Social Institutions and Human Development: Exploring the Relevance of Religion in the Pursuit of Social Inclusion in Nigeria (Published)
Although Nigeria ranks high in religious activities, yet its human development indices remain low. This paper reviews the concepts of social institutions and human development, and specifically tries to situate the relevance of religion in the pursuit of the objectives of social inclusion, peace and shared prosperity in contemporary societies. Although the paper looks at religion as a social institution, it specifically considers the Christian religion and investigates the extent to which it has initiated or can initiate projects that will foster social inclusion in Nigeria. The primary objective of this paper is to establish a basic connection between religion as a social institution, and its role as a vehicle for social inclusion and prosperity. The paper reviewed relevant literature to establish the functions of religion and its potential as a veritable tool for social transformation. It also highlighted the historical activities of some Christian denominations in Nigeria with a view to establishing how relevant they have been in promoting human development. The paper concludes that religion has demonstrated that it has social relevance and can serve as a tool for promoting social inclusion in Nigeria. In a time when religion has been implicated in many conflicts around the world – the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, the ISIS insurgency in Syria, and even the recent attacks and displacement of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, this topic deserves critical research attention. It is also hoped that other researchers may be inspired to investigate how other religions have or can promote social inclusion, peace and prosperity in Nigeria.