Interfaith Dialogue: Nigeria

Event hosted by NIDO Americas

Location: American University, MGC

Panel speakers: Kola Abimbola, PhD; David Eleshinmogun; Dr. Teslim Adetoro

Kola Abimbola: PhD, visiting professor at Howard University, Philosophy and African Studies, traditional Nigerian religious leader. 10 minute speech: “Why Nigeria fails the Ethics Test, Despite Proliferation of Religious House of Worship.”

David Eleshinmogun: Esquire, Pastor at Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bowie, MD. 10 minute speech: “Why Nigerian Christians Stay Away from Political from Political Participation.”

Dr. Teslim Adetoro: Imam at Washington Islamic Masjid. 10 minute speech: “Role of Religion in fostering peace and building a viable community.”

I will not go into detail about the panel discussion as I don’t have may notes in front of me but I will outline the main points.

The talk was quite interfaith in terms of the speakers: an imam, a pastor and a traditional Nigerian religious leader. All three speakers are from Nigeria and are part of the Nigerian diaspora in the U.S. Most of the attendees at the event were part of the Nigerian diaspora as well. There were a few attendees that were AU students in SIS and a few people from the larger DC area, mostly working for Home Land Security and other various government departments and NGOs.

To start off the panel prayers were said by leaders of the major faiths found in Nigeria: Islam, Christianity and traditional Nigerian faiths. The first to say an opening prayer was Kola Abimbola, a traditional faith leader. This prayer was said in an indigenous language with a phrase said by the attendees to call onto the ancestors at the end. The second opening prayer was said by Divid Eleshinmongun. This prayer asked for wisdom of the Holy Father to guide the discussion and give the speakers wisdom. The third opening prayer was given by Teslim Adetoro. This prayer was first said in Arabic and then in English. This prayer asked for guidance from God.

The purpose and hope of the talk was that ideas and concerns would be taken to the Nigerian embassy in DC where the ambassador would make the ideas and concerns heard amongst the Nigerian government and help them to resolve the current conflicts in Nigeria. This was especially important as most of the questions and comments were by Nigerians that were part of the U.S. diaspora.

Main Points:

  • Government brushing off responsibilities
    • people pay taxes but the government does little to improve the living condition of most Nigerians
    • Politicians don’t realize the hardships of every day life for the mass majority in Nigeria
    • Politicians don’t hold themselves or others accountable to the law
    • Current president doesn’t full heartily believe in human rights
  • Nigerian Constitution allows for different religious councils to rule over religious issues
    • This is meant to be inclusive off all religions found in Nigeria
      • This, in fact, allows for religious divisions as people hold themselves accountable to religious law instead of national law (each region in Nigeria has a dominant religion)
    • There is little interfaith interaction at the national level
      • leaders and public view their religion as being more important than another religion. Ex: Christianity vs. Islam, Christianity vs. traditional faiths
    • People have different reference points when religion is concerned
      • Bible, Qur’an, traditional beliefs
        • people are unable to find a common ground
  • Politicians use religion as a means for personal gain
    • in this case, think of those U.S. politicians who use religion as their political platform

Concluding points

  • Nigeria needs to move away from religion and practice separation of church and state
  • Nigerians need to hold their politicians accountable
  • Stronger practice of human rights
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