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Sermon: Religion: A Maligned Concept

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By Babatunde Jose

Religion is an omnipresent and seamless part of daily life, taking an infinite variety of forms that are part of the distinctive quality of each community. Religion could thus not be seen as something apart and personal. It is, rather, a dimension of life that suffuses whatever people do. Religion has an effect on many people’s attitudes to everything, including such matters as savings, investment and a host of economic decisions. It influences area we had come to see as vital for successful development, like schooling, gender quality, and approaches to health care. In short, religion could be an important driver of change, even as it could be a break to progress… 

James D. Wolfensohn former President of the World Bank

Religion provides the unifying power that grounds the socio-political, economic, technological, cultural and moral dynamics of a culture. This is particularly true of Africans for whom life is an intricate web of the sacred and the secular.

Our daily lives revolves around work, play, eat, recreation, spiritual fulfillment and obeying the calls of nature. It is when one aspect of our life dominates our lives to the exclusion and detriment of others that we become slaves to that aspect of our life. As Easter celebrations ended last Monday, we are looking forward to the holy month of Ramadan next week and people are beginning to question the role of religion in our lives. They claim that we are too religious; a state of affairs that has been termed the unprogressive effect of religion and a hindrance to development.

True enough, political leaders are known to exploit the religiosity of the people in their intra-elite competitions; however, the role of religion in society goes deeper than that. In fact, this might not be the whole truth as research in the developmental sciences are increasingly beginning to recognize  the positive role religion could have in development.

Throughout its long history, the Church and Islam have been major sources of social services like schooling and medical care; inspiration for art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics. From the 11th to 13th centuries, medieval Europe absorbed information and ideas from Islamic civilization, which was then at its peak: Such as in astronomy, mathematics, medicine and science. The Islamic world also influenced other aspects of medieval European culture, including the arts, agriculture, music, technology, and textiles.

However, this is also true for the negative effects of religion, such as the conflicts that result in war and bloodshed, the separation of social classes, and the corruption throughout God’s kingdom, especially the unending sex scandal in the Catholic Church; or the radicalization of faith as witnessed by today’s Islamic insurgence. There is also the horrible events of the slave trade and colonization and the decimation of the cultures of non-European peoples, particularly Africa.  It is these perceived negative effects of religion that has prompted many social scientists to condemn religion as irrelevant to socio economic development. However, Despite the general hostility among social science and professionals, the empirical evidence shows religion to be a very powerful and positive part of everyday life – Patrick McNamara, professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico.

Christianity, Traditional Religion and Islam, promotes integral development that goes beyond mere economic globalization, one could posit the thesis that religion if properly harnessed, could play a very important role in sustainable development despite conflicts, (at times violent), arising from religious intolerance.

No doubt, religion particularly in this clime commands the followership of millions. In social change theory, one of the most effective medium of change is diffusion of ideas and innovations; and religious bodies are most suited for this role. How great would it be, if our churches and mosques were to channel their weekly homilies (52 sermons a year from each church, mosque and other religious gatherings) to that great effort at bringing about social change in their followers; with a view to bringing about attitudinal dispositions that are amenable to socio economic betterment of the people? There is no doubt religion, if well channeled, could be made a veritable instrument of change and development.

The paradox of growth in the face of poverty and inequality is a result of the inequity and injustice in Nigeria’s socio-politico-economic distribution, with 1% of the population, (politicians and bureaucrats) cornering the national resources to themselves while the rest of the populace wallow in abject poverty.

The role of religion for the sustainable development of Nigeria has been both positive and negative. Positively, religion stands as a reliable institution providing stepping stones to sustainable development; “from the days of the missionaries to the present, the church in Africa has focused its development strategy in two areas: education and healthcare.” And they have done remarkably well: Ditto for Islamic organizations, which have a proliferation of mission schools all over the country. They provide health and educational services through their hospitals, clinics and maternities, schools and colleges, vocational training centers, seminaries and universities. Some even, promote small scale businesses by granting loans to individuals and cooperative societies.

