By Dele Sobowle
“…but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”. Matthew 5:39.
Based on personal principle, I seldom quote the Bible on these pages. I am a Christian, but wearing my religion on my sleeve is not my style. But, the topic of today’s article is inextricably linked with that Biblical injunction and it is inescapable to cite it. The world is gradually moving close the brink of disaster or another global religious war. Christian “cheeks” have been slapped in virtually every country on the globe by Islamic fanatics apparently with impunity. We must stop to ask what will happen if there are no more cheeks to turn.
The entire world in general and Nigeria in particular should get ready for a shock when Christians and others say they’ve had enough. Enough of what, you are probably asking. Then, let me tell you in plain language. It is enough of so-called Islamic fanatics who, all over the world kill innocent people, especially Christians with impunity. It is quite possible that none of our security agencies have told President Buhari how close we are moving in this country to that stage when some Christians will say “we have had enough of being slaughtered with impunity while governments and the larger Islamic community wring their hands and do nothing to halt the willful genocide by the Islamic extremists.”
Two incidents brought this fact to my attention forcefully within two weeks this August. And, they occurred in two countries far apart, and with participants who never met one another and might never meet. Yet, they have come to the same conclusion: “enough is enough; we won’t take this anymore.” When the new leader of Boko Haram announced their decision to resume the wholesale slaughter of Christians and the demolition of their churches, he was, of course, demonstrating the sort of lunacy which other people down the ages have used to assume power and to send immeasurable numbers of fellow human beings to the grave. Some succeed until enough good people and some of their potential victims rise up in self-defence without waiting for constituted authority to help them; when victims fight back.
The problem with the leaders of Boko Haram and ISIS, as well as their religious sympathizers is that they always assume that only they and their group have a monopoly of violence. Impunity sets in; so they arrogantly pronounce the death sentence on innocent people and proceed to carry them out – until the victims say “enough” and retaliation starts. When that happens, the innocent victims would invariably become the people the fanatics claim to represent.
My most recent trip to Abuja led me inadvertently to a section of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which I have heard about but never visited. On a Sunday afternoon, I was in a beer parlour frequented by southerners. Three young men were drinking on a table very close to me and soon their discussion turned to the Boko Haram threat. From their utterances, it was clear to me that one of the young men had barely escaped death when Boko Haram bombed his church. So, did his mother, who suffered minor injuries. It was what the first young man said that sent a shiver down my spines.
He announced with such determination and vehemence, that “Next time those bastards come close to my family and I survive, I will kill as many of their people as I can”. The others also vowed to do the same thing – because as far as they were concerned “unless Christians and other innocent victims of Islamic attack also retaliate, the carnage will not stop.” According to the first young man, “Let them also know how it feels to have everything you have worked for destroyed one night or your entire family wiped out by Islamic religious fanatics. We too can be fanatics. Why must we be the only ones to shed tears?” Before long, virtually everybody in the place had agreed with them. That was heart-breaking enough for me. But, worse was yet to come.
A few days after, in Lagos, a young Nigerian Christian based in Europe and strong member of a church came home to attend a wedding. We met briefly and were sitting in front of a television set when the funeral of the Catholic priest assassinated while conducting Mass was televised. Then, the young man told me that in his country, there are rumours concerning the formation of Christian Avengers – who would undertake to retaliate two for every Christian or innocent person killed in another attack by those claiming to be Muslims.
They too will not discriminate regarding who they assassinate – old, young, male, female, pregnant or not. And, he really believed they will do it. Irrespective of whether these are empty threats or not, the fact that some people are now saying out loud, those frightening things should concern all of us – especially the global Islamic community. Are the fanatics among them not pushing non-Muslims to the wall? Will there not come a time when millions of the potential victims will fight back? And, then what kind of world will we be living in? Certainly, nobody in his right senses will expect this one-sided slaughter to continue for ever.
A RESOLUTION FOR RESTITUTION
Toyin Opebiyi (Nee Toyin Lisk-Carew).
“But I believe whole heartedly in the promise of God that in the middle of the utmost adversity, He creates and brings forth a new and greater glory and more auspicious circumstances for people that suffer”.
President Babangida, Saturday, October 26, 1985, at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru near Jos.
It was Babangida’s first major address after assuming power in 1985. Titled “TOWARDS A BETTER SOCIETY”, it was also arguably his best ever. In it IBB, as he was fondly called, sent out the message of hope in words that will rank as one of the best of any leader worldwide who comes to the helm when his people are in deep distress.
‘A RESOLUTION FOR RESTORATION: personal journal for restoring your lost glory’ written by Mrs Opebiyi, fifty-eight pages long, is not the sort of book I normally enjoy reading. I like the epic classics – MOBY DICK, WAR AND PEACE, TOM JONES, BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, etc – which run into four hundred pages or more.
However, this book had been written by one of our daughters in Lagos, the daughter of Captain Abiodun Lisk-Carew (rtd) and one time Chairman of Lagos Island Local Government Council. Naturally, I was curious to find out what it was all about. Fortunately, the book fell into my hands at a time when I was at a function and getting thoroughly bored. For me reading is number one hobby, writing comes a distant second and farming comes a close third. Suddenly, I found myself unable to stop reading this personal, and at the same time universal, story of courage, determination, resilience and hope – all anchored on strong Christian belief in the power of God to bring about restoration of lost glory “for people that suffer”.
Toyin suffered greatly, just as millions of Nigerians are suffering now. Her triumph is a lesson all Nigerians can learn from and develop the fortitude to overcome the challenges before us.
P.S. The book is available on request here in Nigeria. In the UK, Toyin can be reached at the House on the Rock, the London Lighthouse where her husband is an associate pastor.