By Femi Fani-Kayode
In the light of the murder of Deborah Emmanuel, there has been much talk about the “crossing of red lines” by members of the Muslim community.
They have said that blasphemy is a crime punishable by death and that if anyone dares to indulge in it and cross that line they will pay for it with their lives.
One particular individual who is an educated person and who I consider to be a notable intellectual went as far as to say anyone that does not like this should “go and hug a transformer!”
The Christian community in Nigeria appears to be less enthusiastic, more ambivalent and more guarded about the wisdom of reacting harshly when red lines are crossed and opinion appears to be divided in their ranks on this vexatious and contentious issue.
Some have suggested that Christians should do and say nothing when faced with evil, when their red lines are crossed and when they are confronted with an attack against their person or their faith.
They say Christians must simply watch, pray and “allow God to fight for Himself” when faced with this situation.
They also say “fighting for God does not give Him any glory or honour. It means He is an idol that must be helped to be whom He claims to be”.
I beg to differ.
I do not believe in attacking others or provoking and encouraging violence but I do believe in the right to reply and the right of self-defence.
And when you exercise these rights you are not “fighting for God” but fighting for yourself and for those that are yours.
The right of self-defence and the right of reply are endorsed and encouraged by good old fashioned common sense, the law, necessity and the strictures of the Christian faith.
Yet these are not solely Christian rights and virtues but universal ones that are shared, endorsed and common to all of the three great Abrahamic and monotheistic faiths, including Islam and Judaism.
The Holy Bible says we must “resist evil” and “fight the good fight”.
It also says “faith without works is dead”.
You do not close your eyes and simply pray when your family is being verbally or physically attacked or violated. To do so would be a grave error and may cost you or your loved ones their lives and/or reputations.
Neither should you remain silent and be a passive onlooker when the same is done to your nation, your Church, your neighbour, your friends, your associates, your faith, your values or your way of life.
An assault is an assault and it must not go unanswered lest it is repeated.
Christianity is not a pacifist religion: it never has been and it never will be.
To suggest otherwise is a gross and perverse misunderstanding, misrepresentation and misapplication of the scriptures.
It is also a grave insult to the memory of those who fought and died for their faith or in defence of some other righteous cause over the last 2000 years.
These are believers that confronted evil, stood against it, fought it and paid the supreme price that we may live in peace and have a better tomorrow.
We must honour them and never forget the noble cause that they died for or the valiant path of strength and courage that they chose to tread. Theirs was an end filled with glory, grace and light: the eternal peace and salvation of the Lord is their reward.
A few examples of such sacrifice and gallantry will suffice.
When the utter madness and evil of Kaiser William 11 of Germany manifested itself in 1914, Christendom and the civilised world rose to confront it and fought and won World War 1.
20 million died in the process but it was for a righteous cause and in defence of our faith and values as Christians.
When the even greater madness and evil of Adolf Hitler reared its ugly head in 1936, again Christiandom and the civilised world rose to confront it and fought and won World War 11.
50 million died in the process but it was for a righteous cause and in defence of our faith and values as Christians.
The most instructive of all were the wars and battles that took place between the Christian Armies of Europe and the Muslim Armies of the Ottoman Empire hundreds of years earlier.
Both sides fought for their respective faiths and what they each considered to be a righteous and noble cause.
And each time they went to war and met in the field of battle the consequences of winning or losing were very far-reaching for each side.
None could afford to turn around and say that their faith would not allow them to fight or defend themselves or that they should ignore the challenge and allow God to fight for Himself because both knew that the other presented an existential threat to their faith and way of life.
It was surely an honour to fight on either side in such a conflict. There is nothing more honourable than a soldier fighting for a noble cause and in defence of that which he loves.
Let us consider the Battle of Vienna which was fought on September 11th and 12th in 1683. This was the most important battle in the history of Europe.
Kindly find out what led to it, what happened there and the role that the Polish King Jan Sobieski 111, the Grand Commander of the Christian Coalition Forces, and his gallant 80,000-strong cavalry (the Polish Hussars) played during this great and historic battle.
