TUESDAY Column by VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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When chieftains of the two highly regarded religious organisations to whom millions of ordinary Nigerians look up to guide them to the ultimate peace of God that passeth all understanding begin to engage in provocative statements that could literally set our nation on fire, one cannot but wonder in amazement . If those that are supposed to be harbingers of peace are the very ones stoking the embers of hatred, where does that leave the nation? Any one flipping through our daily newspapers would indeed wonder whether peace-makers have fled our land. Statements and counter statements meant to make us view the other person, group as our enemy who does not wish us well are flying about, bandied about by influential persons/groups. And unsurprising, their followers are imitating their leaders by spewing similar venom. In brief hate speeches are flying hither and thither as if nourished and activated from the underworld, the dark world.
Let us for now forget the social media with their blatant fake news and commentary sections that makes heart of men and women who still carry within them an iota of goodwill want to bleed in disgust. Let us instead focuss on the conservative media and consider their reportage in recent times. Here are samples: ‘Secretary-General of Jama’at Nasril Islam(JNI), Dr. Khalid Abubakar said that, “’The herdsmen debacle must be understood that this is mischievously invented by CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) over time and its biased errand boys among media practitioners to stereotype an ethnic group so as to achieve a pre-planned agenda….. We make bold to say that CAN is deliberately covering up by using the ‘herdsmen’ debacle as a franchise to perpetrate evil as witnessed in the Boko Haram tale …. CAN and other Christian leaders should not take Nigerian Muslims patience for foolishness as their speeches are becoming provocative and outlandish…one of the chief mongers of hate speech is CAN as represented by Rev. Asake”’.
While reacting to the federal government’s plan to establish cattle colonies across the nation, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), speaking through its vice president for the southeast zone, Cosmas Ilechukwu described the killings in parts of the country as “a well-planned and properly coordinated attacks on Christians”. And others added to the burning fire. Another sample – Professor Umar Muhammad of the Faculty of Humanities, Northwest University said, “Benue belongs to the Fulani people by right of conquest …Benue is therefore part and parcel of the Sokoto caliphate so no one has the right to expel the Fulani from Benue under any guise…” And the youths took it up. President, National Council of Tiv Youths, Dr. Jonh Akperashi, thundered, “The battle line has been drawn… the Tiv youths particularly are pushed to the wall now and have collectively signed their death warrants, ready to pay the supreme sacrifice if that would count, to sustain and protect our lands from any form of colonisation, be it cattle, human or both” . His counterpart in the Middle Belt Youth Council, Emma Zopmal re-echoed, “Enough is enough, we are now poised for war”. Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, another scholar waded in, insinuating that some of the weapons used by the marauding killers may have been gotten from the Nigerian army’s armoury.
And the matter appears to have taken an international dimension as one report in the internet read, ‘The United States House of Representatives has said that Nigeria has been cited as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world. Christopher Smith, Chairman US House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Organisation made the statement after the former President, Goodluck Jonathan made a presentation to the Sub-Committee on challenges faced by Christians in Nigeria’. How I wish this report is not true. But if it is, then it is unfortunate that our erstwhile head of state, Dr. Jonathan who had won global acclaim for voluntarily conceding defeat to Muhammadu Buhari (the first such concession in the 4th Republic) would now begin to champion a partisan cause rather than a pan-Nigerian one encompassing all faiths and peoples of Nigeria.
Depending on the angle you viewing it, Muslims could with some justification also say they are being mistreated because Friday, their day for joint worship is not a public holiday for them unlike Sundays that are officially work-free days. This is not to say that Christians do not face challenges in Nigeria. But to assert as Mr. Smith reportedly did, that Nigeria is the most dangerous place for Christians in the WORLD (emphasis mine) is to exaggerate. If you are depressed by his statement, what then do you say of messages being sent to “Christians” asking us to shun meat as a way of punishing the ‘murderous Fulani herdsmen’?
While one condemns killings in our country whether by herdsmen or others as they are against the adamantine Law of GOD, I wish to remind Christians of a teaching of Jesus Christ, wherein we are told, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who ill-treat you”. (Luke 6 verse 27-29).
Islam is proclaimed as a religion of peace as the word “Islam” denotes. It is a way of life which means that its adherents should not just mouth or talk peace but also live it by acting accordingly in their entire conduct/activities. By their fruits you shall know them. And the fruits should be evidenced in the peace that adherents of Islam radiate and spread in their homes, work places and the larger environment in general. Of a truth, ‘blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see GOD; blessed are the peace-makers for they shall see GOD’. Of course no human spirit can see the Almighty. The correct interpretation is that peace-makers and the pure in heart will be rewarded by being permitted to dwell in the ‘vicinity’ of GOD, that is, paradise, heaven where peace and happiness reign for eternity.
Where are the peace-makers and pure in heart? Wherever you are, of whatever faith, of whatever tribe or tongue, you are needed as a balm to help heal the wounds being inflicted on us/ our country by minions of the darkness masquerading in different cassocks!