CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

CESNUR 2006 International Conference
July 13-16, 2006
San Diego State University, San Diego, California
Religion, Globalization, and Conflict: International Perspectives

Resolving Religious Crisis for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria

by Vasudev DAS (Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology, Ibadan, Nigeria)

A paper presented at the CESNUR 2006 International Conference. Please do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author


Wanton “slaughtering” of humans and destruction of properties in the name of “religion” is not something new in Nigeria. Vasanas or desires, ignorance, the three gunas, or modes of material nature, cognitive deficit and stress have driven more than a few Nigerians to the brink of “religious” disaster. Television, gang, unemployment, poverty, drug abuse/alcoholism, denial of basic civic and human rights and pseudo religiosity have contributed immensely to religious crises in Nigeria. When religion is practiced under the checks and balances of shastra, or authentic scripture, an acarya, or exemplary anti-material mentor, and sadhus, or holy men or women, it creates cohesion, which engenders sustainable democracy and national development. The study viewed the foregoing amongst others and proffers that if we repose unalloyed love on the supreme personality of Godhead, automatically religious crisis becomes historical remains and sustainable democracy and national development will thrive.


Nigeria’s democracy cannot be sacrificed at the “alter” of religious crises.  It becomes imperative for the citizenry to pull resources together to resolve religious crisis for sustainable democracy and national development to thrive. 

One of the most noteworthy paradoxes of more than a few Nigerians involves communication. Altogether we have been experiencing a lot of information culture yet the ability of some of us to communicate clearly and lovingly with others of differing religious convictions has declined, causing much pain, suffering and crises. Nigerians are being called upon each day to discover and apply new ways of communication in order to settle religious differences effectively and bring about an end to suffering (Krishnapada 1996).

According to Krishnapada (1996), an important function of any leader is to create a congenial atmosphere in which people of differing religious inclinations have the opportunity to address conflicts honestly and resolve them for the benefit of all. Nigeria’s two major religious faiths: Islam and Christianity have had pretty number of conflicts (Oguagha 1994). The consequences of such religious disturbances cannot be dissociated from drastic toll on lives and properties. The Jos carnage of September 2001, is very intriguing case (CDHR 2001)

The study examines the etiologic factors of religious crisis in Nigeria’s democracy and then proffers ways of resolving the crisis for sustainable democracy.

Definition of Concepts

The word definition has come to be used in varied ways. For a quick look at the major meanings of the term, we shall take a succinct view of the familiar distinction made in traditional logic between “nominal” and “normative” definition. According to Hempel (Vasudev 2005) a normative definition is conceived of as a statement of the “essential distinctiveness” of some entity, as when a man is defined as rational animal or a chair as a separate movable seat for one person. However, a nominal definition is a convention which merely introduces as alternative and usually abbreviatory notation for a given linguistic or psycholinguistic expression in a manner of the stipulation.

Hempel (Vasudev 2005) avers that a nominal definition may be characterized as a stipulation to the effect that a specified expression, the definiendum is to be synonymous with a certain other expression, the definiens whose meaning is already determined. For the purpose of the present work we will make use of normative definition of concepts. The term crisis has its etymological root in the Greek word krisis ‘decisive moment’, from krinein ‘to decide’ Encarta (2004). Encarta (2004) asseverates that crisis is a dangerous or worrying time: a situation or period in which things are very uncertain, difficult, or painful, especially a time when action must be taken to avoid complete disaster or breakdown; critical moment: a time when something very important for the future happens or is decided.

According to Pittsburg State University (PSU 2005), a crisis is any critical incident that involves death, serious injury, or threat to people; damage to environment, animals, property and/or data; disruption of operations; threat to the ability to carry out mission; and/or, threat to the financial welfare and image of the university. Information Technology Johns Hopkins Institutions (ITJHI 2006) asseverates that crisis is a critical event, which, if not handled in an appropriate manner, may dramatically impact an organization's profitability, reputation, or ability to operate.

