This work is concerned with the Muslim and Christian relationship in Elele. The method of data collection was through questionnaire, oral interview as well as other existing related literatures. Through this research work, it was established that most religious disagreement intolerance and crises experienced in many towns in Nigeria is found in Elele. More significantly, is the fact that the relationship between Christian and Muslim in Elele has been best described as mutual and peaceful. In most part of the communities or towns in the globe, Christians and Muslims have been at each other’s throat. In Elele however, Christians and Muslims seems to have found ingenious ways of living together in peace and harmony. This paper explores the dynamics of Christian and Muslim relations in Elele and now that can be a model for the rest of other communities or towns in Rivers State in promoting dialogue and peaceful co-existence not just among Christians and Muslims but among people of different faiths.
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background of Study
Christian-Muslim relations, all over the world are usually associated with instances of intolerance tensions, and conflicts such associations are the result of wrong impression often created by misinterpretation of history. They are also due to the media’s characterization of Christian and Muslims as enemies who are almost always at each other’s throats (Sanneh, 1983:210). Reports on conflicts, especially in Africa often claim that Christian-Muslim intolerance is the main cause.
However, there are many areas in our world today Africa and Nigeria for that matter, where peaceful and harmonious exchanges do take place on daily basis between Christian and Muslims such positive exchange have receive little attention in the study of religion in Africa. Furthermore, some people often either deliberately or inadvertently fail to see the very complex underlying issues involved in Christian-Muslim conflicts across the globe. One area where the usual monolithic view of the Christian and Muslim relations fails to stand up to scrutiny is the Elele Community of Ikwerre Local Government Area, Rivers State. In this part of the country, Christian and Muslims get along quite easily. In other words, religion is not a barrier as Christian-Muslim interacts certainly, we agree that there have been intolerance, tension and conflict in this area, but these have been short-lived. In fact Christians and Muslims live in close proximity to each other in villages, communities, families, houses, and at times in rooms they encounter each other at school, the market place naming ceremonies, marriage and funeral ceremonies, as well as religious and social functions.
Accordingly, the relation between Christians and Muslims in Elele has been commonly described as “mutual” and “peaceful”. Nonetheless, the assertion that peaceful coexistence takes place in Elele raises many questions is the statement true? If so, then what are the models and issues contributing to these harmoniously and fruitful encounters? What is actually keeping these people together to the extent that their religious differences do not matter so much to them? What could be done to make the encounters even better? Are there values and principles here that could be useful in areas where there is constant Christian-Muslim strife? As Christian and Muslim interact what the main issues that influence their judgment, decision and actions? It is to find answers to such question that the research is undertaking this study.
Advent of Islam in Elele
It is very difficult to say precisely when the first set of Muslim in the present Rivers State arrived. However, as early as 1896, when major Galway visited Elele, Mr. A. B. Harcourt reported the presence of Muslims of Elele before the creation of Port Harcourt. The Muslim settled at Omuodi Compound of Mgbuanyiam Village in Elele. They have inhabited the area which is now called Mbu-Osukpa. This name is coined from the type of Mom-mon that the Muslims were reported to have come on invitation of the people of Elele to help in killing Marauding elephants that were constituting a menace to farmlands in the later part of the nineteenth century.
The Muslims were able to achieve the aim for which they were invited (eliminating the menace of elephant on farmland) due to their superior weapons which consisted of bows and arrows with poisonous sharp points and local dane guns.
Apart from the popular, “Elephant factor” in Elele oral tradition, the Muslims might have settled down in Elele to engage in Ivory trade which was their major business at the time in European markets. The Muslims in Elele settled under the leadership of Malam Dadi who became the first Sarki. He was called Eze Wosukpa by the indigenes.
