Religion is a very sensitive subject to discuss. People protect their religious beliefs with all their might. Some even go as far as killing and maiming because of it. As a result, people avoid raising matters related to any religious organisation, especially if the issues concerned are complaints. Maybe that is why a lot of atrocities are committed by some religious bodies that are supposed to provide succour for the over-burdened human race.
It is high time people started questioning inhuman doctrines practiced and imposed by their religion. I know some people have raised their voices to speak against some of these doctrines, especially when it pertains to finance, but the areas they point out aren’t actually the harmful ones. The areas that bother me most are the ones that trample on human dignity and rights.
For a long time now, stories on how religious leaders molest and abuse their followers kept filtering into different media channels. We see video clips on some outrageous practices in the name of healing and deliverance. We also receive news about the ways some of these leaders engage in human killings and sacrifices. These people take advantage of their followers’ predicaments to prey on them.
Sometime in September, Nigerians received shocking news about the discovery of a ‘torture’ camp in Kaduna, where about 500 men and boys were detained in a prison-like facility that was claimed to be a religious training school. Most of these young men recounted stories on how they were tortured and forced into homosexuality by their ‘captors’. Another camp like this was found less than a month later in Katsina, where another large number of men – both young and old – encountered the same nightmare as those found in Kaduna. Just a few days ago, another of these camps was discovered in Ibadan, making it obvious that practices like this exist in many parts of the country. For all these, it has become necessary that the conducts of these religious organisations should be monitored and regulated as soon as possible.
To start mentioning all the offences committed against human dignity by some of these religious leaders may take the whole day and still not be exhausted. But mentioning them isn’t the best way out because that won’t discourage their actions, nor prevent them from getting more victims because most of their ‘preys’ come from the poor and uninformed in the society.
So, what should be done to prevent these ills?
In as much as people see religious organisation as their way to a happy life in the hereafter, they should be made to understand that not every doctrine thrown their way comes from ‘revelation from above’. Some of these ‘beliefs’ projected by some of these leaders are selfishly motivated. And because they know that their followers won’t question their authority, they enforce them without consideration to their effects on people.
For that, I’ll suggest that the following be put in place:
- Prosecution of Offenders: Most times, religious leaders go scot free after committing certain crimes and offences. If these people start facing the music as every other citizen does, most of their atrocities will be eliminated. Another issue here is that the arrest and prosecution of religious leaders may bring up demonstrations and public disturbances from their followers. These followers may see the arrests as blasphemous and persecution of their faith. So, there is a need for application of more tact when dealing with offending religious leaders.
- Government Monitoring and Regulatory Agency: I don’t think there is any government established agency that monitors the activities of these religious organisations. Most of these religious houses have freehand with the way they run their activities – there is nobody to censor or checkmate them. I want to state the fact that because these people are handling citizens, government should establish agencies that will have the primary duty of regulating and monitoring the activities of these religious bodies. I believe that when they (the religious organisations) know that they will be questioned for whatever they want to do, they will be mindful of how they go about it.
- Religious Monitoring and Regulatory Bodies: It will be proper if these established religious organisations monitor what their members do. In fact, it will be improper if any religious house springs up without belonging to a higher body. Put differently, every religious denomination, sect or house that wants to register and operate within the country (if at all they do this), or to build it branch, must first register and identify with an umbrella religious organisation. This way, the lower houses will answer to and be regulated by the upper houses. If this is properly done, there will be lesser atrocities committed by the religious leaders.
- Community Monitoring and Regulatory Bodies: Communities should check on these houses springing up in their areas. They are even the best people to note what is going on in a church, mosque, temple or shrine. If they see questionable activities going on, they should alert the police or any other proper authority about them. Community members and leaders should be made to know that ignoring unlawful practices in these religious houses will affect them negatively. For that, they should take it upon themselves to fight believes and practices that go against their human dignity.
- Awareness Campaign: Because of the manner in which religious related matters are treated, a lot of victims of these atrocious religious leaders do not come out to express their experiences. Those that managed to do face a lot of negative reactions from people, especially from the followers of the leaders in question. But then, there is a need for people to know that it is not wrong to voice out certain practices that go against their human dignity. They need to be made to understand that they can seek redress when their priests, pastors or imams do things or carry out certain practices that affect them negatively.