Religion and government have had an unsure history. At times there was a total separation between the two. At times the interconnectedness caused the two spheres to be inseparable. In cases of inseparability, the order of the two was interchangeable. This relationship between religion and government should however be understood contextually. Civil society considerations have been part of government decisions ever since humans governed themselves. At times political decisions were based on consultations and advice received from religious leaders such as prophets and priests. At times religious leaders would oppose decisions taken by political leaders. This therefore the writer seeks to discuss if religion hinders or promotes good governance in a state. Looking at the nexus between religion and good governance, to a greater extend religion promotes good governance in a state.
Good governance is not only about the further development of the rule of law and democracy but it also includes the elements of accountability and efficiency of the government. Good government is significant because it is both a norm for the government and a citizen’s right. This justifies good governance as a genuine third cornerstone. Key to these features of good governance is market reforms and the role of civil society. Good governance was identified as a structural necessity for market reform. By associating liberal democracy with neoliberal economic policy in the good governance discourse, the market and political space becomes a realm of freedom and liberty. The aim is to release the energies of ordinary people and to empower ordinary people to take charge of their own lives, to make communities more responsible for their development, and to make governments listen to their people through the empowerment of civil society.
In the good governance discourse, reforms have to be led by enlightened leaders operating outside politics hence, from civil society, to advance the general welfare interests of society against self-serving bureaucrats and other vested interests. Civil society therefore, emerges as the key link between economic liberalization and democratization it is both the locus of economic growth and vitality, and the seedbed of democracy. Civil society is regarded as a countervailing power to the state, a way of Civil society refers to the segment of the society, organisations, groups and associations that interact with the state, influences the state, and yet is distinct from the state. It is regarded as a counter vailing power to the state, a way of curbing authoritarian practices and corruption. For good governance to occur requires ‘’a systematic effort to build a pluralistic institutional structure that brings a broader spectrum of ideas and values to bear on policy making’’ and keep the state in check. The Church has been a key element of civil society in Africa, and in some cases the only organisation which could act as a check to state power and hegemonic.
In concurring extensive research has been done by Fox (2008) as to the different ways in which government and religion engage. Fox (2008) identified 62 variables each indicating a way in which politics and religion can engage. Moyser indicates that “the relationship between religion and politics can play out in three different forms; political authorities control religious institutions, religious leaders prescribe to political authorities and a symbiotic co-existence of politics and religion”. However, whether like it or not irrespective of declared arguments, religion has always played a significant role in moderating selfish interests and in some cases in uprooting it all together. Religion seeds the idea of serving truth and justice without taking in to account private interests. Religion seeds the fundamentals of loving an everlasting idea than submit to the immediate short-lived needs of the flesh to bring out good governance.
In the good governance discourse, reforms have to be led by enlightened leaders operating outside politics hence, from civil society, to advance the general welfare interests of society against self-serving bureaucrats and other vested interests. Civil society therefore, emerges as the key link between economic liberalization and democratization it is both the locus of economic growth and vitality, and the seedbed of democracy. Civil society is regarded as a countervailing power to the state, a way of curbing authoritarian practices and corruption; hence the concern for strengthening or nurturing civil society. They can create links both upward and downward in society and voice local concerns more effectively than grassroots institutions. These civil society are made up of different religion which have multiple denominations and sects that vary greatly geographically and culturally.
- Fox, J. 2008. A World Survey of Religion and the State. New York: Cambridge University Press
- Moyser, G. 1991. Politics and Religion in the Modern World. Routledge: London
- Chazan, N. et al (1992). Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
- Gifford, P. (1998). African Christianity: Its public role. London: Hurst & Co
- World Bank (1989). Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth, Washington, DC: World Bank.
- Addink, H. (2019), ‘Concept and Context’, Good Governance, Great Clarendon Street:Oxford University Press.