He was succeeded by his brother Malam Umar Dikko (1908). The next Sarki was Malam Muhammad Dikko (also known as Dodonwa) while the indigenes called him Malam Ododo (1936). He was followed by Bawa Muhammad Dikko (1936 – 1939), Haliru Dikko (1941 – 1976) and the present Sarki Alhaji Saidu Dikko.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This document results from the attempt to follow this up in the area of Christian-Muslim relations. It draws on the experience gained from the considerable work carried out over the years. All the meeting between Christians-Muslims organized by the subunit on Dialogue during in past twenty years has been documented in the WCC publication “Meeting in Faith.” These meetings, however, are only a small part of a much richer history of relations and numerous dialogue encounters in many places. The document that follows is itself based on five regional meetings between Christians and Muslims organised in different parts of the world. These meetings helped to identify some of the important issues which Christians-Muslims need to reflect on and continue to consider together in the year ahead. Many qualified person in the field in Christians and Muslims were consulted in the process.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The study set out to explore in theological-cultural values of the people in Elele, which ensure harmonious and cohesive Christian-Muslim relations that safeguard religious liberties and respect differences and particularities.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Although Elele Community has been described as predominantly a farmer and business community, majority of the people are Christians and in order to achieve harmonious co-existence with other religious bodies, it is imperatively rights to look into Christianity and African traditional religion (which also has a sizable following) to see best way peace could be well maintained and promoted among the people. Although Elele people have often been referred to as peace-loving people, the influence of religion in the pursuit peace cannot be overlooked. This research work sought to interact the importance of religious tolerance among Christians of different denominations and adherents of African Traditional Religion.
1.5 Scope of the Study
A study of Christian-Muslim relations in the central region cannot intend to explore all the issues involved. In view of this, the study seeks mainly to explore the role of the traditional values in these encounters. It is a critical study of the time-honored customs and traditions as we explore viable issues, foundations and models for mutual understanding and encounter between Christian-Muslim in Elele. It also does not do a mere descriptive study of the two religious but to study these religions from the point of view of relationships. It focuses mainly on the practical ways Christians and Muslims engage one another in their daily lives and will try as much as possible to avoid theological controversies.
Though Ikwerre ethnic group inhabit Elele, the study is intended to focus on Christian-Muslim among the Elele people. The Ikwerre ethnic group is selected because it is one of the largest ethnic groups in the whole of Rivers State.
1.6 Limitation of the Study
The Elele exist in well-delineated village having its own Village Assemble, therefore the Elele have an overall village assemble or general assembly but a designated chief, ruler, leader mostly proved by its constituency. Although all village assemble chief or ruler in Elele are united in what is known as Ogbakor Elele Nuogbo which is an association of Elele traditional rulers.
The religious groups in the religion selected for the study include:
The theological controversy may sidetrack the focus of the study, such mainstream or “orthodox” Muslim group, the Alh al-sunna wa’l-jawa and the almadiyya Muslim movement.
1.7 Definition of Terms
A Christian is a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His resurrection on the third day. John 1:12 says “Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God.”
The mark of true Christian is love for others and obedience to God’s word (1 John 2:4, 10). A Christian is indeed a God’s true family and one who has been given new life in Jesus Christ.
This means one who is brought to faith, repents of both their good works and their evil works. Both are equally worthless to God. False teaching glories in something other than in Christ alone, always pointing to something that we can do; a resume we can bring before God to carry His favour, not realizing that He has already adopted us as sons. Not unlike the older brother in the prodigal son who glories that He has worked for His father and His life, not realizing that God does not first ask us to meet conditions to obtain His love. Those who have confidence in the flesh also tend to believe in Christ plus this or that. That Christ saved them, but they must maintain their own justification before God.
Glorying in Christ is the antithesis of glorying in the flesh. Pharisees boast before God of what they have done for Him. The Christian is one who has empty hands everyday that can only thank God for His mercy. He thus relies solely on the righteousness of Christ
Every person who practices Islam is a Muslim (although Muslim can be submission to Allah as well, as may be the case even people of the book). The name of Islam is Islam to show its highest goal (being submitted to Allah) but this submission has only one constraint, it should be truthful not only a word of mouth or even a decision of mind not backing with proper behaviour at the times of examinations. So becoming Muslim starts from the world by mouth (say, after seeing a spark of light in the heart, an evolution in heart, feeling a presence of Allah and similarly other cases).
Thus, this statement absorbs examinations to the new Muslim; he would be examined at the same that is gradually learning Islam, its ideology and shari’ah. The examination have at least one important objective the person would find his weak points as Allah says “for thy Lord is (as a Guardian) on a watch tower.”
(al-fajr: 14), he can either choose to accept weak point and try resolve it or simply deny it arrogantly.