An operational definition of crisis: A crisis is a situation which invokes unstable equilibrium in the minds of the citizenry that needs to be addressed; a situation with an unpleasant incident or event with consequences, which pose a significant threat to the strategic objectives of an organization.

The term crisis is usually applied to situations, which are perceived (usually quite subjective) as involving an immediate threat of unacceptable adverse consequences (Exton 1986). Such perceptions usually appear quite urgently, decisions and actions aimed at providing or forestalling such extremely undesirable developments.

According to Hermann (Kravita and Peluso 1986), crisis, be it religious or whatever, is mainly characterized by three major elements: threat, time, and surprise. Threat is a potential hindrance to some state or goal desired by an organization or individual. It occurs if the decision-makers recognize it and believe that it will hinder attaining goal. Decision time is short when the situation will be altered in the future, after which no decision can be made, or decision can be made only under less favorable circumstances. (Kravitz and Peluso 1986). Surprise refers to lack of awareness by the decision-makers that the crisis situation is likely to occur, but is not equated with the lack of planned response to the situation. Even if plans exist, an individual can be surprised. For a religious crisis to take place, all these elements must be present.

According to Lorimer et al (1995), sustainable democracy means continued reasonably high and stable level of democracy. Stockholm Ministry of Justice (SMJ 2000) posits that sustainable democracy is policy for government by the people in the 21st century

Characteristics of Religious Crisis

There are varieties of characteristics associated with a religious crisis situation. A religious crisis is often a turning point in an unfolding sequence of events or actions. It is a situation in which the requirement for action is high in the minds and planning of participants. It is followed by an important outcome whose consequences and effects will shape the future of parties to the religious crisis.

A religious crisis is a convergence of events whose combination produces a new set of circumstance. It is a situation in which control over events and their effects decreases. It is a period in which uncertainties about the assessment of the situation and activities for dealing with it increases.

A religious crisis is characterized by a sense of urgency, which often produces stress and anxiety among people. It is a circumstance or set of circumstances in which information available to the participants is usually inadequate. A religious crisis is characterized by increased time pressure for those involved. It is marked by changes in the relations among participants, and it increases tension among people.

The Jos Carnage

When religion is practiced under the checks and balances way of a bona fide living supra-mundane mentor, scripture and exemplary holy men, it creates national integration and cohesion (Prabhupada 2003; 1996). Antithetically, the predominant rise of pseudo religiosity creates or generates disturbances in human society in the form of crises. The Jos incident is a case in point. The peace that had existed for years in Jos, the capital of Plateau State was shattered on Friday, September 7, 2001. When the bloodsucking monster of unrest bared its deadly fangs in the Northern city (CDHR 2001)

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (2001) asserts, “Complete pandemonium ensued as Muslim brothers were up in arms against their Christian counterparts”. This is religious crisis. A crisis that erupted at the Congo-Russia area of Jos Local Government Council spilled in other parts of the city (CDHR 2001). The services of all types of local weapons were employed: swords, spears, machetes, guns, charms, bows and arrows, and other dangerous weapons were freely used with impunity. According to CDHR (2002), within a few hours, scores of people were exterminated while properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed.

According to CDHR (2001), prayer and worship were not unaffected as churches and mosques were desecrated while the worshipers found inside were dragged out and slaughtered. Market stalls and cars were razed. Professor Okam (2001) asseverates that the battle raged for days with areas like Ahmadu Bello, Billimi, Bauchi Road, Russia, Angwan Rimi and Bukuru worse hit.

According to CHDR (2001), the immediate cause of the mayhem was attributed to an attempt by some Islamic zealots worshipping in a mosque at Congo-Russia to discipline a lady. The lady, sporting a mini-shirt had passed by a mosque where some Muslims were having their Friday prayers. This infuriated the worshippers who saw it as a slight on the Islamic faith they got hold of her and flogged her (CDHR 2001).

