BY MIKE IGINI
THE mass killings of Christian faithful on Christmas day of all days when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the symbol of Christiandom in the name of religious advocacy by the Boko Haram group is not only an action that must be condemned by all peace loving people, who value human life and civilized conduct but constitute a major threat to peaceful co-existence of people of different religious callings in Nigeria.
It is an act of savagery of the most arcane nature, to slaughter worshipers on a day which is globally acknowledged, as one in which neighbors should extend their hands of fellowship to believers and non-believers in their faith; such an act is even unacceptable anywhere, on anyday in modern society.
It is also shocking and worrisome that apart from Niger State governor and General MuhammaduBuhari, very well known key leaders from the areas where this on going killings by a group whose views and objective are not shared by the majority of the faith they are hiding under to perpetuate mass bloodletting are keeping loud silence.
We had suggested and called for dialogue but there was nobody to engage with by the authorities; even the efforts by ex president Obasanjo to broker peace led to the brutal murder of one of the facilitators. What then is the way forward and where are we heading to?
If the intention of the Boko Haram group is to persuade the public on the merits of their faith or values, this wanton
disregard for human life is a total recoil and a complete contradiction from all that is good about any religious practice.
If we must build an ambiance for enduring democratic culture, then all those who advocate for any policy or value template must be confidently persuaded about their ideas, positions, policy or values to peacefully exhaust its merits through persuasive discussions, negotiations and consensual understanding in the marketplace of public discussions.
To resort to violence, mass murder and coercion with the intention of imposing one’s religious beliefs within any territorial boundaries of Nigeria without regard to the freedom of others to determine their religious persuasions freely and without duress, defies the universal logic on the freedom of religious practice.
To further use such a basis to engage the constituted authorities in Nigeria through the killing of innocent persons, simply because of their religious affiliations, is the most dangerous threat to the unity and existence of this country which anyone has ever embarked upon. Religion should not be used to engender hatred but rather religion should be used to promote affinity and expand the radius of humanity.
It bears saying, that if these barbarous activities are considered a method of political engagement by any group, it is a self defeating, pyrrhic and nihilistic enterprise which is bound to consume everything that Nigeria stands for as an entity.
For as history has shown in several places, such as in Northern Ireland and Sarajevo, and several other places, the imposition of religious beliefs have never been successful compared to the development of an ambiance in which mutual tolerance between religious faiths is the main goal.
For this reason, no group should use violence to impose its religious beliefs on another group be it Christian, Muslim, Animist or whatever faith. It has never succeeded elsewhere in the world, but only leads to outbreaks of religious war, and no nation has succeeded and remained same after a religious war.
Thus those who are working hard to shove Nigeria into a religious war must be utterly condemned and warned of the dangers locking around. This is the first time in my entire life that 25th of December, a Christmas day became my worst and saddest moment. why kill worshippers on a day that matter most to them ?
The most dangerous times in the history of Nigeria have been those times when a few individuals, have taken the route of violent conflicts or coercion, intended to impose their political or social persuasions on others.
On the other hand, the most productive times have been when all stakeholders have come together to reach constitutional or consensual agreements, such as those which resulted in the independence of Nigeria in 1960, the 1963 Republican Constitution, the 1978 constituent Assembly resulting in the 1979 constitution and the recommendations of the 1995 constitutional colloquium of 1994.
Never in the history of Nigeria, have a few persons imposed their a priori determined values on whole swathes of the country without regard to the diversity of all the denizens of such areas with sustained peace.
If we are true to ourselves, there is no state in Nigeria which has a 100 per cent composition of denizens of any one religious, political or social persuasion. Therefore, to foster intolerance and to ask any government at any level to endorse such intolerance defies logic.
It would be more understandable if the advocacy was because government or the Nigerian state did not allow the Boko Haram group to practice their faith freely. Even that will not extenuate the killing of innocent Nigerians, but it has not been shown that that is the case. Instead, it is the Boko Haram group killing all persons including security personnel and asking the Nigerian state to deny others the freedom to practice their faith wherever they wish to do so, and to accept to remove Nigeria from the comity of civilized democratic nations. No one can ask for the right to deny others of their human rights.
Now is the time for all stakeholders to act collectively and bring this state of anomie to an end otherwise Nigeria may implode into the journey of the unknown. May we all not regret our collective failure to act now.
*Mike Igini is a lawyer, Civil Rights Advocate and now REC, Cross River state.