By Talemoh Wycliffe Dah
Gowon Omale’s great piece, Insecurity: the Christian Community Defense System, published online by Everyday.ng on 16/6/2021(1) is praise-worthy in that it started a discussion on a topical issue on which those affected are hardly doing anything. The topic merits not only elaboration but concerted action. However, rather than that, there appears to be confusion, pushing all of us to aggregate under prayer as an only weapon in our armoury because, by a chorus quote, ‘our weapons of warfare are not carnal’ (2). This tends to automatically render commonsensical actions as evil, or at least not godly. Yet it is God that gave us our thinking faculties so that actions like building houses or shelters from the elements did not need pontification by an ecclesiastic or God Himself.
The place of prayer cannot be overemphasized, however. Prayer should be offered always, and for all things, including for our enemies or those who spitefully use us, for our leaders, for every situation and just as our custom (3). This communion, petition, supplication, inquisition and praise has no equal in terms of our protection and preservation as it brings God manifestly into the situation for victory and it is an act of obedience because we are instructed to do so. But it is not supposed to be followed by inactions; as a matter of fact, we receive instructions from God to carry out certain actions sometimes after prayers. That the latter, the reception of instructions on what to do, (divine intelligence and direction, a consequent ammunition because we prayed), is often lacking is a situation that speaks volumes on the quality and quantum of prayers we have been offering.
Concerning security for Christian communities our actions and especially inactions have so far been, for the most part, out of fear, complacency or outright foolishness. Fear is not godly and only acts to negate our faith and torment us (4). It will not let us carry out God’s assignment or even to reign and have dominion as God said we should (5). Complacency is an inaction comparable to being at ease in Zion (6) while the devil wreaks his planned havoc. The complacent uses insecurity as an excuse to be indolent. Foolishness, from the book of Proverbs, has a weight only half an ounce less than sin (7). Yet Christ Jesus, the Wisdom of God, dwells in us (8). How will the earth be filled with the knowledge of God as waters that cover the sea (9) when we are fearful, complacent and foolish?
An iteration of points raised by Gowon will make it easy to move the discussion on security for Christians further in a positive, practical way. The first is that God is our Defense. He is our Shield (10), Strong Tower (11), Protector (12), etc and we must pray to Him for protection. He singlehandedly secures victories for us.
However, apart from the creation feat, God does not accomplish anything in us without us playing our part: the reason He called us partners or co-labourers (13) and the reason Jesus said for us to watch and pray (14). This watching, ‘’to have vigilant awareness’’ (15), ‘’to have an alertness of a guard at night’’ (16) against sin, the enemy (Satan’s) attacks, our state of spirituality and readiness for rapture and for prophetic fulfilment (17) is ours to do.
All the victories in the Old Testament were wrought by God alone but with at least human involvement. To multiply livestock, Jacob had to do his part of showing streaked rods to mating animals (18). A striking of the red sea was needed to part it (19). Some circling of Jericho and a shout brought down the wall (20). Other times an instruction to put the battle in array had to be obeyed and God destroyed the enemies by divine means (21). Each and every victory has a part to be played by the believer, or else we could just pray and expect people to be saved without going to preach to them (22). God’s way of battle should be clear to us – He answers our prayers for victory but expects us to watch before and as that happens. We just have a small part. With victory to pass examinations comes the requirement to study. You will get good health, but you need to commit to healthy lifestyle and omit unhealthy habits. For good harvest, you must work the field.
A few truths must be settled first. To be sure, God wants us to be peaceful (23), not to retaliate or be violent (24). Violence does us no good and deters the work God has given us as reconciliators of men to Himself (25). Revenge is prohibited but rather forgiveness is what God wants of us (26). Forgiveness breaks the circle of wrongs and violence; and halts the often orchestrated move of the devil to cause disharmony. The next truth helpful to us is about killing, against which there is a commandment (27). God hates it so much that even when David killed for the right reasons, he was considered unfit to undertake the project of building the Temple, a ‘house for God’ (28)! Then there is the fact that if we kill anybody who is not delivered by Christ’s redeeming blood such will go to hell (29). We are also expected to suffer but endure persecution (30).
