Sectarian violence is more pronounced in the Central African Republic where there are deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims. Pope Francis during a recent visit to that country called for peace and reconciliation and in a symbolic show of unity got a Muslim and a Christian priest to shake hands.
Thousands of Muslims had been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in a mosque surrounded by Christian militia in the city.
It is to the credit of the Pope that he not only visited the besieged mosque at great personal risk but used the opportunity to call on Christians to respect the teachings of Islam which he said are founded on peace. According to Pope Francis, both religions are similar in terms of their message of peace and reconciliation.
There is also growing tension in Nigeria between Muslims and Christians which has resulted in countless deaths and destruction. The senseless kidnappings of over a hundred young girls from school by the Boko Haram group about a year or so ago remains until this day a shameful reminder of the extent to which religious fanatics could go to get people to acquiesce to their beliefs, no matter how warped they may seem to rational minds. The girls were forced to renounce their religion and recite verses of the Holy Koran against their will.
In Bangladesh tension has also developed between Muslims and Christians. In the Middle East thousands of lives are being lost as a result of sectarian clashes.
As I read of these incidents of religious hostility and intolerance I feel proud of our multiculturalism and respect for cultural and religious diversity. We need to ensure that we continue to have in our schools’ curriculum the teaching of social and sensitive issues and respect for our diversity.
Moreover, we should at all times maintain the secular nature of our society where religion should be kept separate and apart from the state, and where there should be no state-sponsored religion or religious education as provided for in our constitution. The role of the education system is to inculcate in children a scientific world view, and it is for the home and religious organisations to provide any other kind of education, religious or otherwise, as the family may deem fit.