SHOULD RELIGIOUS STUDIES BE TAUGHT IN NIGERIAN SCHOOLS? YES.
Delivered at the First Leg, Hall Category, Jaw War 2018
Today’s debate goes beyond the concept of Christianity or Islam because while Christianity is religion, religious studies is education. While Islam is a belief, Religious studies is intellectual relief. So should my opponents come here to fallaciously mix up the knowledge of Religious studies with its practice, remember that ignorance never settles a question, knowledge does.
First, our religion has become our identity and plays a role in our way of life, but it is most likely that we did not choose the way to this life. In a 2016 survey by Pew Research Center, 80 per cent of religious people became religious because they were raised by religious parents. This means that 8 in every 10 Christians became Christians, not because they understand the concept of Christianity, but because they were raised by Christian parents who were raised by Christian parents. Ladies and gentlemen, just as every child has a right to education, they also have a right to choose their religion and who is a better party to give them that option other than an educational institution.
Furthermore, just as religious studies is the study of religious beliefs, an understanding of religious beliefs brings about religious tolerance. This is Nigeria where Brother John thinks Alhaji Mustapha has a bed space in hellfire simply because he has four wives. This is Nigeria where Alhaja Simiat sees Sister Mary as a woman of the world simply because her hair is uncovered. This is Nigeria, where Boko Haram cleans out Christians like dishes in a sink. Judges, all these are in place because we forget the word of Mother Theresa “if we continue to fight one another, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” However, we can sink this ideology is by the deep understanding of religious studies. Why then should this not be taught in Nigerian schools?
All my opponents might say today can be summarized as one. Nigeria is a secular state. However, Merriam Webster dictionary simply defines the word “Secular” as not religious. So how “not religious” can we be when we have more than 10 holidays dedicated to religious activities? How can we not be religious when the Senate prays in the two religions? How can we not be religious, when even our national anthem makes reference to a God of creation? All I’m trying to say is that the issue of being secular is an illusion, an illusion that has no standing in reality.
Finally, It is important to state again that today’s debate is not a question of whether the practice of religion should be encouraged or not but a question of whether the knowledge of religion should be taught in Nigerian schools and while knowledge means awareness, practice means involvement. So if my opponents come here declaring a war on religion, they would not only be losing sight of today’s debate, they will also be losing sight of ever qualifying from the first round.