Religious tolerance is accepting and appreciating spiritual beliefs, values, perspectives, and practices that differ from your own. Religious tolerance does not entail that a member of a religion has to compromise the laws of their faith. In fact, Christianity and Islam, the two predominant religions in Kenya, do not require compromising of their teachings in order to live together in harmony. In their scriptures, peace and love are emphasized, with many guiding principles encouraging peaceful coexistence in societies with diverse religions. The Quran for example condemns any form of coercion of other faiths to join Islam — "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error" (Quran 2:256) — meaning there is no tolerance for one who forces another person to submit to his/her will and convert to the religion unwillingly.
In today’s world, it is clear that religious intolerance and aggression leads to violence. The violence spans from harassment, intimidation, terrorism, to outright hostilities. According to a publication by Dr. Ludovic Lado, a research scholar at The Wilson Center, religious tension and violence in the last decade has been increasing in the African continent, including violent extremist groups waging jihad, and violence between Christians and Muslims especially in the West, Central and East Africa. Religious violence has also been experienced elsewhere in the world including the struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, among others.
"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error" (Quran 2:256)
Religious belligerence felt across the world begs the question — how is it that religions which are supposed to promote peace and harmony are associated with bigotry and aggression? Well, this can be answered in part by understanding some of the causes of religious intolerance that leads to conflicts. Although they differ depending on the environment, they range from poor religious education which leads to misinterpretation of scriptures, to religious leaders misleading people, especially when it comes to interpreting religious teachings, economic interests, external influence in religion, community interests and exploitation, among other things.
There is no doubt that the problem of religious disorders, brought about by intolerance, has disastrous consequences for individuals and the stability of countries, the most obvious ones being the loss of lives and property, and economic sabotage. To avoid these devastating effects, we need to play the following roles in order to establish peace, love, harmony, and tolerance for each other’s religion.
1. Education – It is essential for everyone to understand their own religion and what the scriptures really mean. We should also learn to value and respect the religions and beliefs of others.
2. Places of worship especially Mosques and Churches need good religious leaders who can interpret and teach correctly without misinforming or misleading the believers. They should also teach the congregation the importance of respecting religious differences.
3. Faith-based organizations should support peace efforts in the country. Interfaith action is certainly an antidote to religious intolerance; therefore, these groups should regularly offer reminders to the citizens of the importance of peace and unity.
4. Families are mostly responsible for introducing family members to their religion. This implies that they should provide a proper understanding of religion, and how to appreciate differences in beliefs.
5. The government needs to recognize the significance of religions in fostering peace and develop awareness programs and a religious education curriculum with the aim of cultivating religious tolerance and unity.