Some Christians, who were observing the scenario immediately got mobilized, invaded the mosque and launched a counter attack on those found (CDHR 2001). According to the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR 2001), the Muslims retaliated and the fight spread to the streets. Consequently, hundreds of people were slaughtered. The Jos crisis is one of the long lists of ethnic and religious crises, which had rocked the country since the inception of democracy. The question being posited by introspective Nigerians is what are the etiologic factors of religious crisis?

Etiologic Factors of Religious Crisis

The etiologic or causative factors of religious crisis will be viewed under two categories namely, extrinsic and intrinsic factors. By extrinsic factors we are referring to those forces outside of the organism that impinge on the organism to elicit response from the organism that are counter productive to religious tolerance, national integration and cohesion such as religious violence (Vasudev 2001H; 2002A). Intrinsic or organismic factor refers to those factors, which lie inside of the embodied soul, or organism, which are instrumental to religious crisis (Vasudev 2001H; Okoye 1989:8). First, we would like to take a look at the intrinsic factors that are responsible for religious crisis.

Intrinsic Elements of Religious Crisis


According to applied Vedic science (Kirtananda 1988), when the name of an object is heard, a subtle form arises in the mind. The mind cannot conceive of a thing without projecting it in subtle form. The mind tends to repeat and dwell on those desires thoughts, and recollections, which it has found enjoyable. When thoughts arise in the mind they do not end there but produce a series of related desires and thoughts, gaining momentum until they finally compel the embodied soul or organism to perform actions that are even against his or her better judgment (Prabhupada 2003; 1996).

Kirtananda (1988) asseverates that vasana in Sanskrit means a wave on the lake of the mind. No matter how vigilant or watchful we may be vasanas are bound to occur. Vasana agitate, and can turn a beautiful, calm lake into a stormy, dangerous one. Due to vasana we experience attraction, repulsion, and attachment for mundane things and activities. Applied Vedic science (Prabhupada 1996) posits that when one contemplates an object of the sensory modalities, finds it attractive, and begins to desire it, a vasana is forged. As the desire intensifies, it becomes lust and a strong determination to enjoy the object develops. The mind then attempts to experience that object through the sensory modalities: by seeing it, feeling, tasting, smelling or hearing it. Applied Vedic science (Prabhupada 2003) asserts that even if one successfully resists a vasana, it is no guarantee that it would go away. It might arise again and attack occasionally with double effort. According to Vasudev (2000B), unless we are undergoing some sonic therapy, it is most improbable to resist such constant agitation.

As far religious crisis is concerned, when a bigot contemplates attacking a “non believer”, attachment develops, from such attachment lust crops up, and from lust anger arises. From anger, complete delusion is generated, and from delusion comes bewilderment of memory. According to Prabhupada (2003; 1996:), when memory is bewildered intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls into the material pool of activities which are counter productive to the ethics of religious tolerance, love of Godhead, sustainable democracy and national development.

However, a religious adherent who is free from all attachment and aversion and is able to control his or her sensory modalities through regulative principles of freedom can be a useful tool in sustainable democracy and national development. (Prabhupada 1996)


Vasudev (2002A; 2002B; 2002C) asseverates that ignorance of man’s pristine identity has continued to be the bane of religious crisis. Our original identity is that we are spirit souls, parts and parcels of God (call Him Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Oluwa, Chineke, Abasi, Azibha, Krishna, Govinda, etc). When we drift from this basic knowledge of our original position, we are bound to encounter lots of problems such as ethnic hostility, religious crisis, and other related ills.

In as much as a conditioned or embodied soul is devoid of transcendental wisdom, he is bound to contemplate and act on bodily identification. One affected by the avidya, or ‘ignorance’ of bodily identity thinks: “I am a Muslim”, “I am a Christian”, “I am a Hausa”, “I am a Yoruba”, “I am an Ibo”, “I am an American”, I am Briton”, et ceetera. Obviously ignorance of our real Self has eaten deep into our bone marrow creating adverse effect such as religious crisis, ethnic hostilities, marginalization, nepotism, political killings and disaffection. The Jos carnage is a typical case of the avidya of bodily identity. Religious uprisings, especially in Northern Nigeria, which has resulted to loss of lives and property worth millions of Naira constitute ignorance of our non-material identity as spirit souls (Vasudev 2002A).

