Christians the world over today begin the commemoration of Easter with Good Friday. However, the Christian community in Nigeria is celebrating, doubtless, one of the bleakest Easters in recent times. This is because of the criminal activity of the insurgent Boko Haram Islamic sect that has targeted places of worship and worshippers. Churches have been bombed out and hundreds of Christians killed in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, and occasionally in Bauchi, Plateau and Niger states.
However, the dark days and months building up to this celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian faith, must not be allowed to rob the occasion of its essence – which is God’s love for a sinful mankind. Jesus Christ was the manifestation of that love. The Bible says that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. [John 15.13] This is love that “passes all (human) understanding”.
This is what Easter means and Christians, wherever they are, should remain upbeat and let the joy of the Easter season overflow as never before. Jesus, before he died, said whoever would follow him must carry his “own cross”. He explained that with a warning that the Christian life would never be a bed of roses but one of hardships, persecution, deprivation and even physical death. “The world will hate you just as it hated me”, he said. The respected apostle Paul, once himself a persecutor of Christ’s early disciples, warned that “in the last days” Christians would be sorely tested for their faith. However, he said those that preserve in the faith would gain the “crown of righteousness”.
In a sense, Boko Haram represents to Christians the anti-Christ that the Messiah (Christ) warned would arise in the last days to torment his faithful followers. However, he said they should be of “good cheer” because “I have overcome the world”. He achieved this by succumbing to death on the Cross of Calvary on a Good Friday and coming back to life on an Easter Sunday (yesterday), thereby scoring a glorious victory over Satan. Boko Haram, in spite of the seemingly unstoppable destruction it is wreaking, is already defeated in the spiritual sense. Indeed, as Christ himself said, “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do more”.
However, Jesus’ words of assurance of victory over evil are not a call to a life of careless abandon. No. Without a doubt, these are harrowing times for all Nigerians. For Nigerian Christians, in particular, they call for a recommitment to the faith, for closeness to God and prayers for the country. They require that we show even greater love for fellow country men and women, other compatriots who do not belong in the Christian faith. Indeed, Christians must resist the Devil’s temptation to blame all Muslims for their present travails. There are millions of good, empathetic Muslims who detest Boko Haram as much as Christians do, if not more. These should be embraced. Standing together they can defeat Boko Haram physically and spiritually.
Therefore, we say happy Easter.