By Churchill Okonkwo… Anytime I hear men of God pray for the death of our “enemies” with shouts of “they will die!” I shiver. As if that is not enough, the resounding sound of Amen from the congregation results in aftershocks with higher magnitude. I am thus left wondering, is Christianity in Africa the biggest conspiracy against Christ?
Last year, after the passage of the Kaduna State religion regulation bill, one “Apostle,” Johnson Suleiman, made the famous dishonorable prayer-prophesy that Governor Nasir El-Rufai would die in 4 days. Not surprisingly, many “Christians” with little or no grasp of the teachings of Christ came out with a resounding support. Even with valid questions and concerns about the intent of the bill, I was dumbfounded that an “apostle” of Christ and Christians should openly celebrate a prayer that calls for death of an “enemy”. Would Christ have prayed for El-Rufai to die? Would He have rebuked the congregation for shouting Amen in unionism to such a prayer?
Think about this, slowly: You go to church and pray with your pastors and Bishops for all your “enemies” including Christian brothers and sisters to die; you pray for your uncles and relatives in the village to die after putting the label of “witch” on them; you derive joy in praying to God to kill; then some conflict between “enemies” in Southern Kaduna and elsewhere results in deaths; you come back and call for the death of people who have assumed the role of God to take care of their “enemies”. Wahalah! Which one be your own sef? Must we settle every conflict by killing?
Following the recent Southern Kaduna madness, “Apostle” Johnson Suleiman is now calling on his congregation to pick up arms and kill Fulani herdsmen from his “altar of God”. He must have suddenly realized (after years of reading his Bible upside down) that my God is not interested in “killing” his “enemies”. This is coming after Bishop Oyedepo was also caught red-handed encouraging his followers to also kill their “enemies”. What is Christianity turning to? You pray to God to kill your “enemies” as if you are not someone’s enemy. Which prayer will God hear when someone prays for God to kill you too? Who can prove based on the teachings of Christ (I will re-emphasize, teachings of Christ) that we are free to pray for the death of our enemies?
I do not intend this to be a long piece or a sermon. If you are a Christian, I will urge you to discover the answer to this provocative question by picking up your Bible and reading about the teachings of Christ in the Gospels. To make it easier for you, look for those Bible versions that specifically highlighted the direct quotes from Christ. It’s better to read these verses and discover the real teachings of Christ yourself.
Read also: Northern Minorities And Their Tormentors
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is: Famous. Impressive. Fascinating. Inspiring. All the commandments – you shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on – are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus Christ
The big question is: Who is your neighbor? What does it mean to love your neighbor? In the present Nigerian context: Who is your neighbor? Are your neighbors only the supporters of APC or PDP? Are they only the sympathizers of Muhammadu Buhari or Goodluck Jonathan? Do you love only your Hausa, Yoruba, or Igbo brothers and sisters? What if what we think is the “goodness” in us (our love for our neighbors) is aiding and promoting the vicious circle of violence in the country?
So, who really is your neighbor? Let me go back to Jesus Christ for the answer: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Jesus Christ. So as a good neighbor, we should love ALL.
It is true that we should not sit down and watch ourselves be slaughtered by Fulani herdsmen. But to encourage barbarism and incite violence is not of my God. I don’t know about yours. What I know is that our actions and inactions as well as the fantasies and fallacies we spread on social media do not reflect the qualities of a good neighbor as defined by Christ. We must therefore begin to accept that as individuals, we are part of the bigger Nigerian problem.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” remains: Famous. Impressive. Fascinating. Inspiring. You can accept or challenge it. And you can decide whether you will follow it in your own life. But don’t change what it means.
No one should use the name of my God to promote violence and cacophony across Nigeria. Most of us do not have private jets to jump into and bail out when katakata starts across the country. If these religious leaders truly care about peace and want to show love to their neighbors as directed by God, they should use the enormous wealth and resources in their ministries to champion inter-faith and inter-ethnic reconciliation across Nigeria.
If God sent these men of God as His apostles, then they should set up foundations dedicated to intervening and reconciling different communities across Nigeria. In addition to amassing wealth and building private business empires, these bishops should establish foundations to help the poverty stricken people of the continent. That is the kind of message I want them to pray for and receive from God. That is what people who are blessed by God with wealth do in a developed world. They look for the most critical issues in their community and commit their wealth to providing solutions.
Does that mean there won’t be conflicts and unwanted killings? No. It simply means that we should be prepared to resolve conflicts that arise between neighbors. So, irrespective of the cause of the conflict in Southern Kaduna and anywhere in Nigeria, our responsibility as neighbors is to find a workable solution. That’s what governance and responsibility is.
I have to point out that conflict resolution is not meant to be a replacement for the established judicial system. We should therefore prevail on authorities to prosecute everyone responsible for those barbaric killings. That’s how to stop such from happening in the future.
I have good news for all Nigerians, though; God has no business in killing and has never thought of “breaking up Nigeria”, so forget it. Shouting Amen (to a prayer for Nigeria’s break up) from today till tomorrow will not change God’s thought about Nigeria. I don’t need your Amen to know that God has a different plan for Nigeria. God’s plan is for peace and not violence; long life and not lives cut short.
Ripples Nigeria…without borders, without fears