Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, the Erelu Kuti of Lagos, Dr Abiola Dosunmu, and others dignitaries have preached about the virtues of the Isese religion, a form of traditional worship practised primarily in Southwest Nigeria and other West African countries, describing it as a religion that defines humanity through cultural identity.
This was mentioned during a public discussion given by the Nobel Laureate on the topic ‘Isese, Samarkand, And Other Markets Of The Mind’ on Friday in Lagos.
Speaking at the gathering, Prof Soyinka, preached against religious intolerance and the attack on the Isese religion. He emphasised the importance of Isese in Nigerian culture and urged Nigerians to learn more about their indigenous beliefs and practices.
Professor Wole Soyinka, also condemned the recent clampdown and continued detention of Isese advocates and adherents in Ilorin, Kwara State, describing the as an ‘act of terror’.
He said, “The religion Isese asks, WHEN Is Justice? And what is that ensign worth, if it fails to fulfil the primary condition of social accreditation which is — Justice!
“Justice, for which another name is Equity, walks hand in hand with Tolerance. Tolerance is simply according others the same right that we exercise on our own behalf. Do we need to seek far and wide to embrace the position of Isese on the elementary virtue of Tolerance? Not in the least. In any neighbouring household to nearly every other dwelling in this nation, we shall encounter those whose Scriptures extol this very virtue. Listen to the following from the very words of the Prophet, Mohammed.
“The first, from Chapter 2 Verse 256, commands, ‘Let there be no compulsion In religion.’
“Thus declared the Prophet Mohammed in his own person. Even further, from Chapter 10 Verses 99–100: ‘If it had been the Lord’s Will, they would all have believed—All who are on earth – Wilt thou compel mankind, against their will, to believe?'”
Prof Soyinka stressed that Isese is a peaceful religion that propagates the sanctity of humanity. “Isese preaches mutual respect, but insists on the primal sanctity of human life. Isese turns its face against murder, such as the brutal ending of the girl student Deborah Samuel Yakubu, Isese demands justice for the martyred girl, for her family, for her community and — indisputably, the nation itself.
“Isese must not rest until all the perpetrators of that hideous crime are brought to justice, including those purveyors of sectional HATE and DISCORD who applauded the deed including those who have obstructed the cause of justice. ALL are guilty of instigating others to emulation.
“Any society that thinks or acts otherwise, even by omission, has chosen the path of disintegration.
“Isese enjoins patience with those who, even while they fill themselves with pride of learning, fail to distinguish between the worship of idols on the one hand — such as some ancient practices that their own religions supplanted – and the symbolic evocation of godhead through images, music, performance and material designations, including life-sustaining facets of Nature, be these rivers, mountains, earth and seasons.
“Most times, such ignorance is feigned. It is deliberately propagated in order to justify their claims to superiority thus promoting an agenda of subjugation, enslavement, and other forms of dehumanization, including racist theologies.
“However we must present a stern face in defence of our own community of faiths, centred on humanistic values. Isese preaches that humanity is absolute, not relative, that humanity is one, or not at all.”
Also speaking, Erelu Dosunmu, described Isese as an embodiment of everything about humanity. “We’ve always celebrated Isese day but most people don’t know about it and of course, the government didn’t give cognizance to it. For us Isese day is like Christmas or any big Muslim celebration,” she said.
“Isese is our paths to illuminate our way throughout life. And I am happy there is gradual awakening and awareness on the Isese day. And I assure you that the next Isese day will be marked with a bigger celebration,” Erelu Dosunmu added.
Other speakers at the event, like popular film-maker, Tunde Kalani also stressed the need for Nigerians to embrace their indigenous beliefs and practices, saying that it would help to promote national unity and identity.
In his last words, Prof Soyinka said, “Those who deny others their right to choose their path are inadequate in their own region, because of their insecurity in their own religion.”
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