I have always believed in, and respected the rights of every human being, as I expect my rights to be respected. Though I treat all basic human rights as the same, I am partial to the rights to life, freedom, dignity of person and freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression. I believe in the fundamental principle that my rights should not impinge on another’s and vice versa.
You can imagine why the list I am about to make is seriously bugging me.
1. BRIDGET AGBAHEME: Bridget was a 47 year old Igbo woman living in Kano who was attacked in front of her shop in Kofar Wambai, beaten to death and paraded around the streets. Bridget was married to Pastor Mike Agbaheme, who is a senior Pastor with Deeper Life Bible Church. She was a mother of one. This happened on June 2, 2016.
Her offense: allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad
2. REVEREND JOSEPH ZACHARIAH KURAH: was a 47 year old senior cleric with Evangelical Church of West Africa or ECWA as it is popularly called. He was killed by two people in Obi Local Government area of Nassarawa state. He was on his way to inspect a roofing project when he was killed. The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nassarawa state chapter, said the Reverend was attacked and dismembered, with his two hands cut off so he could bleed to death. The date of this incident? June 30, 2016.
His offense: unknown
3. FRANCIS EMMANUEL: is a 41 year old carpenter who works in Kakuri, Kaduna state. He went to buy wood and on his return, bought food to eat. As soon as he started eating, some hoodlums approached him and asked if he was a Muslim or Christian. He did not respond. Another asked why he was eating during Ramadan. He said he was not a Muslim. That statement was greeted with a slap. This was followed by being pounced on and stabbed multiple times.
His Offense: eating during Ramadan.
4. EUNICE OLAWALE: was a 42 year old deaconess with the Redeemed Christian Church of GOD, Kubwa, Abuja. She was married to a senior Pastor of the same church and had a routine of setting off in the morning to preach to her community; in what was called ‘Morning Cry’. She told her husband she had been threatened around a mosque one day and after promising to be cautious, she went out on the 10th day of July, 2016, at about 5: 30am. She never returned home. Her body was found with her throat slit and her head resting on the Bible she used to preach. She was a mother of 7 children.
Her offense: preaching in her community.
5. THREE PEOPLE: The Independent Nigeria reported that three men in Niger state were, like the case of Bridget, accused of blaspheming against Islam and were summarily executed by their self-appointed judge, jury and executioner. Their names were not released, hence the broad category.
Their offense: allegedly blaspheming against Islam.
6. CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTACK: the most recent attack happened on the 16th of July, 2016. Thisday Newspaper reported that a group of Muslim youth attacked St. Philips Catholic Parish,Baki Iku, close to Zuma rock in Niger state. It was also reported that the security men and resident Seminarian were beaten to a pulp and women who had gone for prayers were chased away. Properties of the church were destroyed and the community was in shock. This attack reportedly happened after the Juma’at prayers. The youth reportedly said Friday was their day of prayer and that the Christians only had one day to pray, which is Sunday.
The church’s offense: praying on a Friday
All these incidents happened in the space of less than two months. Taken individually, they can be seen as unrelated and unconnected but looking at them as a whole, one cannot help but see the connection between these events; radical ideology. When you add the recent killing in Benue, Jos and Taraba from herdsmen, the connection seem clearer.
In most of these cases, the attackers have called themselves Muslims and have based their actions on what they have interpreted from the Qur’an. Some might even call it righteous indignation at a perceived slight to Islam and her tenets but is that reason enough to take the lives of people and destroy properties? And in such gruesome manner?
It is disheartening to see the continual wanton disregard for human life on the guise of upholding religious beliefs. Each person is entitled to hold whatever belief they choose to have, without fear of repercussion from those who do not share their beliefs.
The extrajudicial ways these cases have been handled makes me wonder if there was no better way to handle the situation. If the people above had blasphemed against Islam in one way or another, couldn’t they have been taken to court? And if the conventional courts were not good enough, couldn’t they have been taken to a Sharia court?
The problem is, with every case of jungle justice, just few of the killers are caught and the majority would continue live their lives, waiting for the next perceived offense to unleash their inner hulks and kill another person.
This then brings back the question of whether the lives of Christians, especially Christians in Northern Nigeria, are considered less human.
