By Chris Odinaka Nwedo
“It is beginning to show that what you say about the religious faith of others determines the quality of your faith. It can be argued that today we have transcended the era of forced conversion because forced conversion has never given any religion quality adherents but massive crowds of fickle conformers. Forced converts do not produce top fabric believers.”
This is an attempt to reexamine the roles of sincerity in our search for God. We will be examining the roles proper godliness has played in bringing to our world peace and fraternity, tolerance and love, cooperation and progress. This reflection is ultimately inspired by events in our contemporary world that increasingly call for reevaluation of our understanding of religion with the progressively rising tides of religious intolerance, injustices, bitterness and violence practiced and preached by people in the name of religion. The world remains in shock and helplessness as horrendous massacres of innocent citizens by ‘religious people’ continue relentlessly. We are gravely endangered, today, by all sorts of people actively and pitilessly doing inexcusable evil using religion as a cover. To say that there are more evil and death in the world today as a result of religion than we have experienced in science and/or other counterparts, is saying the truth as it is. For me the dereliction that gave crooked folks unchecked accesses to misuse religion has turned a grievous curse.
It is an assumption of many that the deadly cold hands of the wrong and strong ‘religious’ men and women have gripped the throats of various societies, people are terrified of the repercussions of honest confrontations with the evil people using religion as cover. If some religious groups have lost the conscience to teach love and fraternity and particularly restrain and chastise the bad eggs within, it is imperative on the government to introduce legislations targeting common interest of the citizens. However, the obvious failures by authorities are implying purposeful unwillingness to do the right thing, the right way.
This assumption is supported by various governments’ disappointing failures to protect religious minorities from violence and the oppressive excesses of all those behind the impunities. In some states, advancement of discriminatory religious legislations fostered atmospheres intolerance, which contributed to acts of violence directed against religious minority groups. There were instances in which the governments failed to intervene in cases of societal violence directed at minority religious groups. The lacks of an adequate governments’ responses contribute expressively to an atmosphere of impunity for acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities. Parties and groups with religious affiliations have been known to target minority groups. Again, it is always wrong for any government to elevate one religious group over and against the other in a secular and multi-religious environment because such action cracks cohesion and lays foundations of impunity and violence afterwards. We have seen this proposition affirmed in multiple societies.
In northern Nigeria for instance, the relations between different religious groups remained endlessly tense, acts of sectarian and religious violence are on the rise as thousands of deaths were attributed to these brands horrific violence in the region. The clamour for Sharia law in the north ended unceremoniously with proliferations of various religious law enforcement groups that claim authority over Nigerian police and the nation’s secular constitution. The evidence of the over bearing power is an arrest of a police officer in Kano state for drinking beer in Police Barrack. Paradoxically, Nigerian constitution protects beer drinker as a right, then, again this is a Police officer in Police Barack according to report. There were also confrontations and arrests of non Moslems for appearances and dresses presumed un-Islamic. In the light of citizens’ right, nothing is so absurd and there are too many examples of the excesses.
In March, 2021 Kwara state was metaphorically up in flames over hijab. The hijab crisis was triggered by a Christian school rejecting its own students who wore hijab to school. This action provided all opportunities for catastrophic religious war if religious militants were not kept absolutely way. My understanding is that the controversy was superfluous. The insensitivity of the managers of the school cannot be exemplary. Christian school should be scene of an encounter with light, a prospect for sharing love. My position is that the school blundered. If this is not blunder, why did the school admit the students knowing their religious background? And if that was a public funded school, is it not absurd that the authority allowed itself to be found guilty of discrimination on the basis of religious faiths of its students?
On the contrary, Godliness is embracing all and loving all for the love of God. If our attraction for religion is not for love of God it failed the most important tests of validity. Due to the lack of validity, impunity over rules. The impunity is the underpinning of the intense crisis that wrong brands of piety bequeathed the world. The negative quality of the contents of religious piety increases progressively as one invests the piety on material gains such as human respect, political and economic powers. It is then that the outward signs of devotion scorches the inward genuineness. The target of every godly person should be to gain enough strength to overcome all human respects and evil passions that lead to one to despise the will God and His friendship in religious activities. The aspiration to do the will of God comes with the soul growing in love, the love of God and the love of neighbour. Mischievousness in the name of God is an expressive acknowledgement of profound failure in true relationship with God, the most compassionate.
