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The literary value of Bishop Kukah’s homily for slain Michael Nnadi

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Bishop Matthew Kukah

By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – Bishop Desmond Tutu

After reading Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’s homily for ‘Saint’ Michael Nnadi who was canonized by men of violence as Christ was canonized, I titled the book (yes, it is more than a book) “The victory of the dead over the killers”.

Since the delivery and publication of that earth-quaking speech called a homily, the world has been abuzz through the media. From all indications, the enemies have lost the battle!

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Bishop Kukah’s homily is about the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. It is about the only line of action available to Christians, the victory the murdered Christians have over their murderers.  “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” says the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8.

Denoted in the homily too is the role persecution plays in strengthening Christians’ faith, and of spreading Christianity wider to people who did not have Christ before. The earliest persecuted Christians who ran on foot and in the process spread Christ in those days reached a lot of people. Today, persecution of Christians, like the one going on now in Nigeria, spreads Christ and The Church even wider through the media and the Internet. One Christian killed and published to cow other Christians into renouncing their faith brings more people to the faith and Jesus Christ instead.

In the homily, Bishop Kukah celebrated Leah Sharibu’s bravery and refusal, in the face of the threat of death, to be cowed into renouncing her faith. Hence, she was held while Moslem girls were released.

Another way in which the enemies of Christians lost out was in the failure to draw Christians into a war with Moslems. From Bishop Kukah’s homily, we learn that Christians are not going to fight, even though they have a very high capacity to fight back. As Bishop Kukah said, there is only one way available to Christians; the way trod by Christ; the way of peace, not the way of violence. That reminds us of that esoteric scene in the Bible:

“Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

In the Bible, we also read of how the sounds from trumpets brought down the walls of Jericho. Already, Bishop Kukah’s homily has brought down the evil in Nigeria that violently snuffed life out of this orphan who dedicated his life to the service of God. It has dismantled the authorities and activities of all those who covertly have hands in this war against Christians. This is true because divine punishment for a crime committed is usually like a tree branch severed from the body of a parent tree – the leaves do not wither immediately, but surely, they will wither.

Viewed from the prism of literature, Bishop Kukah’s homily for Michael Nnadi is couched in elegant prose. Its fearlessness is remarkable, in that it put the blame of all these senseless killings squarely on the table of President Buhari where it rightly belongs.

Bishop Kukah, today, is playing a role in the bloody political events of Nigeria, similar to the role Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s anti-Apartheid and human rights activist played in the heydays of Apartheid in South Africa. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice,” Bishop Tutu wrote, “you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Unfortunately, today, in Nigeria, where the blood of innocent people flows on daily basis, neutrality in situations of bloodletting, not just injustice, has become the position of many so-called leaders of religions, politicians, traditional rulers, businessmen and women.

Embedded in Bishop Kukah’s powerful homily too is an unspoken but clear message to the terrorists and their sponsors. The message is that nobody can uproot Christianity from northern Nigeria, just as nobody will be able to uproot Islam from Southern Nigeria. That means it is game up for the terrorists and for those who sponsor them for whatever political reason.

Today, there are many families in Nigeria where the husband is a Christian and the wife, a Moslem or vice-versa. In those families, the children sometimes follow their father to the church, and at other times they follow their mother to the mosque.

That is how mixed up and intertwined the lives of good Christians and good Moslems have become in Nigeria, whether for good or for bad, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The only option available to us as a people is to decide to live in peace and allow everyone to worship God according to the dictates of one’s heart. Outside that, the land called Nigeria will never know peace.

As the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka said in his book, The Man Died, the man died in any man (or woman) who keeps silent in the face of oppression. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah is a man indeed; he has always been a man; the man in him is not dead, at all. Already, his homily has sent the Kingdom of Babylon tumbling down.


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