Governor Nasir ElRufai of Kaduna state was quick to respond to the attack on Francis Emmanuel, saying that the state wouldn’t tolerate religious intolerance of any form. I applaud his resolve to protecting the lives of citizens of his state and that is something worth emulating. The Supreme Council for Sharia, Kaduna state chapter, also responded by saying it was un-Islamic to attack people for not fasting. Nationally, the President reacted to some of the killings but is that enough? Is there more the president should be doing? My belief is YES. There is so much more he can do!
In my article to President Buhari when he finally settled into Aso Rock, I urged that the president carry out campaigns on religious tolerance across the country. Just as they plied usdaily with the All Progressives Congress (APC) manifesto before the elections, they can have campaigns about religious tolerance that go all the way to the grassroots. What people hear constantly form what they hold true and dear.
Another thing the government can do is to have the State Security Service (SSS) investigate and clamp down on fanatical preachers (Muslim and Christian alike). This is because someone or a group of people have to be goading these attackers. How do a group of Muslims come out of Juma’at prayers and head straight to a church to destroy it and beat up its personnel? What message did they hear in the mosque that pushed them on? If one person had attacked, you could easily blame it on anything BUT the message that was preached. But because most reports said the youth numbering about 200 attacked the church, and because it happened immediately after Juma’at prayers, one cannot help but wonder what they heard in the mosque!
Even though President Buhari hasn’t shown that he values ALL Nigerian lives, or even that he thinks people from different regions are equal, I am hoping that he can get over himself and STAND AGAINST THESE KILLINGS along religious lines. Nigeria is not a Muslim nation. She is neither a Christian nation. She is a secular nation and should be treated as such. Muslim and Christians should be able to cohabit peacefully without any side trying to force their ideals down the throats of the others.
And to my Muslim family, I believe you should be at the forefront of the protests of these killings done in the name of Islam. Keeping quiet seems to be a support of these killings. I am not asking that you defend yourselves, which is what most people want when they complain about the silence of Muslims at such times. I am asking that you speak against the terribly wicked acts of people who claim to be Muslims, but whose actions show they are anything but. I want to use the Jesus example, so I crave your indulgence. When he came, he was more critical of the Jews than he was of the Romans and any other people. He was especially critical of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and teachers of the law because they were leading the people on a path of destruction and ruining the essence of the principles God has given man. He did this because he didn’t want people perceiving the faith in a bad light because of the actions of those who claimed to follow the faith. In the same light, I feel that you should be the first to condemn the people who do wrong while claiming to be Muslims.
You see, when Christians were been killed by the Boko Haram sect, many Muslims remained quiet. The killings went on and on and there was hardly any anger from Muslims. It wasn’t until the terrorists started attacking and killing Muslim faithful that Muslims spoke out. By that time, the loss of NIGERIAN lives were in the hundreds of thousands.
This is the thing about being silent about injustice: when it has burned out your perceived enemy, it will look back at you and begin to burn you out too. History is proof that.
And to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), how about you organize seminars on better ways to preach the gospel without causing offense, instead of fighting for positions and issuing dud threat? How about you teach your followers the value of respect of other people’s opinions and ideals? You do not have to agree with them but if you have learned anything from the Jesus, it should be diplomacy in handling people who do not share your faith. The world is fast evolving and the way the gospel is preached should too. Jumping on the bus and shouting or using horn speakers to wake people up just isn’t working anymore. Go and learn from apologetics like Ken Ham, Ravi Zacharias, Cornelius and Heather Lindsey, Kurt Willems, Paul Adefarasin and many more like them.
I come from a family that is mixed – religion and tribe – and as such, I perceive myself a human first, Nigerian second before my faith or tribe. As a result, I have learned to be respectful of every person and every ideology. Trust me, I do not agree with many ideologies out there but learning to respect a person’s RIGHT TO HOLD SUCH has become one of my life’s goals. You may not be from a family like mine but you can always respect people for who they are; even if you do not agree with them.
I keep saying that Nigeria is the only home I have, the only home most of us have and we cannot watch it burn to the ground because of people who have no regard for human life and rights. We owe it to ourselves to speak out against ALL FORMS OF INJUSTICE against citizens of this country.
Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Traditionalist, Male, Female, Northern, Western, Eastern, South Southern, Southern, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, heterosexual, homosexual, APC/PDP/KOWA Party supporter, and whatever category you want to bring up is a Nigerian life that should matter! These are all Nigerians that have rights!
So knowing this, how can we stop these attacks perpetuated against Nigerians?