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Peace through strength

By Denrele Animasaun

“The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness.” — Dalai Lama XIV”

I  have  been  long  troubled at  the level  of  violence  and  casualties in  the senseless waste of human lives in the  last couple  of  years. There is  a big  elephant  in the  room and it seems the  elephant  in  the room is getting  so  large  and yet no one seems to want to talk about  it! This big elephant that no one dare speaks its name is Boko Haram.

Inching away from  the  epicentre  of  these atrocities does  not  mean we  are free of its proliferation; in fact  we  are  as  guilty  as the  perpetrators if  all  we  do  is stand  and  do nothing. We  ought  to  be  standing  shoulder  to  shoulder  to  condemn their callous acts  against  Nigerian citizens  and   the instability of   the  country .

Are we are  so fearful  and  terrorised by terror  that we have failed  to walk hand in hand  with our  fellow  Nigerians? It has to  be known  that anyone  that threatens  a  group of Nigerians by  virtue  of  religion threatens all Nigerians.Boko  Haram  has become  this  big  elephant  in  the  room  and it  is about time  we  stopped pussy footing about, we cannot live our  lives  drawing  invisible lines and remaining   in our  respective camps because it  is  not  our  problem and that  is  the  matter.

Photo File: victim of an explosion
Photo File: victim of an explosion

It is our problem collectively. So  we  look  to  our  leaders  for  some reassurances and  actions  and  we  wait.  In the  meantime, more  and  more  mindless  killings and  butchery goes unabated,  this  acts cannot and  should  not  be  justified  by  any  sane individual  or any  religious  group.

They  are  holding  the whole  country  to  random  and we  cannot  afford  to  sit back and shrug our  shoulders.

I am a Muslim and I know  these  people  do  not  represent  me or my faith.  I  know  that, I  was taught  that, for  every man, woman, child they kill, maim and orphaned they go against what my faith tells me, or what I  know  of  humanity because  regardless  of  who their  victims  are, they are my brothers and sisters . These  criminals are psychopaths, murderers  and bandits, who  portray  themselves as  guerrillas  without  a cause. They have long crossed the line.

I grew up in a household surrounded by many faiths. We as children did not discriminate who was who on the basis of faith, in  fact  as  children  we  know  all  that  Eid, Christmas, Easter and Eid meant more  to  go  round.

There was the freedom of worship and so it should be. We are a secular country the last time I checked. What they have  done  is to make  the divide or  our  difference   more  glaring and  created  a  level of  paranoia and  mistrust  amongst  people  that have lived  together,  gone  to  school together and  shared  their  lives  together. If   we  start becoming territorial in a place  where  we  call  home, Nigeria, then we  seriously have  a problem.

It  is  bad  enough that  as diasporas, living  so  far  away  from Nigeria, I   am  often  reminded that  I  am an  outsider, I   am made  to  remember  that  I   truly  do  not  belong, it is  the  little  things  that  jolts  you  back  to  reality. When you  are asked where  you  are  from or  what ethnicity are  you, where are  you  originally   from, or  how  long you  have  lived  in  the  country( I  was  born  there!.

So you  already  know  you   are an outsider,  as  far as you are  concerned you know  there is  somewhere, someplace that  we  call  home  had  been  divided up along the  lines  of  faith and ruled  by  terror on  the  basis of  your   religion. It is  a  tragic  recklessness and a  slap  in the  face  of   every  well-meaning  and  sane   Nigerians. The  Nigerians  I  meet  here are my fellow Nigerians; we  share a  country  and have  more  in common than what seperate us  regardless of their state or their religion  if  we  could  get  along abroad why  can’t  we  get along  in Nigeria?

So  in  a  place  where  I  cannot  call  home, I  get  treated with so much respect and  I can  attend  and  go out without   fear  or  intimidation to a  place  of  worship of   my  faith.  Over here mosques, churches, temples are built barely a stone throw to one another.   Over  here in  schools,  children  are taught  religious  education,  given  an  education where they learn about other religion, history  and facts, this   does  help  foster  tolerance  as  well as  educate  the young  people on other religion other  than  the  one they  ascribe   to.

Now that is what I call tolerance but  in  all I  do  believe  that there  has  to  be  more  emphasis in  educating  our  young   in  Nigeria. Not  only  that  education  will  also  ensure that  they  are out  of  the clutches of those  that  want  to  brain wash  them into  terror.

The  poverty  and  disparity  is  disgraceful  so  the  resentments is palpable  and  we  cannot  afford  to  breed  young ,impressionable, poor, uneducated,  unemployed and  unemployable  minds   with  no   prospect   for  the  future. What we are doing is inadvertently moulding them for an alternative occupation such as terror, kidnapping and major crimes.

Tolerance, can  only  exist if  we address  the  level of  poverty, unemployment, corruption, inequality of  opportunities  and  standard of  living. We  have  got   to  reduce  the  senseless hatred  that  divides our  people and  our   leaders should  be  leading  the  way.

It  heartens  me  when  I  read  that the Sultan of Sokoto,  Alhaji  Sa’ad Abubakar and Osun State governor Rauf Aregbesola  have  addressed  Muslims  at  a public  event to  openly beseech Muslims  to  unite, stay tolerant  and be at  peace with all  fellow Nigerians regardless of their  faith. The Sultan was resolute in his address  that Islam will, and always will remain a religion of peace.  He said: “Those who claim to be doing what they are doing in terms of terrorism in the name of Islam are on their own. They are not doing anything for Islam or Muslims but for themselves. Nothing more, nothing less!

And that is why when I hear people refer to these terrorists as Islamic terrorists, I always feel bad. I have said it so many times that Islam does not approve terrorism or the taking of anybody’s life.” and Aregbesola said “a Muslim, who promotes chaos and disharmony has deviated from the teachings of Islam and a good Muslim is required to exemplify the best in conduct through accommodation, tolerance and forbearance for him to be called a good Muslim”.


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