Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Deeper Life Church massacre and the rest of us

One of the victims
They were in church listening to the word of God. Three different districts converged on a location because the service was by satellite transmission. There was no premonition of danger as the atmosphere steeped in specious breath. Many of them just returned from their places of work and although fatigued, they still found time to be at the evening service. A few who came late hurriedly sandwiched themselves into empty backseats to avoiding causing distractions. Their pastor was nearing the end of his life-streamed teaching, when there was a power cut. Many of them gasped, PHCN will not let them enjoy their Bible study. So, they thought. Suddenly, they heard confused shouts at the gate. “We are here to finish off all of you”, a husky voice hollered, impelling them to lie flat on the floor. Hails of bullets ricocheted the aisles and pews in a war fashion, riddling frightened bodies. Shrieks and growls in the throes of death with last-minute meditative spasms followed. Fresh hot blood gushed out from ruptured veins, splattering opened Bibles. It’s another murder in the cathedral. Dead silence. Forced eternity.
That may depict the sad fate of the twenty people who recently lost their lives in yet another gruesome onslaught by some “unidentified gun-men” whose mode of operation is not in doubt. Report has it that some of the worshippers who scuttled out searching for escape routes were apprehended and their throat slit in a bloody flash.  One can at best imagine the thoughts that ran through their minds in that deciding moment of their existence. Many of them must have been anguished by the irretrievable reality of being the next victim of Boko Haram.
The reaction so far has been less impressive as in past cases where top government officials perfunctorily visit the site of the murder with their entourage as if on a tourist stroll and dish out mindless condolences with empty threats and uninspiring promises.
We are getting used to this ritual of enraging graveyard elocution which has continued to advertise failure of government in performing its primary constitutional duty of safeguarding lives. 
Sometimes to save their face, some rouges are paraded before television cameras typical of a circus show, we hear no more about it. In other climes, situations like this would have led to massive revolt that could topple an incumbent for repeated breach of the social contract bond. But Nigerians are the happiest people on earth just as the Global Peace Index tips us as the 6th most dangerous country in Africa, coming behind war-torn Somalia and Sudan. We are happy but insecure.
A church bombed recently in Jos
But everybody cannot be happy. The families of victims of Boko Haram’s numerous bloody blasts and booms cannot be happy. Christians in general who appear the prime target in this apocalypse cannot be happy. They now live in fear and suspicion that make worship a charade. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as a body cannot be happy as evidenced by some of its critical releases in recent times.
A serious cause for concern however is the rather uncoordinated reaction of Christendom to these consistent attacks. Denominational and doctrinal differences which have often created wedge among religious leaders and invariably their teeming followers in the past have precluded a clear-cut, agreed solution. While a group thinks defensive and retaliatory might should be employed to repel the confrontations, another believes an eye for an eye will only make the world blind and hence says Christians should rather pray for the enemies; no fight back. A radical set dismisses both approaches as unintelligent and advices Christians to bear their cross fatefully and faithfully, because theirs is a fait accompli. Its end-time and things like these are bound to happen. In other words, Boko Haram can continue to enter churches and blast the pulpit and the pews unchallenged.

The time has come for our religious leaders to unite and speak with one voice. It is instructive that Jesus who commanded prayer for enemies, was the same who admonished his disciples to ward off avoidable attacks by getting swords. His noble intention became obvious when he rebuked Peter for cutting someone’s ear with it, including healing the victim. The same Scriptures that enjoin turning the right cheek after a first assault, shows Paul the Apostle challenging an unlawful slap. He was in a law court and his assault was a sign he had been convicted even when he had barely said anything. These are situations that if not put in proper context could warrant childish arguments and misinterpretations. The point here is that although the Bible preaches tolerance and good neighbourliness, it does not encourage foolish martyrdom. The end time does not make Christians sacrificial lambs. It is lack of discretion that predisposes some Christians to parochial sentiments in the face of danger. It is high time the Catholics and Protestants, Charismatics and Pentecostals, Evangelicals and Non-evangelicals formed a strong shield of solidarity and unity to crush this common enemy of their faith. A uniformed action plan of prayer and adequate security, with proper defense mechanism must be drafted for the security of people who leave the safety of their homes for church meetings.
However, it will be wrong to claim Christians are the only victims of the rising challenge of insecurity in the country. After the Deeper Life strike, report says the same killer gang stormed a mosque killing some security operatives around the area. A few Muslims that are perceived as liberals are attacked and killed. The Boko Haram members certainly have a different interpretation of the injunction: “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious...let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error” Al-Quran16:125; 2:256. This makes it important the Muslims not only join in condemning the terrorist group, but preach and pray against their continued existence. It is not unlikely some of these destructive elements attend some of the services and a continued denouncement of their infernal activities could break the spell on them.
Nigeria has never been this troubled. Many of our statesmen have now painfully submitted that the country is under siege. Aside the Boko Haram albatross, we have a president that is cumbered with an impeachment threat, underperforming armed forces, a divided country, corruption of unprecedented scales, a perceptibly incompetent cabinet and swelling opposition heat. The political climate is hotter than usual. An evil agenda is unraveling before our eyes. The government is failing the people and no one appears moved by the mere window dressing in economic apologetics and humdrum statistics that don’t translate to societal development. The finding that says Nigerians are the happiest people on earth may need to be reviewed if current realities mean anything to the researchers.
I urge the Federal Government to indeed implement the full, 24-hour surveillance of worship centres as directed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar. The religious centres must also be vigilant. If there is any time the “Watch and pray” admonition should be cherished, it is now. Security is essential to worship hence watch and pray, and not pray and watch.

Author: Folarin Sunday
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