While commendable initiatives have been adopted in Nigeria by both the state and civil society to promote dialogue between Muslims and Christians, more efforts must be made to avoid further violence, according to a United Nations expert on of religion. “While the Government of Nigeria has always demonstrated a high respect for the right to freedom of religion, tensions and lack of understanding between the two major religions of the country have led to a number of instances of violence and religious intolerance,” the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, said in a statement yesterday after a one-week visit. “A number of cases of religious discrimination and intimidation have been brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur by both Muslims and Christians. In addition, lack of respect for traditional religions has been reported, which may result in a denial of their participation in mainstream national policies,” she added.
While she said she was “positively impressed by the peaceful andharmonious coexistence of different religions and ethnicities, which in many ways is the strength of Nigeria,” Ms. Jahangir noted that newly-adopted legal systems based on religion and applicable to members of the corresponding religious community may raise human rights concerns, including vis-à-vis women and other coexisting religious groups.
During her mission, she met with President Olusegun Obasanjo and other Government officials as well as with representatives of civil society, including members of different religious communities and she expressed her gratitude to the Government for its cooperation throughout her visit.