Background to the Study
Since independence, call for national integration has been a top priority in Nigerian communities. Spiritual leaders, government, concerned individuals as well as groups have raised their voices in the face of threats of national disintegration caused by religious, ethnic and communal crisis. National integration describes the togetherness or unity felt by the citizens of the country with regard to citizenship, (Barnett, 2000). When individuals are nationally integrated, they may feel a sense of pride or patriotism.
It is pertinent to understand that national integration is not only about national spirit, but also a feeling that brings people from all areas, dialects and beliefs together in a common endeavour. When national integration occurs, individuals are likely to work together to build a system that enhances prosperity of a nation and its people (Abiodun, 2003). The question of what religion is, is one about which no consensus of opinion exists because of its complexity. It is complex because human beings who deal with it are complex and the study involves other varied disciplines as history, ethnology, literature, linguistics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and the actual religion (Marshall, 1990).
Religion is an inescapable fact of human life because there is an inherent urge in the nature of every human person which makes religion a matter of ultimate concern. Among the social institutions in the structure of any society, religion finds a central place because man as a social being on earth has very many unanswered questions such as: what is the meaning of life? What is thereafter death? What is the purpose of life? And what is life all about?
Moreover, the word religion may be social to be derived from any of these Latin words: Religere, Re-eligere and Religare, means ‘read again and again’, that has to do with much study. Religion then signifies an attentive and deep study of and concern for matters pertaining to the transcendent being. Re-eligere means to ‘choose once more or again’. This has to do with when one chooses once more God whom one has lost through sin. And Religare means ‘write oneself again’. This means to bind or write oneself again fast to God in worship after being separate from him. Therefore, religion has to do with man’s relationship with the transcendental or ultimate being, (Anyanwu, 1999).
In Nigeria, there are three basic types of religion that exist, these are: Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion. Among these three, Christianity and Islam is said to be revealed religions. This means that their founders are known. African Traditional Religion is not a revealed religion because, its founder cannot be traced but it is a religion that is rooted in the culture of the people. Christianity and Islam are otherwise known as Abrahamic religions because these two religions claimed that Abraham is their progenitor. Islam has been well established in the northern Nigeria around 16th century before the advent of colonialism. And also, Christianity gained its ground in the middle of 19th century through the activities of the British missionaries (Odetola, 2006). Since then, these two religions have gained ground in Nigeria with thousands of followers in all the states.
For many decades now, Muslims and Christians have been continuously engaged in religious conflicts. There is no doubt that religious conflict is one of the factors militating against national integration in Nigeria. Bombing, kidnapping, killings and destruction of properties have become a very regular and frequent occurrence in Nigeria nowadays. Boko Haram, which has voraciously terrorizing the country, attacking and destroying churches, mosques, markets, schools and barracks, killing innocent Nigerians has been attributed to Islamic religion. Also, Niger Delta militants which is currently in operation, vandalizing pipeline and kidnapping oil company’s workers is attributed to ethnicity. The concept of religion has been turned into a rivalry and means of destruction and threats to lives, (Udobata, 2003).
Marriage is one of the most ancient, important universal and indispensable social institution which has been in existence since the inception of the human civilization. As an institution, marriage is designed to satisfy the biological needs especially the sexual needs, emotional companionship, and procreations. As a stable social institution, it bends two opposite sexes and allows them to live as husband and wife. It also confers on them social and legitimation to have sexual relation and have children (Udo, 2002).
Marriage can be classified according to the numbers of person that are involved in the relationship. For instance where one man and a woman are involved, the marriage union is referred to as ‘monogamy’. Where more than two persons are involved, it is referred to as ‘polygamy’. Polyandry is when a woman has two or more than one man as husband and polygyny is where one man marries more than one wife. Polygamy is common among the tradition of Muslims communities, while monogamy is common among the Christian communities.
However inter-religious marriage which is an institution socially recognized and approved as union between two individuals of opposite sex from different religions and culture, has played a positive role in influencing the national integration and development. And also, it has provided an avenue in which Muslims and Christians can collectively dwell together. Therefore, it is on this background that this research is conducted in order to discuss the influence of inter-religious marriage among Muslim and Christian on national integration in Nigeria with special focus on Efik Community.
Statement of the Problem
Religion is a personal affair and it is a common opinion that, in the matter of religion, there should be no dispute. Worshippers of God in whatever form, are generally viewed belonging to one family of God, and should, as a result, promote brotherly love and unity toward one another and the nation.
Inter-religious marriage is one of the areas that awake controversy among Christian and Muslim scholars respectively. Some have written to support, while some have written to abolish such union. For instance, Abdul-Hassan (2000) came up with the effects of inter-religious marriage among Muslim and Christian and concluded that there are consequences of the faced marriage. The children and the partner will be vulnerable and that may lead to future conflict among the two religions. Also, Fatokun (2009) researched on the Christian-Muslim relationship in Nigeria, concluded that inter-religious marriage between Muslim and Christian is a panacea for inter-religious dialogue in Nigeria. The research concluded so far are mainly focused on inter-religious marriage as a means of dialogue for peaceful co-existence between Muslim and Christian, pointing out area of cooperation such as festival, community development, joint prayers etc. but leaving a vacuum on the area of national integration in which our awareness of a common identity among the citizen of the country revitalize through the inter-religious union among Muslim and Christian which this study aims at filling.
Purpose of the Study
This study investigates the Influence of Inter-Religious Marriage among Muslims and Christians on National Integration in Nigeria. Specifically, the study sought to investigate:
The factors militating against the actualization of national integration in Nigeria.
Perception of people on the relevance of inter-religious marriage in Efik community.
The challenges of inter-religious marriage among Muslims and Christians in Efik community.
Proffer possible solution to the challenges of national integration facing Nigeria at large and Efik community in particular.
The following research questions are formulated in order to guide the study.
What are the factors militating against the actualization of national integration in Nigeria?
What are the perceptions of the people on the relevance of inter-religious marriage among Muslims and Christians on national integration?
What are the challenges of inter-religious marriage among Muslims and Christians in Efik community?
How can the challenges of national integration facing Nigeria be addressed?
Significance of the Study
This research will be beneficial to the individuals, family, religious adherents, government, the society, academic and the global public as it will enlighten the people on the role that inter-religious marriage plays in the fostering of national integration in Efik Community of Nigeria.
The research is of great significance in the following ways:
It will educate and inform the general public on the role that inter-religious marriage plays in the fostering of national integration in Efik community in particular and Nigeria at large. Also, it will in general, inform the Efik community in particular and Nigerians on the factors militating against national integration in Nigeria. Also, it will educate the Efik community and the general public on the challenges of inter-religious marriage among Muslims and Christians in Efik community. Also, the outcomes of the research will be able to help the upcoming researchers who may embark on a related studies. And lastly, it will contribute to the existing body of knowledge of academic and serve as a source and reference material to the academics.
Method of Research
This research adopted a descriptive method of a survey research. Information would be obtained from the field survey through a questionnaire. It will also depend on the secondary sources of information such as: textbooks, journals, published and unpublished scholarly articles and the internet.
Scope of the Study
The study is undertaken in the area of marriage in both Islam and Christianity. Since this area is wide, the scope is limited to inter-religious marriage among Muslims and Christians in Efik community of Odukpani in Cross River State.