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THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN ENSURING PEACE AND HARMONY IN THE SOCIETY A STUDY OF OWERRI WEST LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA IN IMO STATE (1999 - 2014)

Project topic for Peace Studies department.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

The Church tradition has made significant contributions to world peace at a number of different levels (Albert, 2011). Among these are public statements by Church leaders, programs of action at local and international levels, organisations dedicated to bringing about peace, courses of study, commemorative days etc. In recent decades, Church leaders have frequently made statements in support of peace. In some cases these statements have been specific appeals for peace in particular circumstances, however, on other occasions they have also published more comprehensive statements on the need for peace and the means of achieving it. The teachings of Christianity which is guided by the dictates of the bible (word of God) has constantly encourage the members to ensure peace and harmony in the society.

Church leaders have always publicly stood for societal peace and harmony and against violence. It is now widely accepted that violent conflict is the major hindrance to the development of the African continent and Nigeria in particular. It inflicts human sufferings through death, destruction of livelihoods, constant displacement and insecurity (Aning, K E, Birikorang, E and Jaye, T 2010). Violent conflict disrupts the process of production, creates conditions for pillage of the country’s resources and diverts their application from development purposes to servicing war. Violent conflict is thus responsible for perpetuating misery and underdevelopment in the country-Nigeria and the continent at large (Adetula, 2006).

Peace is a universal phenomenon that everyone desires and wishes to enjoy endlessly.Traditions, cultures, religions and societies do have different prescriptions to attaining and enjoying peace. Whenever and wherever there is peace there tends to be development and longevity is enjoyed (Salawu, 2010). To this end, Christianity which is one of the predominant religions in the world today teaches peace and encourages all adherents to the faiths to pursue peace and live peacefully with one another. The above statement now seems to be questionable with the rise of intra, inter and ethno-religious conflicts in the world. While most Arab and some Europeancountries are faced with intra-religious conflicts, an African country like Nigeria is faced with both intra and inter-religious conflicts. Nigeria, which is popularly known as Africa’s most populous black nation with apopulation of now about 170 million people, with more than 250 ethnic groups has Christianity and Islam as its predominant religions, though there is still in existence the African Traditional Religion (ATR).

Christianity as a word means followers of Christ or Christ like. Christians therefore are those who follow and act the teaching of Christ in all ways of life. One of the climaxes of Christianity or Church virtue is peace. Christians are enjoined in the Bible to embrace and live peacefully with their neighbors’. The following scriptures confirm this: Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34 vs 14).Blessed are the Peace makers for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5 vs 9).Let him eschew evil and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it (1 Peter 3 vs 11).Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12 vs 14). If it be possible, as much as it lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom 12 vs 18)

The word Peace in Christianity is translated from the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, which is a key word in the Bible and its at the center of how God wants us to live on earth. One of the key things Jesus came to give humanity is Peace and expects us to live in peace as cited in the scriptural verses above. Peace was not only what Jesus taught but He also lived it, this in most cases is what scholars call pacifism, as Jesus never taught violence, even at his arrest by the Pharisees and one of his disciples struck the ears of the priest, Jesus rebuked the disciple and said that “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Mathew 26:52, NKJV).In another place Jesus taught the people not to retaliate any evil done to them as it used to be, an eye for an eye, a tooth for atooth, if one should strike you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek (Mathew 5:38-39, NKJV) but now to always forgive those that offend them and he charged them to forgive their neighbors even seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22, KJV). With all these scriptural teachings of the church, Christians are suppose to live in peace and harmony in the society.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The church has always taught the members on the act of non retaliation as taught by Jesus which helps to absorb violence instead of escalating it, hence every cycle of violence provoking revenge, which in turn provokes more violence is broken by the simple act of tolerating the violence and avoiding retaliation. On the contrary, there has been increased cases of disruption to peace and harmony in the world today despite the church teachings of peace as stipulated by Jesus Christ. However, the researcher is examining the role of church in ensuring peace and harmony in the society.

1.3       Research Questions

  • What are the roles of church in ensuring peace and harmony in the society?
  • What are the attitude of some clergy in their measure towards ensuring peace and harmony building in our society
  • What are the socio-cultural factors responsible for disrupting peace and harmony among church in our society?
  • What are the consequences of the church not playing effector role in ensuring peace and harming?

1.4       Objectives of the Study

The following are the objectives of this study:

  • To find out the role of church in ensuring peace and harmony in the society.
  • To ascertain the dictates of the church as regards peace and harmony.
  • To identify the factors disrupting peace and harmony in church in the society.
  • To verify the consequences of the church not playing effective role in ensuring peace and harming.

1.5       Research Hypotheses

Hypothesis one

Ho: The politicization of the church has not affected it from playing significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in the society.

H1: The politicization of the church has affected it from playing significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in the society.

Hypothesis two

  • Ho: The attitude of some clergy affected the church from playing significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in the society.
  • H1: The attitude of some clergy has not affected the church from playing significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in the society.

Hypothesis three

  • Ho: some socio-cultural factors are responsible for disrupting peace and harmony among church in our society?
  • H1: some socio-cultural factors are not responsible for disrupting peace and harmony among church in our society?

Hypothesis four

  • Ho: the church has been playing effective role in ensuring peace and harming
  • H1: the church has not been playing effective role in ensuring peace and harming

1.6       Significance of the Study

Empirically the role of church in ensuring peace and harmony in the society that will be benefital for the society.

In effect, this study will suggest ways of ensuring peace and harmony in the society for their betterment of the society.

In the same vein, this study will help society in particular, in general to find lasting solutions to the challenges of ensuring peace and harmony in the society. Moreover, this study will be of immense benefit to the society at large as it will help them to live in peace and harmony as brothers and sisters.

Theoretically this project report will serve as a reference material for further research on same or related topics.

Furthermore, this report will add to the existing literature in the subject matter

1.7       Scope of the Study

This study is focused on role of church in ensuring peace and harmony in the society from 1999 to 2014.

1.8             Operational Definition of Terms

The Church One can think of the church as an institution or formal organization that sets out to accomplish a specific purpose. The term ‘Church’ in popular minds is mostly associated with buildings and missions. When a believer decides to join a church, another building or meeting location is often in mind. There are, however, more with regard to what the term means. Thus, there is much more to the meaning of church than is sometimes recognized. Basic to understanding the term is its definition as well as its use in Scripture. The word translated Church comes from Greek ‘ekklesia’ (formed from two Greek words: ‘ek’ -from or out of coupled with a derivative of ‘ka-leo’ -to call, invite, or name). Thus, the basic meaning of ekklesia is ‘to call out of’ or, with relation to a group of people, the ‘called out ones’.

Peace. Peace is a time without any fights or wars. In a larger sense, peace (or peacefulness) can mean a state of harmony, quiet or calm that is not disturbed by anything at all, like a still pond with no ripples.

Development: Balogun (1988:178) defined development as “the act, process or result of developing, or state of being developed, gradual advancement or growth through progressive changes in Technological, scientific, political, social, economic and religious advancement leading to better condition of living”.


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