PROMOTING PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE THROUGH EDUCATION

Peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance to many scholars such as Burns, (2005), Afidal, (2006), Bar-Tal (2002), Adams (2000), Odejobi (2009), Peterson (2012) is essentially about understanding the nature of conflict at various levels from personal to global, studying the causes of war and human aggression, exploring a range of awareness of the rights and responsibilities of individuals and groups in the world. National curricula for religious tolerance and religious education do not spring from nowhere. They evolve over time as a reflection of the needs, perceptions and historical development for the societies concerned. Nigeria is a country with a population believed to be over 150 million, of various ethnic groups. Religion often coincides with the ethnic groups, but not always. Basically, most Hausa-Fulanis in the north are Muslims, and most Ibos in the South-West are Christians. However, Yorubas in the South-West are both Muslims and Christians with Muslims slightly in the majority and there is fair amount of inter-marriage. Furthermore, the National Policy on Education (2009) expressed concern over “the erosion of essential values and an increasing cynicism in society”. It advocated turning education into “a forceful tool for the cultivation of social and moral values”. Education should “foster universal and external values, oriented towards the unity and integration of our people”. The programme of Action of 1992 tried to integrate the various components of value education into the curriculum at all stages of school education including the secondary stage. 
Peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance imply the capacity to live together in harmony. This calls for nonviolent ways of resolving conflict. Adejobi and Adesina (2009), Burns and White (2011) viewed peace education as a type of study that essentially inculcates discipline in people. It is that course of study that teaches people the past and present causes of conflict or wars noting the effects, and recommending ways of averting such social ills. Ajala (2003) defines peace and tolerance education as the type of education that impacts in learners all norms, values and attitudes that can bring about a conducive environment for human living. Peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance begins with the individual and spreads to the family, school, community, nation, and to the global village. The members of a society need to be oriented toward peace and tolerance rather than towards violence. At the same time, social, economic, and political systems have to be re-oriented to peace and tolerance. Inclusively, the discipline of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance must shape our way of life. Education is vital for the effectiveness of both strategies. For this to happen, the Basic Education level should be the starting point. Basic Education has to go beyond the warehousing of information to a celebration of awareness, which is best facilitated through peace and tolerance education. Basic Education is fundamental to peace-building and religious tolerance. 
Therefore, basic education schools should adopt a style of teaching that imparts to the young, attitudes of dialogue and non-violence in others words, the values of tolerance, peace, openness to others, caring and sharing, human rights and democracy. Individuals in the society must be literate to enjoy their human right of basic education and the adventure of learning. Illiterate people cannot benefit from the power of education to transform the lives of people. Education allows them to broaden critical thinking, make informed choices and become agents of change and actors of peace and tolerance. Literacy is not merely the skill to read and write, it is a transformational process that empowers individuals. Literacy facilitates intercultural understanding, respect, conflict resolution, social cohesion, religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. It is evident to note that countries with patterns of violence have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world. No country can hope to establish lasting conditions for peace and tolerance unless it finds ways of building mutual trust between its citizens. Inclusive education promotes mutual understanding, respect, tolerance and dialogue. Literacy opens new opportunities and skills for all. 
Simon Barron (1998), is of the view that literacy plays a significant role in shaping our world in the religious and non-religious worldviews and in influencing the relations between people and culture. It is also crucial to promoting peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in a mixed society. Bigotry and violent extremism breed on isolation and ignorance. A culture of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance encourages and fosters values, attitudes, traditions, behaviours and life style that rest on principles of human rights tolerance and non-violence. The following are tenets of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance that can be included in the reading materials of our schools to inculcate values among our young ones and citizens of the country: Living in peace; Loving and caring, and sharing with others; Good neighbourliness; Be your brother or sister’s keeper; Respect other people’s religion/beliefs; Equality and mutual benefit; Competition without war; Benefits of dialogue; Tolerance for ethnic diversity; Tolerate one another; Say “No” to any form of violence; Say “No” to any form of inhuman behavior; Accommodate individual differences 
When children are constantly and regularly exposed to good reading materials with the above titles, the chances are that they will be more positively disposed towards other members of their class, school and individuals in their communities. 
No society can really attain its economic and political heights when the ingredients of peace, harmony social development are lacking. It has therefore become imperative that all nations of the world that aspire to be great must as a matter of necessity toe the path of peace among its people whether multi-religious or multi-ethnic. Literacy should be considered central to the development of a tolerant society. It is also a pre-requisite for peace because it carries multiple benefits, cutting across the human, cultural, social, political and economic spheres. In today’s knowledge-driven societies, literacy and the right to basic education empowers individuals, equipping them with the skills and confidence to seek out vital information choices that have a direct impact on their families and communities. There is need for schools to adopt a holistic and integrated approach in promoting peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in our educational system.

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