Why religion and democracy have more in common than you think
Religion is an instrument for justice that makes everybody belong to a society, says Sister Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue.
One main goal that democracy and religion have in common is the welfare of the people. Democracy aims to implement the opinion of the people that will support the way they want to live freely and happily in their country. Religion is also a kind of collection of rules that guide people on how to live happily with each other in society. When democracy is unable to achieve this, it has failed completely. The same applies to religion: if is betrays its principles, it becomes a tyranny to people, an instrument of destruction. We are talking about justice, in the sense that if people are citizens in our country, we expect from our government to provide the basic things we should live on. We expect the government to do the right thing, that it is effective and efficient. Religion is not different from that. It is a set of principles that guide people’s lives. One of these principles is the principle of justice – treating everybody the right way, treating everybody equally, not serving some people and leaving some behind. Religion is an instrument for justice that makes everybody belong to a society. We are taught we are all children of God. Nobody is greater than the other. If we want to establish democracy, women have to be fully part and parcel of it. Sometimes their religious leaders or their governments do not teach them writing, although it is very important for women to be educated in their rights. Even though I am a Catholic nun, I am also a Nigerian citizen and have the right to vote. I have the right to say this policy of our government does not achieve peace or equality. But some people do not understand the relationship between religion and democracy. They say, ‘Sister, you are a nun, you are not supposed to talk about politics.’ But of course I have the right to hold the government accountable. There are many good things in democracy, but there are flaws as well. Do other societies have other avenues that promote freedom, dignity and equality? If they do, we have to tap into that. I am interested in using religion AND democracy to promote peace.
The Nigerian nun belongs to the Catholic Congregation of Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy. She campaigns for peace and equal rights for women. With her lectures and workshops she aims to draw attention to how important women are as intermediaries in peace processes and the role they can play in conflicts between ethno-religious groups. She is Deputy Chair of the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network of the Religions for Peace non-governmental organisation in Nigeria and took part in the organisation’s World Assembly in Lindau in August 2019.
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