However, in spite of their laudable involvement in promoting progress and sustainable development, religions in Nigeria have in some ways been inhibiting sustainable development. Christianity and Islam are often antagonists, leading to religious conflicts resulting in loss of lives and destruction of properties. This has been intensified by the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram; which, since 2009, has caused the loss of thousands of lives and valuable government and business properties. Its terrorist activities in Nigeria have crippled the economy of North-Eastern Nigeria, creating insecurity in the country, driving away investors, foreign and local, and resulting in much government spending on security instead of on infrastructures.

It should be noted, however, that as the Council on Foreign Relations in a symposium,

“Religious Conflict in Nigeria,” (2007) discovered, most religious conflicts in Nigeria also have ethnic and political nuances. Yes!!! Politicians have hijacked religion to fight their wars.

Another reason for the upsurge of religious intolerance and violence is economic. The concomitant decline of investment in the education and economic well-being of people, especially the young, makes the latter a veritable reservoir and recruiting ground for religious fanatics or lunatics.  

Religion also impedes sustainable development by tacit collaboration in corruption and mismanagement of the economy; mainly because religious leaders have failed to challenge the unjust structures that give rise to bad governance, corruption and social malaise: They have not spoken with one voice against the cycles of injustice; greed and self-aggrandizement of the political class that confiscates the state resources for personal use, thus dehumanizing ordinary Nigerians.

On the contrary, various religious groups have sought to benefit from the corruption and nepotism of the Nigerian system. As we enter another phase of religious activity with the coming Ramadan, religious leaders in Nigeria must figure out a way to honestly embrace peace and promote mutual coexistence by understanding one another’s religious beliefs. They must become the conscience of the people and speak up against the excesses of our corrupt and thieving leaders: And stop receiving the proceeds of corruption in the form of offerings, tithe and Zakat. Only then would religion become a veritable change agent.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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AI Ignite Africa Hosts Groundbreaking Summit in Lagos

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The AI & the Content, Marketing & Communications Revolution in Africa Summit is set to take place on July 26, 2024, at The Landmark Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos by 11 AM.

This groundbreaking event hosted by AI Africa in collaboration with Global Tech Africa will bring together industry leaders, marketing technology experts, and innovative content creators to explore the transformative power of AI in marketing, communications, and content creation across the African continent.

The summit will feature insightful panel discussions including “The Future of Customer Engagement: AI Applications in Marketing,” which will delve into how AI reshapes customer engagement strategies and drives innovation in the marketing sector. Moderated by Ifeoma ‘Oma Areh, Principal Consultant/Founder WildFlower PR, the panel will include esteemed panelists such as Oye Akideinde, GM of Digital Innovations at Airtel; Chuka Obi, Director of Innovations at Glo; Rukevwe Toka, Marketing Manager for West Africa; and Fred Akinmuyisitan, Head of Portfolio Strategy at The Heineken Company.

The second panel, “AI for Content Creation: Productivity, Revenue, and Ethics,” will explore the impact of AI on content creation, highlighting how AI tools enhance productivity and generate revenue while addressing ethical considerations. This discussion will be moderated by David I. Adeleke, Africa Editor at Rest of World, and will feature prominent stakeholders in the content creation and management space such as Abuch Ugwu, CEO of Chocolate City/Humanz, acclaimed tech content creator Tobi Ayeni, also known as Ms. Techy; and communications leader, Adedoyin Jaiyesimi, Co-Founder of The Comms Avenue.

In addition to the panel discussions, the summit will unveil and showcase AI-driven products designed to revolutionize marketing, influencer marketing, and PR workflows. The summit will highlight AI-powered tools like Maxxiti and Palet. This product showcases promise to offer attendees a first-hand look at innovative solutions that can significantly enhance their marketing and content strategies.

“AI isn’t just a buzzword in marketing, content, and communications in Africa; it’s a catalyst for innovation and growth. The AI Ignite Africa Summit is where we ignite that spark, bringing together visionaries and changemakers to harness AI’s power for a brighter future.” – Ifeoma ‘Oma Areh, Organizer, AI Ignite Africa Summit. We’re not just discussing the future; we’re shaping it with AI. This is where Africa’s brightest minds converge to unlock AI’s revolutionary potential for marketing, content creation, and beyond,” she added.