According to applied Vedic science (Prabhupada 1996) persons imbued with supra-mundane knowledge understand that we are not these bodies but spirit souls, parts and parcels of the supreme personality of Godhead. Transcendentalists therefore see the entire global community as one family, in the circumstance, therefore, look upon all living entities as sparks of God worthy of love, respect and care.

Another aspect of the ignorance is non-eclecticism of theologians and lay religious adherents. More than a few religious adherents know very little of only their scriptural teachings, without caring to have broad based knowledge of other scriptures. This reinforces their fanaticism, which is counterproductive to religious tolerance, sustainable democracy and national development.

The Three Gunas

The three gunas refers to the three modes or qualities of the material world (Wolf 1999; Frawley 1997; Prabhupada 1996). And they are sattva or goodness, rajas or passion, and tamas or ignorance. Every embodied soul is inherently imbued with these qualities in different permutations (Vasudev 2001H). And at any given time we are being acted upon by these gunas. These gunas are always vying for supremacy. By the influence of the gunas, even an apparently peaceful person sometimes acts passionately. The mode of goodness is characterized by illumination and free from sinful reactions (Prabhupada 1996) Persons under the influence of sattva or goodness are attracted to piety and are conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge. Rajas or the mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings or hankering and as a result persons under the auspices of rajas are bound to material actions. Tamas or the mode of darkness is born of ignorance, and it is the delusion of all embodied entities. The results of this mode are madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul. (Prabhupada 2003; 1996)

The definition of ignorance is given in the Vedic literature, vastu-yathatmya-jnanavarakam viparyaya-jnana-janakam-tamah: under the spell of ignorance, one cannot understand a thing as it is. (Prabhupada 2003; 1996) For example, everyone can see that death is inevitable still people are seriously committed to wicked acts in high degree in a bid to accumulating money more and more without preparing themselves to meet death. They do not care to figure out the objective criterion of human existence, which is to attain prema or pure love of the Absolute Truth or Godhead (Prabhupada 1996). This is the inherent nature of tamas.

Applied Vedic science (Prabhupada 2003; 1996) asserts that the state of consciousness of parents at the time of making a child determine very much the type of kid that would be born. If the consciousness of the parents are overwhelmed by the modes of passion and ignorance, then it is not unlikely that a child with bizarre mentality of religious bigotry is procreated, the socio-economic and political status of the parents notwithstanding.

Cognitive Deficit:

The cognitive deficits that sometimes accompany Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may contribute to the development of violent behavior in bigots. In general, children with ADHD do not develop violent behavior. Combined with other factors, however, such as conduct problems in early life, diagnosis of ADHD may indicate that a child is at increased risk of later delinquency and violence. Research studies suggest that the cognitive handicaps experienced by some children with ADHD may check not only their academic functioning but also their learning of pro-social skills and moral principles (Eron et al 1993). Such children could become “useful” tools in the hands of agents of religious crisis.


According to Michael (1989) the increased stress of modern living is an etiologic factor of real life violence. Eron et al (1993) define violence as immediate or chronic situations, which cause injury to the psychological, physical, economic and/or social well-being of a person or group. It could therefore be asserted that more than a few cases of religious violence cannot be dissociated from stress situations.

Extrinsic Factors of Religious Crisis


According to Eron et al (1993), higher levels of viewing violence on television are correlated with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behaviour. A review of several studies arrived at the conclusion that violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch the programs (Kirtananda 19988). Undoubtedly, watching so much violence hardens a person. So, how can we expect a child to develop into a compassionate adult with a sense of religious tolerance and respect for life if he is daily being exposed to violence?