In Kano state, if employing kinetics to make Christians and other non-adherents of Islamic faith to observe Islamic rules and ethics in a secular and democratic society is not impunity what is it? It is affirmatively an impunity, repression of right of religious freedom and intolerance. In Kwara episode, nothing is so absurd. Is it not an absurd that a school suddenly decreed that non-Christians should drop their non-Christian values including the wearing of hijab? It is commonsensical that the school should have reoriented the Moslem students to see hijab as inappropriate before chastising non-conformers. The scenes in Kano and Kwara states are classical cases of religious intolerance and abridgment of compassion. Christian ethics extol the meek and the humble because it is to these Jesus Christ promised heaven in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus encouraged giving away our comforts and rights for the well-being of others. By doing this, we are illuminating the darkness of sin and alleviating iniquities of wickedness. Following the footsteps of Christ, the Church has never ceased to preach love as a sole terrain to the heart of the Father who is the love embodied.
It is beginning to show that what you say about the religious faith of others determines the quality of your faith. It can be argued that today we have transcended the era of forced conversion because forced conversion has never given any religion quality adherents but massive crowds of fickle conformers. Forced converts do not produce top fabric believers. With the increasing ‘supplies’ of religious men and women of all brands, prospective converts longer tend to depend on what preachers said but on what they do. A true Christian loves to love and is compassionate in every way for the sake of Christ. Christ came to bring peace to the trouble world. “Come to me all who labour and heavily laden and I will give you peace,” is so remarkable and summarized the mission of Christ. Regrettably, people of false piety have negative influences on those seeking peace in Christ. On the contrary, the lives of the pretenders tend to force people into search for God where He ‘cannot be found’. The progressive increment in the rate of atheism, addictions, violence and other aberrations can be traced to the deleterious influences.
In Nigeria, misappropriation of religion has remained the nation’s greatest predicament. The decomposed behavior is the background for the lots of atrocities driving the nation into failed state and something urgent is imperative to save the situation. Today, the nation is saturated with violence, the economy is down, and social life slaughtered by pandemic insecurity championed by miscellaneous Islamic militants and Fulani herdsmen.
This development is replicated, unfortunately, in climes exceedingly religious and biased. In Pakistan, some of worst religious violence were directed against the country’s Shi’a minority, who continued to be disproportionate victims of hateful attacks. It is not disputable but deplorable that the contemporary society is preponderantly weighed down by deliberate tragedies associated with wrong use of religion. Iraq spin out of controls as Sunni and Shi’a religious factions of Islam fight wars of total destruction, no truce. Demonstration for social, economic and political reforms in Syria was twisted into intractable fratricide immediately religious tunes were added to spice the struggle. The reproachful dimension in the unending fratricide is the calls by a Sunni cleric in Lebanon for Sunni Jihadists all over the world to infiltrate Syria and fight on the side of the sect to prevent imminent destruction by a Hezbollah supported President Bashar al-Assad regime.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the world is today punched and scourged by insensitive cruelties of the disorientated religious in various shapes and sizes. Today, the society is progressively dissecting and irreconcilably bent in antagonism inspired by many zealots who have so far given the impression that their religious faith is tied to the number of people they scourge and/or exterminate successfully each day. In some states, laws are manipulated to serve effectively as weapons for dealing severely with fellow believers, whose approaches differ. Religious extremism, fundamentalism or fanaticisms have become serious problems devastating the contemporary world. “People blindly believe that the whole truth is stated only in the scriptures of their own religion. The implication of such deluded belief is that if anything is not stated in those scriptures of their own religion, then, it cannot be true. This is why many hate other religions and other scriptures. They think other religions and their scriptural texts are false, hence, must be destroyed.1
Even when I do not rest my case on a supposition that all religions are of equal quality or the same in quantity, it is absurd to me that individuals should harm others just because of differences in religious faith. Religious group(s) that glorifies death and destruction can neither be equal nor the same with group(s) that preaches love, understanding and tolerance. God epitomes love, He understands and tolerates us that we may do the same to others who are also transgressors as we all are. Wrong religious idea is poisonous, regrettably, many are voluntary victims of these erroneous ideas.
