (BUK) has emerged top four among world Universities in the just concluded Fall 2019 Peer-to-Peer: Facebook Global Digital Challenge.

The University emerged runner up after Masaryk University — (Czech Republic) – FakeScape, Middle East Technical University — (Turkey) – Kiz Basina, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan (Philippines) – I AM MINDANAO, thereby defeating Haigazian University Lebenon, Lithuania Christian College International University, ABTI American University of Nigeria (AUN) and Lagos State University Nigeria, most of whom were defending champions.

This season, the top three teams will be presenting their campaigns at the end of March 2020 in Brussels, Belgium to a panel of senior leaders, policymakers and guests.

In an email to participating teams, the Programs Project Manager, Paige M. Blair stated that, “The variety, insight, and creativity of the campaigns this term were beyond impressive and made judging quite difficult. All schools are commended for the innovative ways they positively impacted their local communities.”

BUK’s campaign was themed “HeartUmight,” and it focused on ethnic based hate speeches as a bane on our collective unity and source of other divisive tendencies with a view to inspiring at risk youths and the silent majority into countering such narratives online.

As runner up to the finalists, BUK’s HeartUmight got a honorable mention from Facebook and a $500 Facebook Ad Credit to continue scaling their work online.

Speaking, the Faculty Coordinator of the program, Dr. Nura Ibrahim, who is also the Head of the Department of Information and Media Studies said, “We are glad we made impact and got recognized for the impact we made. Our long term aims were clearly mapped out from the outset and our vision is to create an online inclusive society where culture and diversity is unified.”

Also speaking, Dr. Muhammad Danja the Staff Adviser for the campaign and also a lecturer with the Department expressed enthusiasm about future of the campaign. “As a build up on our previous effort, we were able to look inwards and design ba campaign that will make impact, stand firm and scale up in line with the overall goal of the challenge, that was why we were able to defeat Haigazian and ABTI American University who were actually defending champions this term so I am optimistic we shall emerge finalist in our next outing.”

On his part, the team lead, Muhammad Dahiru Lawal a 300Level Student of the Department of Information and Media Studies explains that, “In planning our strategy for the Campaign, we discovered that apart from religious based hate speeches, ethnic based hate speech are basically the most dominant in our online trails as indicated by our research, hence we decided to design a campaign that is unifying.”

He further said that, “we had hoped to make the finalist but at least we made a difference by winning in our own way. This is not the end of the road.”
Facebook Global Digital Challenge, is geared towards making a social impact on internet behaviour especially as it involves posts and comments considered violent, debasing and inflammatory by the receiving party.

The P2P Challenge is sponsored by Facebook and managed by EdVenture Partners (EVP).

As at the end of the Fall 2018 term, the P2P Challenge has been implemented over 695 times at over 400 universities in 75 countries and 40 U.S. states. P2P has generated over 200 million combined online and offline impressions since its inception in spring 2015.

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Nollywood: Audition for pro-NYSC scheme movie debuts in FCT | P.M. News

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A cross section of participants at the audition for new movie “A Call to Service” in Abuja.

Audition for ‘ A call to Service’, an advocacy movie geared towards promoting core values, Acts and Bye-Laws of the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC), on Saturday, holds in the Federal Capital Territory(FCT).

The youths, including and corps members, seeking acting opportunities, in large number, took part in the audition for the new movie, which held at the Bolingo Hotels.

Mr Jairuspaul Osazuwa, the scriptwriter and producer of the film, said that “A Call to Service” is conceived to promote, tribal tolerance, national peace and unity, which the NYSC scheme champions, NAN reports.

He explained that the audition was to discover corps members that had potential and passion for acting in line with the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development ( SAED ) initiative of the scheme.

He noted that Nigeria as a nation has faced a lot of challenges in recent times, and it was imperative to promote things and initiatives that bind citizens inrespective of tribal and religious divides.

“This is the first time a project of this nature and magnitude will be carried out in the history of the NYSC scheme.

“We are glad is it happening now under the Leadership of Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, who is the executive producer of the Film “A Call To Service”.

“The initiative is birthed by the Director-General of the NYSC and it is aimed at projecting the scheme and spread the message of peaceful co-existence and selfless service to fatherland.

“The film will also promote the Acts and Bye-Laws of the scheme by putting the book on screen for effective communication to all stakeholders,” he said.