It will only be fair to also settle the truth of current happenings in Nigeria. We are targeted and killed, often without prior quarrels or misunderstanding. We are attacked on the highways and killed right away. Our villages are attacked at odd hours and people are killed on their beds or while running for their lives. People are abducted and tortured to torment their relations to raise large sums for their rescue. Students are herded away from their schools and kept for as long as the government or parents delay to ‘buy’ them from their captors. We are rounded off in our farms and killed.
We must forgive the past losses and hurt; there is no argument about this. We must not wage a war and there is no contention here too. We must love our enemies and even pray for them (31); this is a clear command from God. We must be law abiding and not take laws in our hands, except obnoxious laws, obedience to which constitute disobedience to God (32). As much as it lies in us, we must follow peace with all men, and holiness (33). Then come the numerous verses often quoted: our weapons of warfare are not carnal; turn the other cheek; if your enemy is hungry, feed him; persecution was promised; etc.
We must also say a word on history of such violence. The Turkish experience known to almost everybody comes to mind first. The Maghreb that was all Christian during the Byzantine Empire was turned to Islam by violence. The battle of Tours halted the violent spread of Islam to the rest of Europe (34). Armenian Christians were expelled from their country by violence (35) in an attack that included genocide, death march and forced conversion. In our recent past in Nigeria, people were murdered and burnt in churches sometime even while communing with God in prayers. And yet we think docility laced with lazy, non-committal prayers are the only things we should do.
There is an attempt, it appears, to take us out of the world completely. It will be unreasonable to say we are to fold our hands and get killed, because there is no piety in that. Our presence here on earth brings light (36), seasoning (37), peace and peacemakers (38), kindness, love and the reconciliation of people with God. We are working hard to ensure, with the help of God, that the earth will be filled with the Glory and knowledge of God as waters that cover the sea (9). God has not changed that mandate and it will be unrealistic to submit to slaughter because of fear, complacency and foolishness disguised as piety!
The Nigerian constitution allows, or expects people to defend themselves (sections 284,285,286,287) and it is not wrong to do so. Section 286 ‘’ When a person is unlawfully assaulted, and has not provoked the assault, it is lawful for him to use such force to the assailant as it is reasonably necessary to make effectual defence against the assault: provided that the force used is not intended, and is not such as is likely, to cause death or grievous harm. If the nature of the assault is such as to cause reasonable apprehension of death or grievous harm, and the person using force by way of defence believes, on reasonable ground, that he cannot otherwise preserve the person defended from death or grievous harm, it is lawful for him to use any such force to the assailant as is necessary for defence, even though such force may cause death or grievous harm’’ (39). Sensible. When someone gets to your village and house and leaves you with no option of escape, this privilege comes in handy. God makes all things beautiful in its time, including a time of peace and a time to fight at such times (40). In these extreme extenuating circumstances, self-defense may lead to fatal injuries to the invader, but it is still self-defense and this will also serve as an extreme case of deterrence to further invaders. It is cowardly, hypocritical and insincere for anybody at this point to begin to say that that cruel invader who was willing to kill and gives you no options will die and go to hell so nothing should be done. If he is not stopped, what of the hundreds he will kill who do not know God and who will go to hell as well?
Gowon proffered the formation of vigilante who should also do some surveillance. It is inconceivable and foolhardy that a church will hold a night vigil in a crisis prone area without even stationing some Boys Brigade persona to at least alert worshippers of attacks so they can flee to safety; but that scenario still happens as if the parishioners have a death wish. To die without undertaking God’s mandate is wasted investment. Vigilante should be aided by intelligence gathering, even if by espionage. And vigilante sho uld bear weapons within the ambit of the law. Vigilante should be able to quickly inform law enforcement officers when they see or sense attackers. And Christian communities should equip vigilante with communication gadgets and weapons within the ambit of the law.
Still talking about weapons within the ambit of the law, people should bear these when in the farms, driving on highways or in their homes. Farmers with contiguous lands should develop a means of helping one another escape from these killers. So should neighbours or villagers. Where they cannot escape, they should stand up to these marauders. The truth is that these marauders only learnt how to kill and destroy but not combat. Villagers should learn combat because the marauders are shocked and afraid when they see people stand up to them. Defense is defense; if you raise your hand to slap me on the face but I block it, there is both no slap and no forgiveness needed, even when my blocking your slap hurts you.