In general, religion should be all about love and compassion in order to lay full claim to the Divine origin. God is pure love. This one God, the Infinitude of Love, pervades in all beings and all places. And the only way to link with him is through love. Yet, the pages of human history are soaked with the innocent blood spilled in the name of religion and God. It is quite puzzling that the so called ‘Most Merciful’, ‘Most Compassionate’, and ‘Most Gracious’, ‘God’ incites adherents to kill, maim and destroy in his name.2
It is bizarre enough that Abubakar Shekau the leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, that has carried out a series of deadly attacks across northern Nigeria with thousands of casualties said he enjoys killing like chickens or rams anyone that God commands him to kill. He said this in a video clip released just after the jihadists group had carried out one of its deadliest attacks, killing at least 200 people in Kano. Shekau and his group of mass murderers are emboldened in the atrocities by the belief that the killings, tears and sorrows of the victims placate their own Allah. Al Shabaab, Al- Qaeda, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) and other never-ending lists Islamic killer groups have sacrilegiously slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people around the world in the name of Islam. They start the outrageous butcheries with prayer and end with praises of the Allah. The Islamists destabilized everywhere they infiltrate with death and sorrow while the soil is soaked red with the blood of innocent victims.
In Pakistan, blasphemy laws are instruments of vendetta against persons or minority religious groups. It is in the same Pakistan that an under aged girl Rimsha Masih, was allegedly framed by Khalid Chishti, an Imam. The girl accused of insulting Islam by burning pages of the religion’s holy book was arrested after an indignant mob conspired to scorch her to death. But the twist that is of interest here, was that police arrested a Muslim cleric championing the accusation, later, after a follower from his mosque accused him of stashing pages of a Koran in Rimsha’s bag to make it seem as if she burnt them. Police source said, Chishti planted pages of a Quran in a shopping bag containing burned papers and ash that had been carried by the girl. The bag was then submitted as evidence to the police. The cleric, allegedly, ‘planted the evidence in order to incite violence against the child and members of the local Christian community and eventually create disposition for driving Christians out of the neighbourhood.3
Pakistan’s blasphemy allegations are often made on the flimsiest of evidences, even when zealous religious militants are ever disposed to treacherously slay any victim. In court, the alleged act of blasphemy cannot even be repeated, as that would be an act of blasphemy in itself. So, verdicts are issued without hearing the main pieces of evidence. In the year 2012, a mentally disturbed Muslim man in Bahawalpur, a city in the middle of Pakistan, was accused of blasphemy and arrested and a crowd of up to 2,000 stormed the police station and dragged the man out, beat him and burnt him alive.4 Prominent politicians have been gunned down by zealots in Pakistan for the ‘sacrilege’ of suggesting that the religious laws should be amended so that the abuse will stop. The killer of one of the politicians was applauded by supporters who threw rose petals whenever he appeared in court.
‘In 2009, 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by a mob of 1,000 Muslims in the town of Gojra, in Punjab Province and at least seven Christians were burnt life. The attacks were triggered by reports of the desecration of the Koran. And two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous letter against the Prophet Mohammad were gunned down outside a court in the eastern city of Faisalabad in July of 2010.5 The case against under aged Rimsha Masih, nevertheless helped focused attention on Pakistan’s harsh religious laws, which activists claim are used to persecute minorities and settle personal vendettas.
It is religious people, the ‘devout’, that premeditated the blasphemy laws and they are the ones instrumenting them to hunt their enemies to extinction. Much earlier in the days of Jesus, Pharisees, the high priests and elders used religious laws to weed off the society of the people that contradicted them. In volcanic anger, a high priest tore his clothes when Jesus restated his relationship with the Father, as false accusations and counter accusations were pouring in to have him scourged. The high priest having shattered his ceremonial dress insisted, “He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?’ They answered, ‘He deserves to die.’ Then they spat on His face and hit Him with their fists; others said as they struck him, ‘prophesy to us, Christ who hit you then? 6
Pilate knew it was jealousy or distrustfulness that motivated the Chief Priests and the elders to strategize against Jesus. They, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the execution of Jesus. They inspired the conspiring mob to shout loud and louder, ‘let him be crucified’. As the mob were about to begin violent protest, Pilate took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.’ And the people, every one of them, shouted back, ‘let his blood be on us and on our children. Afterward, Jesus was handed over to them and to the satisfaction of the Chief Priest, scribes and elders he was resentfully humiliated, scorned, scourged and crucified.
- Religious Fanaticism Its Evil Face http://www.gurbani.org/articles/webart114.htm
- See ‘Judge grants bail to Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan’ in Fox World news online September 07, 2012
- see Christian science monitor.com@ Bahawalpur
- Pakistani Girl Battered, Held Behind Bars on Blasphemy Allegations in worldnews.com reported by Bridget Johnson August 27
- The gospel of St. Matthew chapter 26