Osazuwa explained that the star-studded film will feature upcoming and seasoned actors drawn from across the country, including Nollywood veterans Pete Edochie, Ali Nuhu, Imeh Bishop Omoh,( Okon ) Steve Ebor and Bruno Iwuoha.

He disclosed further that Jairuspaul Osazuwa and the D-G of the NYSC will also feature among the cast of ‘A Call to Service.”

According to him, the film will be shot in locations in FCT, Kano and Delta , among others.

NAN reports that NYSC was created on 22 May 1973 , based on decree No. 24 as an avenue for the reconciliation, reconstruction, and rebuilding of the nation after the civil war.

It was created “with a view to encourage and develop common ties among the youth of Nigeria as well as promote national unity.

Under the scheme, young university graduates under the age of 30 are expected to serve their fatherland for one year, known as national service year.

They are posted to states other than their state of origin where they are expected to mix with people from different ethnic groups and learn the culture of the indigenes in the location they are posted to.

This action is aimed at bringing about unity in the country and help the youth appreciate other ethnic groups.

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True leaders play down religion ― Osinbajo » Tribune Online

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has observed that true leaders play down religion to cater for the issues that concern the welfare of all citizens.

He said such was the attitude of first republic leaders who he observed touched the lives of everyone regardless of religious or ethnic background.

Osinbajo was speaking at the opening session of the General Assembly of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Abuja on Friday.

Osinbajo said “Decades ago in this same country, it would not have been a major topic. Leaders in the first republic did not consider religious intolerance as a major national issue, they were more concerned about the issues that touched everyone regardless of religion or ethnicity; they were concerned about providing food, shelter, education and decent livelihoods. But today, no true leader can ignore the threat that religious bigotry and intolerance poses for the development of our nation. That is just the way it is.

“But it is my respectful view that the burden of ensuring that faith promotes national development as opposed to impeding it is on leaders. This is the challenge I pose to you today.”

Drawing on the Biblical teachings of love and compassion by Jesus Christ, the Vice President challenged all leaders in the country to learn from the Good Samaritan who showed compassion to a stranger where even religious people failed. and Imam Abubakar who saved Christians from being slaughtered in Plateau State.

Osinbajo said: “All leaders and this is my challenge to you today, need to learn from the simple, but deeply profound actions of the Good Samaritan and Chief Imam Abubakar. Both of them showed great love and compassion. They were not concerned about the race or religion of those whose lives they saved or whose properties were destroyed. All that mattered was that they were flesh and blood like themselves. They were simply ready to make any sacrifice for another human being.

“We are at a historic juncture in the existence of our nation. Here and there are religious and tribal tensions. Many are beating the drums of ethnic and religious superiority. Some even seek to divide the nation into ethnic zones. “Yet our constitution speaks in the clearest and highest terms of our national commitment to the equality of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion or status. It speaks of the imperative of all individuals and governments to respect the rights and dignity of every Nigerian. “Our constitution speaks of freedom of worship, the liberty to belong to the faith of one’s choice and even change that faith without consequence.

“But constitutional declarations mean nothing unless there are men and women ready to make the personal sacrifices to bridge the gap between rhetoric and constitutional ideals. Such men and women are not usually very many. But they do not have to be many to make a difference.”

Osinbajo regretted that whereas a particular Muslim state governor was rebuilding churches burnt during the crisis in his states, some declined to approved certificates of occupancy in theirs.

“Yet there are States where Governors refuse to grant certificates of occupancy for the building of churches or places of religious gathering in outright violation of the constitution they swore to uphold,” he said.

He noted how tolerant President Muhammadu Buhari has been citing an example of the worship in Aso Rock villa.

According to Osinbajo, “Every Sunday, my family and over 100 Christians attend service in the Chapel at the Villa. The Chapel is located in the premises of the President and his family. It is located a few seconds away from the First Lady’s kitchen. Sometimes when I see the President on a Sunday morning, he asks me whether the service is over already or I am escaping from the service! That is the sort of tolerance that we need in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and it is the duty of leaders to show that sort of example.

“It is the courage of leaders to live up to the ideals of their faith and their sworn commitments that invariably build nations. Leaders must live up to the commitments to which they swear, especially political leaders.

“Nations are built by the sacrifices, the hard work of leaders who do not care even if they are condemned by persons of their own religion or ethnicity, so long as they are confident that they act in obedience to the oaths they swore and to the Almighty God. Such men and women are few, but the profundity of their actions invariably transform communities and nations as they bend the arc of history in the direction of unity, peace and progress.”