The first AI Ignite Africa is organized in partnership with the prestigious Global Tech Africa; a collaborative platform where key players in the African and international tech scene come together to drive growth opportunities and build a thriving tech landscape across the continent. Register for the summit here.

“We are excited to collaborate with AI Ignite Africa,” explains founder Dr Inya Lawal. “Our collaboration underscores the vital role of AI in driving innovation and transformation across sectors. This summit will serve as a platform for industry leaders and experts to share insights and explore new frontiers in customer engagement, marketing strategies, and content creation. We are excited to see the impact of these discussions on the future of AI in Africa,” she added.

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Ondo Man Attacks, Stabs Lawyer for Helping Wife Divorce Him

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A 40-year-old lawyer, Abayomi Oladire, was reportedly attacked and stabbed by the husband of his client in Ondo town, headquarters of the Ondo West local government area of the state, for handling the legal duty of the suspect’s wife.

The suspect, Kunle Kuteyi, was said to have used a broken bottle to stab the lawyer after beating him to stupor, alleging the lawyer was holding brief for his wife in a divorced suit.

It was gathered that the incident happened around 4 pm in Ondo town when the suspect met the lawyer on the road and stopped him, accusing the lawyer of having an affair with his wife and taking up her divorce suit against him.

The development led to an argument between the suspect and the victim when the suspect rained beating on the lawyer before breaking a bottle and stabbed Oladire severally before he was rescued and rushed to a private hospital

According to an eyewitness, the suspect ran away immediately after stabbing the lawyer and said, “We saw the two standing together, and later the suspect hugged the victim and pushed him away.

“The next thing we saw was the suspect bringing out a broken bottle and started to stab the victim.

The victim, while speaking on the ordeal, said, “The wife of the suspect brought a judgement to me and said her husband was ordered to pay N2 million by the court to a complainant in a case instituted against them.

“On checking the judgement, I saw that both the husband and wife were asked to pay N2 million each, and I explained this to her.

“She went to the complainant’s lawyer and paid the said amount. Then, she later asked me to prepare divorce papers because her husband had lied to her about the case.

“I prepared the divorce papers, but she later came back to me, saying she was no longer interested because her husband’s family had begged her to forgive him.

“I told her that I would inform the judge on the next adjournment date. On the day of the incident, I was going to my sister’s baby naming ceremony when I saw the suspect. He said he had been looking for me because I prepared divorce papers for his wife.

“He accused me of dating her and of preparing a divorce letter for her. But I explained to him that his wife had told me she was no longer interested in the divorce and that we were going to withdraw the case on the next adjournment date.

“The suspect hugged me and bit me on the jaw, then brought out a broken bottle and started stabbing me. All I could do was guard myself to prevent him from stabbing me in the neck or other dangerous parts of my body.

“In the course of performing my legal duty by preparing a divorce for his wife, the suspect attempted to kill me by stabbing me viciously.

“He is now walking freely in the town, and all the police stations in Ondo can’t arrest him.”

Confirming the incident, the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Funmi Odunlami, said the command has been after the suspect and needed more enforcement to arrest him.

Tribune

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Two Friends Die in Fight over One Woman in Delta

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Two friends have reportedly died tragically following a violent altercation over an alleged affair with one girl. The incident happend in Ogume community, Ndokwa West Local Government Area, Delta State on Tuesday, leaving the community in shock.

One of the deceased, identified as Igala, was reportedly stabbed to death by his friend Pedro. Pedro was subsequently killed by a mob in reprisal attack.

The Delta State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Bright Edafe, confirmed the killings on Wednesday, July 17.

According to sources, the deceased were from the Ogbe-Ogume and Igbe Ogume quarters of the community and worked as commercial motorcyclists, commonly known as Okada riders.

“The two boys are friends and they are commercial motorcyclists. Pedro had problems with his girlfriend, and Igala tried to resolve the issues. In the process of doing that, Pedro suspected that Igala had started having an affair with the girl, which led to a confrontation,” a local source told Vanguard

He continued; “The confrontation escalated, resulting in Pedro stabbing Igala to death. Following Igala’s death, a mob retaliated, killing Pedro in a violent reprisal attack.”

The incident has heightened tensions in the community, with residents mourning the loss of the two young men. Authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding the clash to prevent further violence.

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