By Namani J. Nharrel.
I wrote an article, ‘This Uncomfortable Silence’ about two years ago. The gist was that the silence of the church in the face of evil, corruption, immorality, and the persecution of fellow believers in one region, was embarrassing. There were these quotes:
“In an unjust society, silence is a crime”
“Those who keep silent in the face of great moral crisis diminish humanity and the very essence of living”.
I added, “Silence may mean cowardice or irresponsibility”
From the Bible: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17).
Promoting Christian unity is one good Christians all over the country ought to do. This is the point of this particular article.
The provoking background for writing ‘This Uncomfortable Silence’ then was: “Blood is shed everyday in the land –many think it doesn’t concern them. There are communal conflicts with mass murder –many Christians are indifferent because it does not affect their community. Some indigenous Christian communities in the North East are being annihilated by terrorists –many Christians in the south think it is a northern affair. Many people are kidnapped for money and rituals in the south –Christians in the north think it is a southern affair. Youth are drenched in drugs and immorality – some Christian parents think it is not their children. Flood has sacked some communities – we think they are unfortunate because we live on high lands”
In the same article I quoted Martin Neimoller, the great anti-Nazi theologian and preacher:
“First, they came for the communist; I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for the Catholics and I did not speak up because I was a protestant. Then, they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me”.
Now They Have Come
In real life there is no sitting on the fence. We all take sides for every event witnessed. Christians in other regions who took sides with the persecutors of the northern Christians by their silence must be wondering what on earth is happening to us now. The invasion by Fulani herdsmen, slaughtering many and kidnapping some; the ongoing conversions of southerners in the east to another religion and the abduction of Christian girls, forcefully converting them to another faith and marrying them off, must have set our minds thinking what to do, now that they have come for us.
My fear is that we may see these happenings wrongly with the eyes of ethnicity and regionalism. In that case our responses will be wrong too. Again I fear many Christians may be silent and non Christians will influence the turn of events in the regions purported to be Christian.
Reacting in Ignorance
While those who have long term plans seize opportunities to do what they have planned to do in this country, Christians are busy complaining and grumbling. Agreed, some people may have planned to make everyone follow their religion. Agreed, they may be using every means including government machinery to achieve their goals. Let’s also agree that Christianity is their target as it is everywhere in the world today. Now let us ask what are the long term plans and the Christian agenda for this country? Reactions! Others have foresight and work hard to reach their goals. Ours is to react when we see them execute their plans.
Most Christians are ignorant of the scheming of the people of the other faith. We are ignorant of their religion. To them religion covers every aspect of life. We separate our own lives into secular and sacred. We are even ignorant of the teachings of our own faith. So we respond wrongly when persecuted. Someone said, “In the present circumstance Theology must change”. His creative way of saying Christians must defend themselves with physical weapons. What shape, the persecutions promised Christians must take before Christians realise we are in the season. This season currently being experienced in Nigeria is a strong reason for the Nigeria Christians to close ranks.
(To be continued)