Book Review: INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE: the Nigerian experience, by M.A. Bidmos



Religion has always been a subject of controversy. Over the years, different people have explored the nature, forms and popularity of religion. Intently, some regard the extent of the damages incurred in the name of religion and concluded that religion has not only failed in its purpose to save humanity, but also succeeded in aggravating the problem. Some, like many brilliant scientists, believed that religion is a bane and should be discouraged for the advancement of science. Some argued in favour of their supposed faiths, while some just maintained a neutral standpoint. Others, including M.A. Bidmos, strongly believed that religion is not the problem. That religion has only been instrumentalized to sort out tribal and political differences. For Bidmos, the only way to save religion- and at the same time achieve a peaceful coexistence among adherents of different faiths- is to carry out inter-religious dialogue. Hence, the true nature of inter-religious dialogue, and how it can be harnessed to bring about the desired change is at the centre of his book, INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE: the Nigerian experience.

The development of a nation is the collective effort of its citizens. But when the nation is in tumult, "bridges" are destroyed, and minds become shattered, with no trace left of civic duty. Such is the case in Nigeria. Religion, among others, is a huge factor that "allegedly" threatens peaceful co-existence. M.A. Bidmos, in his book, provides an outlook for the religious climate in Nigeria, the extent of the religious discrepancies, and the activities fueling the rivalry. It also offers a practical solution to this dilemma, which has- in countless ways- hindered the development of the nation.

The book is well structured, making it easy to read and understand the points brought forth. It follows an ordered sequence - remarkable transitions between chapters - that makes you grasp the true nature of his arguments. Bidmos, in the preface, also does a great job of making clear what topics will be discussed in different chapters, providing a brief yet intriguing summary of each.

What I like particularly in the build up of his argument is how he gives recognition to Judaism and the African Traditional Religion (ATR), stating - in a laudable manner - their non-inclusion in the content of the writ. Atheists and Agnostics will, however, not find this appealing.

So the focus is mainly on Islam and Christianity, and Bidmos gives detailed explanations of the factors responsible for the unhealthy relationship between Muslims and Christians in the country, the evidences for this dialogue as obtained from their religious books, practical demonstrations of its workability, and most importantly, the modus operandi to guarantee its effectiveness.

Being a learned Muslim, he may have succeeded in making Islam more appealing, by shedding enough light on the befuddled notions surrounding the nature of his religion. However, his approach was harmless and unprejudiced, as he also referenced the bible in appropriate places. For every peace-loving individual, there is a lot to be learned here.

Although practical, Bidmos' suggestions in the area of putting inter-religious dialogue into operation may not effect a collosal change. They appear too easy, and can only work if all Nigerians are reasonable. But that is not true. A larger pecentage of Nigerians are not reasonable (if we were, Nigeria would not be in this mess to begin with). Moral decadence, for one, has taken a rather explosive dimension, and those people at the helm of religious affairs are worse than the disease itself. Unfortunately, this - and many more - is the true Nigerian situation.

I give the work a rating of four out of five, given that the "workability" of Bidmos' suggestions is a little bit below par, maybe average in "our Nigeria." However, the book is a weapon of change, and every Nigerian should give Bidmos' suggestions a shot, after all, success is a culmination of small efforts.


Bidmos Murtala Aderemi

Born on June 18, 1948, Bidmos, Murtala Aderemi was appointed Professor on June 8, 2006. He is an alumnus of the University of Kuwait (1977) and University of Ibadan (1980). He is a Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Lagos. The Arabic and Islamic scholar has served the University meritoriously in various capacities. He has served as Chairman, Teaching Practice and Practicum Committee, Faculty of Education (2005); Acting Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences Education (2005); Coordinator, Religious Studies Unit in the Department of Curriculum Studies (1985); Member, Faculty of Education Endowment Committee (1990); Imam of the UNILAG Mosque (1988 to date) among others.

INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE: the Nigerian experience (Book details)

Year of publication: 1993

Number of pages: 83

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PS I could not get the digital version of the book, so I created a PDF myself. I hope you read it.

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