Welcome to The Octagon.
The Octagon: We appreciate your taking time out to join this chat session which will end in an hour. We have two moderators in the room who will only offer guidance where necessary. Please feel free to openly share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do? Thank you.
Reginald: My name is Reginald Bassey. I’m a startup farmer, and I enjoy great extended conversations over good food.
Onyeka: Hey everyone! My name is Onyeka. I currently work with GTBank PLC (and No you cant call me when you have issues…just kidding) as a unit head in a marketing team. I am very passionate about development and adding my quota in making the world better.
George: My name is George Anyanwu. I’m a travel Consultant, and I enjoy service in whatever form especially when it’s value oriented.
Dipo: My name is Dipo Adesida, writer and broadcast content producer. Travel and driving very fast is my thing.
Muyiwa: My name is Muyiwa Oludayo, a lecturer and administrator at Covenant University. I am committed to raising value adding personalities (VAPs not VIPs).
Isioma: I am Isioma Asiodu-Otughwor. An engineer by profession, mother and wife by choice, cook by force, natural idea integrator and people lover.
The Octagon: It is believed that around the world religious organizations perform important roles in contemporary society by strengthening community bonds and helping the poor and needy. Most also say religious institutions protect and strengthen morality in society. That they are meant to be a force for good. However, some express reservations about religious organizations, saying they are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved with politics.
What is the Role of Religious Institutions in Nigeria’s Society? Do you think they are playing this role properly? Are there lapses, and how can we fix them?
Dipo: Religious institutions are a metaphor for a moral set of values that define a society. And that usually shaped what that society considers ‘important’.
Onyeka: Religious Institutions play a major role in shaping values and beliefs and these come to play in our interactions within the society.
Dipo: @Onyeka I like the word ‘interactions’.
Isioma: The Power of our Choices.
Onyeka: Issey I agree with you. No matter how much we hear at our respective worship places, humans still do what they choose to do ultimately.
Dipo: But many times, those decisions are largely influenced by a moral government.
Onyeka: @Dipo the thing is our cultural beliefs in Nigeria are largely shaped by our religious beliefs that’s why you will see Nigerian vehemently protest the LGBT movement, no matter how westernized we have become because, most of the bedrock of our cultural beliefs are borne from religion.
Isioma: There is no single set of rules that define religious institutions for starters. Take a look at the 1800s, religious institutions were the top of the political ladder and have been influencing politics since then. Today, politics is still played within the church.
Dipo: Because that’s the premise for a lot of our actions and decisions whether in civil society or politics. It is perhaps impossible to separate religion from politics.
Muyiwa: Religious institutions help individuals to access their higher self within the framework of a supernatural being. This is what informs it’s rating as higher than any other institution in the world. The practices and rites promise the things that mortals will sweat for.
George: I agree with Isioma that religious organizations have always existed in society infact they have been the very fabrics of society from time immortal. Why do regions institutes exist in the first place? That should give us a better understanding to what and how they can shape society and if they are in the actual sense?
Onyeka: I truly believe institutions shape the society and people shape these institutions.
Onyeka: As a Christian, I have gone through various phases one of which was thinking all I need to do is prepare for heaven but I realize I have a lot to do here on earth before heaven. I’m saying this to buttress my point that religious institutions have a lot to do in what happens within a society. Bringing it home to Nigeria…for some time…’religious’ people used to see politics as something filthy and not to be involved with, but truth is if we leave politics for people who have no scruples then we have become at their mercy. My religious belief expects me to respect the government, pay my taxes and bills, and be the best at work but then I may choose to not pay my taxes…decide to call that electrician to ‘connect me direct’ to avoid paying what I ought to pay for the power I enjoy.
Reginald: I believe Religious Institutions are custodians of moral value that guide human behavior and society at large. In a sense this is likened to light. I see them as being the light to the society, and in Nigeria this ought to be the major role that such institutions play.
Do I think they are playing this role properly?
No they are not! It is impossible for these institutions to guide conduct in society, when it is embroiled in the dynamics of societal corruption. In some measure, religious institutions are playing a role, but this is not clearly defined and that’s why we seem to hold this question needful.
Are there lapses, and how can we fix them?
I think we need to first establish the purpose for these religious institutions, perhaps that will guide our understanding of what role they should play in society.