Dr. Thomas Narut of the United State Naval Hospital as NATO Headquarters in Naples, Italy has reported the efficacy of showing violent films to soldiers who are not inclined to kill. After watching the film in which the enemy is killed or maimed, the soldiers become desensitized to the idea of killing. (Kirtananda 1988). The Soldiers were exposed to a mare fraction of the violence that an average pseudo religionist and the child watched on television everyday. Television is helping to aggravate religious crisis situation.

Psychologists (SwamiBT 2000) define general states of awareness, based on the type of electronic signals that are dominant in the human brain as measured by electronic encephalogram, or EEG. The beta state is the state of normal waking consciousness, when we are awake and are attuned to our surroundings. The alpha state is associated with deep meditation, hypnosis, daydreaming and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Subjects tend to fixate on one particular point of concentration, and can be up to twenty-five percent more susceptible to suggestion in the alpha state than when in the beta state. The theta and delta states are progressively deeper levels of unconsciousness that generally occur only during deep sleep or under anesthesia. (SwamiBT 2000) Program viewers on television tend to enter an alpha state, to varying degrees, without realizing it. (Vasudev 2001H). And because the television programs are replete with violence, it helps to reinforce the culture of violence of religious fanatics.

The truth is that concept of reality of how others live is also affected by viewing television programming and commercials. Low-income and ethnic minority children and youth are presented with television world often quite different from their own. The contrast between “haves” and their own “have not” can trigger off strong mundane desires in youth eager to share in the consumer products shown in programs and commercials. In most cases, television demonstrates how these desirable commodities can be obtained through the use of aggression, violence and robbery. And sometimes religion as a facade is used to generate violence so as to meet with people’s non-religious motives.


Vasudev (2001H) posits that some youths are enamoured to join gangs for the sake of a sense of connection, belonging, and self-definition. In the gang they hope to find peer friendship, pride, an identity separate from their families, self-esteem enhancement, status, excitement and the acquisition of resources. Gang armed robbery and/or gang religious violence result from a variety of internal and external “provocation” and gang members may be hyper vigilant in the attention to possible slights.

Bewildered about the objective criterion of religiosity, some youths and more than a few religious “back-benchers” have fomented religious crisis through the agency of gangs. However, it is worth reminding us that inevitably everyone would be cheated out of his/her so-called opulence, family connection, material position, society, friendship and “love” by all-devouring mrityu or death.


“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop” goes a common aphorism. Religious crisis is also associated with lack of beneficial employment. More than a few religious disturbances are carried out or executed by persons who are not gainfully employed. It is not uncommon to see energetic school leavers roam the streets unemployed. Such persons very easily become useful tools in the hands of agents of religious crisis. Therefore, government should formulate policies that would assuage the unemployment problem.


Eron et al (1993) asseverate that many social science disciplines, in addition to psychology, have firmly established that poverty and its contextual life circumstances are major determents of armed violence. Religious violence is most prevalent among the poor, regardless of race (Eron et al 19993). Poverty is not just lack of economic development (Prabhupada 1996). According to Eron et al (1993) to be poor means, “to be segregated, often in decaying inner cities, in which crime and threat of crime confine the poor to fear and isolation at best and to injury and death at worst”

Drug Abuse/Alcoholism

Alcohol and other drugs play important role in youths’ involvement in religious crisis. Alcohol and other drugs appear to lower inhibitions against religious violence cum violent assault and other antisocial violence. About 65% of all homicides perpetrators and/or victims had been drinking. (Eron et al 1993) Because some drugs are both addictive and expensive (e.g. heroin and cocaine), many users of these drugs commit violent crimes to support their addiction. Due to the influence of hard drugs sometimes drug consumers deliberately foment religious crisis so that they could kill, maim and loot.

Denial of basic civic and human rights.

Vasudev (2001H) posits that denial of basic civic and human rights goad some people to carry arms in a bid to fight for their rights but subsequently are cajoled into religious crisis by their uncontrolled mind and sensory modalities. Human rights denial is worldwide phenomenon, as shown by the Genocide Watch Report. Over one-third of the countries of the world employ systematic torture (Vasudev 2001H). In the early 1990s, atrocities in such countries as Panama, South Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Kuwait, Ireland, and former Yugoslavia demonstrated that these are all pervasive (Fein 1992).