If there is a way of putting traps around your settlements which will limit or at least delay invaders, that should be done. Such people can later be easily arrested and handed over to law enforcement officers.
In these days when resources are scarce, the government only attends to the most urgent emergencies. If your community is attacked incessantly without your speaking up, this will continue without help. So communities should speak up to state, national and international communities and seek for help. This should be done by holding press conferences, writing in the media, staging peaceful protests, inviting media houses, making videos and sharing such on social media, etc. It can also include legal actions demanding protection from government and the legislature and involving civil rights groups. Sometimes nationals from other countries are caught. Such should be reported to government and their home government who may begin to check agents recruiting them.
Christian communities should use advocacy and dialogue. Clergy to clergy and traditional ruler to traditional ruler level dialogue may be possible in some cases of violence. In Nigerian society, this particularly works because people still listen to their leaders but it is rarely used as a means to peace. In extreme cases, advocacy should be taken higher, even to the United Nations.
Part of our defense system is to love those attacking us, a behavioural character Satan cannot understand, needs further elaboration. This weapon that is unique to us is not antithetical to other approaches above. We pray for them for God to open their eyes and change their bad behavior, we defend ourselves not with the intent to destroy them but so as to deter them, we do not tell lies against them and do not hate or sow seeds of hatred for them in others. We love them but dislike what they are doing against us.
Finally, Christian communities can form partnerships to share what works with one another or help one another with things like security training for their residents and emergency supplies. Just knowing you are there for me is security in itself.
Most Christian communities, however, have no plans or strategy for the carnage going on. Members are left to do what they want and at best are even confused by misinterpretation of scriptures. The discussions around defense for Christian communities are often wide of the contextual realities of the kind of violence we face. God is not happy and never intended that Christians should be killed at will and fold their hands to allow that to happen. Not only is this attitude far from piety but it is foolish. Use all that is legal and expedient at your disposal. Paul had to just pronounce his Roman citizenship and his tormentors were scared off (41). We do a disservice to God, our country and ourselves by our fears, complacent behavior and foolishness in these times by doing nothing more than lamentations and prayers offered out of this impious behavior. It will not be stretching it too far to say that we may meet God’s disapproval in heaven when we get there thinking we are martyrs while God sees us as irresponsible children.
We must be bold to search out and do what is right and legal. There is the right thing to do in every situation and we should apply it. By washing our bodies, cooking our food and refrigerating food we appropriately fight micro-organisms and contain them. We fight illiteracy by education and poverty by hard work and industry. We must thus fight these unprovoked attacks by the principles enunciated above.
1. https://everyday.ng/insecurity-the-christian-community-defence-system/ 16/6/2021
2. II Cor 10:4
3. Luke 18:1, 1Tim 2:1, 1Tim 5:17, 2 Thes 1:11, Acts 3:1
4. 2 Tim 1:7, 1 John 4:18
5. Gen 1:28
6. Amos 6:1
7. Prov 1:7, Prov 3:35, Prov 10:8
8. 1 Cor 1:24&30, Rom 8:10, 2 Cor 13:5
9. Num 14:21, Hab 2:14
10. Gen 15:1
11. Prov 18:10, Psalm 61:3
12. Psalm 23:4
13. 1 Cor 3:9
14. Matt 26:41, Mk 14:38
18. Gen 30:37-39
19.. Exod 14:16-22
20. Josh 6:5&202
21. Chron 13:2, 2 Chron 14:9-15
22. Rom 10: 8-14
23. Heb 12:14
24. Rom 12:19
25. 2 Chor 5:20
26. Matt 6: 14-16
27. Exod 20:13
28. 1 Chron 17:4
29. John 3:16
30. Matt24: 13
31. Matt 5:44
32. Acts 4:19
33. Heb 12:14
36. Matt 5:14
37. Matt 5:13
39. Criminal Code section 286
40. Eccl 3:11
41. Acts 22:25-29
▪︎ Dah, a medical doctor, sent this via firstname.lastname@example.org