Osinbajo remarked that the challenge of nation-building was not the noise of the religious bigots and nihilists, but “it is the silence and inaction of leaders of different faiths who know better, those who say and do nothing, and to whom we appeal today. Your words and actions may make the difference between peace and tragedy.”

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We won’t allow religion to divide Nigerians – Buhari – The Eagle Online

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President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the strong determination of his administration to forge a strong, united nation from the diverse religious and ethnic communities in the country.
The president stated this when he received the Tijjaniyya Muslim Religious Movement at the State House, Abuja, on Monday.
Buhari lauded mutual understanding among the followers of the two major religions in the country, Islam and Christianity.
“It is generally said that differences divide people. We in Nigeria understand that there is no way a misunderstanding can cause division among us. We are one people,” he said.
Buhari told leaders of the delegation, mostly Senegalese, that the Tijjaniyya religious order was not new to him or to Nigerians, citing specific communities around him who followed  its ways and commended them for being orderly, peaceful and constructive.
“The requirements of our people, whatever religion they follow, and to whatever ethnic group they belong in Nigeria is the same.
‘‘They need security, education and participation in an inclusive economy. On this, we are being very fair to all Nigerians,” he said.
The president welcomed the prayers of the religious group for his wellbeing and for the peace and progress in Nigeria.
He urged them to convey his best wishes to President Macky Sall of Senegal, saying, “I assure you that I am very close to your president. He addresses me as ‘Baba’.’’
The leader of the delegation, Sheikh Muhammad Lamin Inyas, son of one of the greatest Muslim religious leaders in West Africa, Sheikh Ibrahim Inyas, said their father brought them up to love and appreciate his large following in Kano and Nigerian cities.
“We are part of this country. We have come here to renew ties and the bonds of relationship. This is our reason for the homage,” he said.
The delegation prayed for the realisation of best wishes and aspirations of Buhari, and for unity and solidarity among the universal followers of the religion.

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Hate Speech Bill: Death penalty will be amended to respect Nigerians’ wishes – Senator Abdullahi – TODAY

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Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, has said the death penalty proposed for anyone found culpable of hate speech that leads to the death of another, will be amended by the Senate when the bill is subjected to legislative input by the National Assembly.

Abdullahi made this known in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.

He said the bill will undergo some fine-tuning to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law reflect the views of Nigerians.

He added that the Senate welcomes contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the bill, as these would go a long way towards giving Nigerians the much awaited law to address the disturbing trend of hate speech.

Hate speech, according to him, has led to the death of many and is a major factor behind depression and suicide in Nigeria.

Abdullahi said: “We have followed closely arguments for and against the hate speech bill, and seen the reason why some kicked against it.

“Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make amendment to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to, so that a bill that meets their expectations is passed into law.

“Clearly from the conversations, Nigerians agree that we have a problem in the society today as a result of hate speech which has fueled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides.”

Citing a World Health Organization report, Abdullahi disclosed that Nigeria which is the seventh-largest country in the world “has Africa’s highest rate of depression and ranks fifth in the world frequency of suicide.”

The lawmaker explained that the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to be established will guard against every act of discrimination against Nigerians by way of victimization.

The Commission, according to Abdullahi, will have an executive chairperson, a secretary and twelve commissioners appointed through rigorous process involving the National Council of State, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly.

In order to protect the independence of the commission, he stated that the bill provides that those qualified to be appointed as members of the commission must not be: members of the National Assembly or any government in authority at the Local, State or Federal Levels.

The lawmaker added that any person, who is a member of any political party or known to be affiliated with partisan politics, or has promoted sectional, ethnic, religious causes or openly advocated partisan ethnic positions or interest, stands disqualified from being appointed to serve on the commission.

“The overall concern is to curb violence and unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians due to hate-induced violence,” Abdullahi added.

Recall that the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, had in July, this year, warned against ethnic and religious demonisation, noting that such actions could trigger violent confrontation amongst Nigerians.

Kukah stated this while delivering a speech at a colloquium on fake news and hate speech organised by the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, an arm of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).

According to Kukah, “hate speech often precede any genocide experienced in history.

He said Nigerians “have to be very careful” before the situation degenerates beyond control.

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We won’t allow religion to divide Nigerians, says President

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the strong determination of his administration to forge a strong, united nation from Nigeria’ diverse religious and ethnic communities.

The President spoke when members of the Tijjaniyya Muslim Religious Movement visited him  at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.