Pseudo Religiosity

Jonathan Crowther et al (1995) define pseudo as not genuine, pretended or insincere. By Pseudo religiosity, we are referring to so-called religious practices devoid of checks and balances in bona fide guru or an authentic living anti-material mentor, sadhus or holistic practitioners and shastra or authorized scripture (Vasudev 2002A, 2002B; 2002C). According to applied Vedic science (Prabhupada 1996; 1982; 1992), when a religious system does not take cognizance of shastra, sadhu and guru, it creates disturbances in society in the form of religious crisis.

Vasudev (2002B) contends that when two many doubtful religious leaders are involved in preaching and practicing materialism, and exploiting their congregation to amass personal wealth, requital wave of negative polarity sets in. This invokes antisocial values and demonic manifestations in the form of religious violence, which is averse to sustainable democracy and national development. Oguagha (1994) argues that conflicts between Islam and Christianity have quite often revolved on political power sharing. Okolocha (Shaaba 2001) posits that political power is seen as a tool for protecting the religious interest of office holders and advancing the spread of such religions. Cabinet positions are therefore shared with care to avoid accusations of religious domination (Oguagha 1994; Vasudev 2002B)

According to the World Council of Churches (Bankole 2001; Vasudev 2002B), Nigeria has the highest number of churches than anywhere else in the world but the irony of it is that Nigeria is at the same time rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the global village. Vasudev (2002B) contends that it is obvious therefore that what goes on here cannot be unconnected with pseudo religiosity. Swami BT (2000) asseverates that religious crisis, mundane attachment, debauchery and anti-material bankruptcy, some of the bitter fruits of pseudo religiosity have driven the masses to the brink of disaster.  

Proffering Solutions

When religion is practiced under the checks and balances of shastra, or an authentic scripture, an acarya, or exemplary anti-material mentor, and sadhu or holy man/woman, it creates a cohesive force that is conducive for sustainable democracy and national development.

When one waters the root of a tree, he automatically waters the branches, twigs, leaves and flowers, and when one supplies food to the stomach through the mouth he satisfies all the various parts of the body. In a similar vein, if we repose all of our loving proclivities upon the supreme personality of Godhead, immediately tranquility, unity, sustainable democracy and national development would be automatically attained (SwamiBT 2000)

There is need for enlightened leadership. Applied Vedic science (Prabhupada 1982) posits that to be enlightened implies to be devoid of stinking track record or living a life devoid of vices. If the executive head is dedicated to pleasing the supreme personality of Godhead, then automatically his administrative decisions will coincide with the desires of the Absolute Truth, therefore, religious tolerance, peaceful co-existence, sustainable democracy and national development would reign (Prabhupada 2003). A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way (Kaitholil 1998)

Efficiency and effectiveness are prerequisites of sustainable democracy and national development, O’Keffee (1995) asserts that efficiency is doing things right, and effectiveness is doing the right things. We must take cue from rupanugas, or followers of Rupa Goswami like Srila Prabhupada who worked unmotivatedly and uninterruptedly for promoting international unity through religious and spiritual ideals (Prabhupada 1996).

Government must as matter of urgency arrange for the gainful employment of school leavers so that they turn to social misfits. Parents, educators, political administrators religious adherents, should cultivate anti-material knowledge of the soul, self realization and have broad based knowledge of other scriptures with a view to actualizing proper respect, service, and care for all forms of life (Vasudev 2002B) Vasanas could be curbed by sonic therapy (Prabhupada 2003)

When activities in mundane culture are transformed into Vedic culture (God conscious oriented culture), sustainable democracy with all its benefits, and national development are evoked. Nigeria needs this cultural transformation to emancipate her from incessant religious crisis, economic woes and political impasse.


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