A case for the promotion of Humanist values in Jos cannot be overemphasized because, for over a decade, the value of humanity in this central Nigerian city and its neighbourhoods has been under vicious assault. This assault has scared the social conscience and greatly undermined the idea of a common humanity. A case for a re-discovery or better a restoration of humanity has become so compelling. Unfortunately, religious extremists and Ethnic bigots, blinded by their dark and destructive visions have been on the offensive. They have unleashed havoc and mayhem in Jos, turning what used to be a peaceful and tolerant region into a killing field.
These fanatics, with very little regard for human life and the human being, have repeatedly swept through the towns and villages maiming and destroying lives and property. Crass inhumanity has manifested in the various jihadist attacks that Boko Haram militants launched in the city as well as in so many clashes that have taken place between real and imagined herdsmen and farmers in the area. However, this dark and destructive trend cannot be allowed to continue. The gradual undoing –erosion- of humanity in this area must be resisted.
Hence a humanist case for peace and tolerance has become an imperative for the future of Jos, and for development and progress in the region. Why is a humanist case necessary?
A humanist proposal for peace and tolerance has become a necessity in order to expunge layers of supernaturalism and fanatical viewpoints that continue to poison the social enterprise in the region. Currents of anti-human ideas drive pervasive hostility and antagonism, intolerance and savagery.
Attacks and killings in Jos and its environs have been perpetrated mainly along ethnic and religious lines in pursuant to exclusive interests. So a case for peace and tolerance cast in parochial ethnic snd religious frames is inadequate and largely ineffective. The peace that Jos needs is not a Christian or an Islamic peace, it is not a Tarok or Berom, Feziri, Magabul peace. In fact, Hausa or Fulani peace will not suffice. A tolerant Jos cannot be achieved on the terms of one religion or ethnic group alone. A veritable initiative for peace in the region must draw from the universal and inclusive well of humanism.
Humanism places emphasis on the human being; and the ability of humans to forge their destinies to reflect their ideals and aspirations. The humanist frame is opposed to discrimination and degradation of human beings. It recognizes the equal right, dignity, and humanity of all persons as the basis of social interaction and engagement. The humanist outlook reckons with ethnic and religious diversity and regards differences as a source of strength, not weakness, of trust, not mistrust. Diversity is a cause to be celebrated and respected, not despised.
In addition, humanism makes a case for a social equation where the ideal of common humanity is sacrosanct and foundational to a vibrant social existence. As a shared value, humanity is a fundamental and indispensable element that should not be sacrificed or dispensed on the altar of ethnic or religious proclivities.
Given its inclusiveness, humanism urges toleration of persons and viewpoints. It requires accommodation, not the elimination of the other, including other human beings; those who belong to other ethnic groups, other religions or those who hold other beliefs. So a respect for the religious or the ethnic other, for confessional and professional (farmers/herdsmen) others is a prerequisite for social harmony. The evolution of a tolerant pluralistic Jos is needed for the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of farmers and herdsmen, Christians and Muslims, believers and nonbelievers in this area.
A humanistic framework that fosters critical examination of narratives is required to help reduce the blinding, suffocating and corrosive effects of ideologies on the minds and consciences of the people. Religious and secular ideas that are used to divide, exclude or dominate others are often propagated as dogmas and orthodoxies. So critical inquiry is important for the liberation of the people from the shackling influence of dogmatic beliefs and the manipulative impact of extreme and mistrusted ideologies. Indeed, humanism provides a veritable foundation for the realization of a peaceful and tolerant society in Jos and beyond.
Written by Leo Igwe.