Buhari lauded mutual understanding among the followers of the two major religions – Islam and Christianity – in the country.

“It is generally said that differences divide people. We in Nigeria understand that there is no way a misunderstanding can cause division among us. We are one people,” he said.

Buhari told leaders of the delegation, mostly Senegalese, that the Tijjaniyya religious order was not new to him or to Nigerians, citing specific communities around him who followed its ways.

He commended them for being orderly, peaceful and constructive.

Read Also: Buhari renews call for special courts’ creation

He said: “The requirements of our people, whatever religion they follow, and to whatever ethnic group they belong in Nigeria, is the same.

‘‘They need security, education and participation in an inclusive economy. On this, we are being very fair to all Nigerians.”

The President welcomed the prayers of the religious group for his wellbeing and for the peace and progress of the country.

He urged them to convey his best wishes to Senegalese President Macky Sall, saying: “I assure you that I am very close to your president. He addresses me as ‘Baba’ (father).’’

Delegation leader Sheikh Muhammad Lamin Inyas, son of one of the greatest Muslim religious leaders in West Africa, Sheikh Ibrahim Inyas, said their father brought them up to love and appreciate his large following in Kano and Nigerian cities.

“We are part of this country. We have come here to renew ties and the bonds of relationship. This is our reason for the homage,” he said.

The delegation prayed for the realisation of best wishes and aspirations of President Buhari, and for unity and solidarity among the universal followers of the religion.

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We won’t allow religion to divide Nigerians – Buhari

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Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday his administration is determined to forge a strong, united nation from the diverse religious and ethnic communities in the country.

Buhari, who received the Tijjaniyya Muslim Religious Movement at the State House, Abuja, lauded the prevalence of mutual understanding among Muslims and Christians in the country.

He said: “It is generally said that differences divide people.  We in Nigeria understand that there is no way a misunderstanding can cause division among us. We are one people.”

President Buhari told leaders of the delegation, mostly Senegalese, that the Tijjaniyya religious order was not new to him or to Nigerians and cited specific communities around him who practised its ways and commended them for being orderly, peaceful and constructive.

A statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted the President as saying, “the requirements of our people, whatever religion they follow, and to whatever ethnic group they belong in Nigeria is the same.

‘‘They need security, education and participation in an inclusive economy. On this, we are being very fair to all Nigerians.”

The Nigerian leader welcomed the prayers of the religious group for his wellbeing and peace and progress in Nigeria.

He urged the group to convey his best wishes to the Senegalese President, Macky Sall, saying: “ I assure you that  I am very close to your President. He addresses me as ‘Baba.’

The leader of the delegation, Sheikh Muhammad Lamin Inyas, son of one of the greatest Islamic religious Leaders in West Africa, Sheikh Ibrahim Inyas, said their father brought them up to love and appreciate his large followers in Kano and other Nigerian cities.

“We are part of this country. We have come here to renew ties and the bonds of relationship. This is our reason for the homage,” he said.

The delegation prayed for the realization of best wishes and aspirations of President Buhari, and for unity and solidarity among the universal followers of the religion.

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Pressure: Senator Removes Death Penalty From Hate Speech Bill

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi has said the proposed death penalty for anyone found guilty of that leads to the death of another, will be removed by the Senate.

In a statement on Sunday, the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate said the hate speech bill will undergo some amendment to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law reflect the views of Nigerians.

Senator claimed that hate speech had led to the death of many and is a major factor behind depression and suicide in Nigeria.

“We have followed closely arguments for and against the hate speech bill, and seen the reason why some kicked against it,” he said.

“Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make an amendment to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to, so that a bill that meets their expectations is passed into law.

“Clearly from the conversations, Nigerians agree that we have a problem in the society today as a result of hate speech which has fueled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides.”

He revealed that the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech will be established to guard against every act of discrimination against Nigerians.

According to the former spokesperson of the senate, the proposed commission will have an executive chairperson, a secretary and twelve commissioners appointed through a rigorous process involving the National Council of State, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly.

In order to protect the independence of the commission, he stated that the bill provides that those qualified to be appointed as members of the commission must not be: members of the National Assembly or any government in authority at the Local, State or Federal Levels.

He added that any person, who is a member of any political party or known to be affiliated with partisan politics, or has promoted sectional, ethnic, religious causes or openly advocated partisan ethnic positions or interest, stands disqualified from being appointed to serve on the commission.

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