George: Religious institutions actually transcend the Christian faith actually, though our contributions are largely infused by moral and spiritual exposure. Religious institutions exist as a moral guide and an institutional socializing agent aimed at shaping human behavior towards a predetermined form.
In the past, they played a key role in shaping society and governance but their existence over the years have seen a decline in their ability shape society (Man) collectively. And this is largely unconnected with the disconnections the Spiritual (worship) and the Natural (morals).
However when it comes to contributions towards societal needs, a lot of religious institutions have identified gaps where the governments have performed poorly and attempted to produce and provide enviable solutions that are worthy of note.
Though on the other hand, we have some religious institutes that have played a negative role in defining the success of society through anti society orientations based on their perceived negative opinions of society at large.
Muyiwa: The platforms these institutions are creating to service the needs of the society informs their relative performance. Institutions such as schools, hospitals to Mention a few.
Onyeka: The Truth is Religious leaders from their podiums have a voice and a platform to guide their listeners on the right values and ethics and if everyone decides to adhere…we have institutions that work as these people make these institutions and invariably, the society begins to enjoy sanity and development.
Dipo: We seem to agree on a point that regardless of faith, religion plays a role in affecting the morality of a society. However, the question then is: how well are these institutions doing? Is the ‘moral standard’ of a society measured by its religious piety? Or otherwise?
Nigeria is perhaps a very ‘religious’ country. However, can we say that those moral codes that are released from the leaders are really affecting how we behave?
Isioma: I think they are playing their role though not to the best of their capability. Unfortunately, the institutions are made up of mortals with weakness of the flesh so they have lapses and gaps. After all. who does not know that some priests and pastors dread being posted to the poorest of the poor areas. We must not forget that these religious houses take on projects in the areas that government has neglected. If not for missionaries, we would have more illiterates in our society.
Onyeka: I think the role of religious institutions is to provide a guide for social behaviour truly. Nigeria is a very ‘religious’ country and to an extent I think that’s helping in keeping us together, if not we would probably be a city without walls. But more importantly beyond morality, I think religious institutions can and should do more in regards to development. We see a lot of Faith based educational institutions and that’s good but as with everything there is always space for more.
Reginald: Both in the Koran and Bible, there is some mention of the word “LIGHT” being used as a description for those who are ardent followers of the teachings of these religions.
Light is simply use to illuminate the darkness and to provide direction. This is what I believe R.Is should represent in society. They are to expose every trace of corruption in society and as well present to society the best approaches to solving problems. When it comes to education, health care, order in communities, wealth creation, etc, the Religious Institutions ought to show society how it should be done.
Onyeka: Religious institutions should provide a guide for societal behaviour…how you relate with every player within the societal component, or within the Society – the government, Infrastructure, Neighbours. ..etc We should also bear in mind that although there are ‘rules’ or guides for each religious faction, it still comes down to people deciding to do the right thing.
Isioma: Somehow, I think being ” religious” is now a status thing. I agree with Onyeka, they can do more in terms of development. So it is imperative that they interact with the government and politicians as well. The religious may do well to meddle in politics from the stand point of the altar and embedding moral values in the characters of their followers. However, The Nicodemus visits and other rumors and fraternizing plus this burgeoning gospel of prosperity…makes me wonder if indeed Jesus died on the cross for me to own a house in Banana Island with 4 servants.
Onyeka: Truly any genuine religious leader talking about prosperity will also clearly provoke the listener that the wealth is not for you alone. The wealth is for you to contribute your quota to make the world better.
Reginald: The Bible talks about being “SALT OF THE EARTH”. This is the second metaphor use to refer to people who adhere to Christianity. Which speaks to the measured influence they should have on the earth in preserving it. In other words, where there are elements of human induced destruction being foisted on society, the adherents should be able to preserve society from falling into decadence. So my thesis for these problems ought to be fixed is based on the understanding these RIs have about being “LIGHT” and “SALT”. Outside of these two descriptive, RIs might wade into aspects they are clearly not empowered to cover or play within.
Onyeka: The fact that only a few will adhere shouldn’t stop them from speaking out because I mean with these insurgents we see 1 man brainwashing these people by perverting the right things and spurring them to destructive behaviour. In the same vein, consistently talking about the right things will hopefully brainwash us into doing the right things and ultimately building a Nigeria we can all be proud of.