Seminar with Dr Tolulope Osayomi: "Spatiality, Symbolism and Paradox of Interfaith Relations in Nigeria"

The Leeds University Centre for African Studies and the Centre for Religion and Public Life are hosting a joint research seminar with Dr Tolulope Osayomi.

Dr Tolulope Osayom (University of Ibadan; currently a Fellow at Oxford University) will speak about:

“Boundaries of Loves, Fringes of Hostility”: Spatiality, Symbolism and Paradox of Interfaith Relations on a Sacred Prayer Mountain in Nigeria

Religious intolerance often arises from external aggression or territorial disputes over sacred spaces considered spiritually significant by multiple faiths, each seeking control. However, the Orí Òkè Sobi (Sobi Hill) in Nigeria offers an example of long-standing peaceful coexistence between Christian and Muslim communities. This paper examines the unique pattern of religious peaceful coexistence on the hill, grounded in the concept of territoriality. It explores how and why Christians and Muslims were able to co-create such a pattern. Findings from key and in-depth interviews, transect walks, and remotely sensed data identified over 50 prayer sites at the time of the survey, with a significant number belonging to Christians. Territoriality is evident through demarcations with visible boundaries and symbols like the Cross, Arabic inscriptions, and prayer beads. Despite these expressions of territoriality, there are no restrictions on any faith worshipping anywhere on the hill, suggesting a unique interplay between territoriality and religious coexistence. In addition, both religions united in defence against the African religious traditions by prohibiting their use of the sacred space, which reflects a limited conceptualization of 'sacred space,' restricting its legitimacy to the theological sensibilities of Christianity and Islam. This raises important questions about the scope of perceived inter-religious harmony. The coexistence of both faiths on the hill, while seemingly harmonious, does not necessarily imply the absence of frictions.

.About the speaker

Dr. Tolulope Osayomi is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Ibadan and holds a Ph.D. in medical geography. His recent research focuses on the geography of religion in Africa. He was the principal investigator of an ethnographic study titled "Geographies of Divine Health and Healing: Ori Oke (Prayer Mountains) as Therapeutic Landscapes," funded by the Ife Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) Research Grant. In addition, he was a co-investigator on the project "An Integrated Approach to Religious Tolerance in Shared Sacred Spaces," funded by the Nagel Institute for World Christianity, USA in conjunction with the Templeton Trust. Currently, Dr. Osayomi is an AfOx-TORCH Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of History, Oxford University, where he is deconstructing the African COVID-19 Paradox phenomenon. This project includes examining the  various religious responses to COVID-19 in Africa. Through his pioneering work, Dr. Osayomi sincerely hopes to contribute significantly to our understanding of the intersections between geography, religion, and health.