Again find out the role that a humble and pious monk who was blessed with the gift of prophecy, who could move mountains with his prayers and whose courage and faith was legendry played before, during and after the battle. His name was Marco d’Aviano.
Had it not been for this combination of the spiritual and the physical at the Battle of Vienna (where faith and works were combined and applied) the 300,000-man strong Saracen Army, led by Grand Vizier Kara Musatafa Pasha of the Ottoman Empire, would have routed the Christian Coalition Forces.
They would also have taken the City of Vienna, toppled the Hapsburgs, conquered the whole of Europe (including the Vatican), killed the Pope, subjugated or eliminated the European nobility and Royal families and Islamised the European continent and turned it into a vassal state.
Finally, they would have ensured that Christianity was wiped out in the same way that it was done in Constantinople and the Byzantinesoured Empire 200 years earlier (May 29th 1453) and they would have changed the entire course of world history.
The moral of the tale is that oftentimes we must draw the line and stand and fight where and when our faith, loved ones, way of life, family or nation are facing a dangerous challenge.
Both the Holy Bible and the Holy Koran teach us that we must pray and, where necessary, confront evil and those that seek to wipe out our nation, family or faith.
They both teach us to defend ourselves, wage the righteous war and fight for the holy cause where and when we are called upon and duty-bound to do so.
This is an obligation before God that we cannot and must not shy away from and it would serve us better to honour it or die trying than to be labelled a coward and be disgraced,dishon and damned into eternity.
We must also defend the secularity of our multi-religious state and resist jungle justice, religious and ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass murder, lynching and cold-blooded murder whenever and wherever we find it.
This must be done not by taking the law into our own hands and going out of our way to attack and kill others but with restraint and decency and within the ambit of justice, the constitution and the law.
Going forward we must treat one another with sensitivity and respect and desist from saying and doing things which will provoke a harsh reaction or offend the sensibilities of others.
No man has the right to kill another in cold blood no matter what but when someone tells you that this is his RED LINE you need to recognise and respect it and try your best not to cross it.
This goes both ways and just because you can tolerate others insulting or denigrating your God, your Prophets or your faith does not mean that others can or must do the same when you denigrate or insult theirs.
I do not seek to justify the barbaric actions of those that killed the young martyr Deborah Emmanuel and yours truly was amongst the first that publicly condemned her brutal murder.
Yet we must endeavour and at least attempt to understand the mindset of those that are inclined to commit and attempt to justify such unacceptable behaviour.
We must recognise the fact that insults against their faith trigger them to do the sort of vile and terrible things that they would not do under normal circumstances.
We must also accept the fact that the atrocities that they commit are alien to the Muslim faith and their savage actions are unnatural, unhinged, ungodly and UNISLAMIunIslamicexplains why so many notable and respected Muslim leaders including His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto have condemned it and have assured us that Islam is not a religion that encourages or embraces jungle justice.
The solution is for us to be careful, respectful and accommodating towards one another across faith lines.
Most important of all we must accept the fact that we are Nigerians before being Northerners, Southerners, Christians, Muslims or anything else.
As compatriots, we are called to love and not kill one another. As children of God, regardless of whichever faith we subscribe to, we are called to protect and cover and not attack and butcher one another.
This is a lesson that we all need to learn. Hate has no place in faith or God.
Love and tolerance are the keys to all faith and the paths to the heart of God. These alone put a smile on His face.
May the God of Heaven who sits above the circles of the earth grant us peace in our country and may He build our bridges of understanding and heal our wounds.
May He cause us to love one another regardless of our differences and our respective faiths and may He cause us to recognise the fact that the most precious and important thing that we share is our common humanity.
Permit me to end this contribution with the words of Emperor Ashoka the Great of the Mauryan Dynasty who was a Buddhist, who ruled from 268 BC till 262 BC and whose empire covered India and the whole of the Asian sub-continent.
He said: “Denigrating the religion of others and glorifying yours does more harm than good to yourself, your religion and the society at large!”
This is wisdom. God bless Nigeria.
•Fani-Kayode is a former Minister of Aviation