Between Boko Haram And Religion —Isaac Asabor


There is no denying the fact that the history of religion is as old as the history of man himself. Even back to the age when man was glaringly primitive, there is evidence of worship of some form. Scholars have discovered that there never existed a time when people were not religious.

Religion exists in great variety and affects the lives of millions of people in various ways. The hindus make coconut, flower and apples offerings to their gods while the monks of Buddhism are usually decked in saffron, black or red robes.

In Christendom, worshippers put on their best clothes and congregate in chapels and churches to preach, fellowship, sing hymns and listen to inspiring and life-changing sermons. In Islamic countries, one can hear the voices of muezzins – the muslim who makes the call from minarets five times a day – calling the faithful to observe the salat or prayer.

Despite the wide diversity of religious expression that has developed around the world, there is one common thread that runs through the fabrics of religion in its diversity. That thread is the need to worship God and be acceptable unto Him. Making one to be acceptable before God does not require us to kill others. Rather, it requires us to love others like ourselves.

For thousands of years, mankind has had a spiritual need and yearning that many now worship God through various religious means that may not please God. Man in his unbridled quest to answer the questions concerning his trials and burdens, doubts, enigma of death, blessings, his future and other puzzle-like questions of life has, no doubt, found religion as the only solace on earth. It is no wonder that John B. Noss points out in his book, ”Man’s Religions” that “all religions say in one way or another that man does not, and cannot, stand alone. He is vitally related with and even dependent on powers in Nature and society external to himself. Dimly or clearly, he knows that he is not an independent centre of force capable of standing apart from the world”.

However, many of us cannot be blamed for accepting the wrong religion since religion has become a matter of family tradition. We usually follow the religious ideals and directions of parents and grandparents because they are first and foremost the first people to influence our religious inclinations.

Be that as it may, many religions are different when viewed from one perspective and are similar when viewed from another. On the surface, many religions in existence today seem different from one another. However, beneath their differences is the goal of love which many religions preach and which is the primary and ultimate objective of any religion.

The two major monotheistic religions in our country are Christianity and Islam. That both religions preach love and unity is never in doubt. Almost all the historical narratives of the Koran have their Biblical parallels. This writer has many Moslem friends. It is also a fact that many of us are known to have married from the Moslem families and vice-versa. We have been together, and still are, as business partners. We have been in the same offices, and still are, as co-workers. We have also been together, and still are as lawmakers in the legislative houses.

But alas, recent bombings in the country tend to portray us as not being together. From what I have read and heard so far, I am convinced that the noxious sect, Boko Haram, is sympathetic with the tenets and the spiritual injunctions of a particular religion. But the truth is that it appears the protagonists of Boko Haram have totally misinterpreted the injunction(s) of their religion. Let’s take for instance in the Christendom, a scripture that says in the Book of Matthew chapter 5 verse 29 that “… if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell”. If this scriptural injunction, and many other similar ones are taken from their literary meaning, then it means many Christians would not have their bodies complete. What the scripture is actually saying is that one should as much as possible resist whatever satan is presenting to his or her sense of vision. The truth is that what a man sees is stored in his subconscious, and to some extent motivates his action or attitude. Also in verse 30 of the same chapter in Matthew, the Bible says we should cut off our right hand when we are made to commit sin through it. An overzealous Christian, without understanding and a good Sunday School teacher may go ahead disabling himself when he commits sin through these body parts thinking he is doing the right thing.

In the same vein, could it be that the protagonist of Boko Haram, are misinterpreting a section or portion of their own Holy Book? This question becomes necessary because there is no religion that says its adherents should wake up and impulsively start killing their neighbours. I am very sure of that. I think the protagonists of Boko Haram should quickly retrace their steps by dusting their Holy Book to cross check again and again through hearty and meticulous studies to actually understand the tenets of their religion as it concerns western education. In Christendom, for instance, all issues of life are addressed. I believe the religion of the Boko Haram protagonists preaches peace, unity and love.

But why all these bombings at this stage of our democracy? Are those behind Boko Haram movement not Nigerians? If they are, where is their sense of patriotism? While they carry out bombing activities all over the country in the name of religion, have they asked if their personal conduct is truly a reflection of their religious backgrounds? A good religion is supposed to produce a kinder person of a more generous, honest, humble, tolerant and compassionate dispositions. But in the case of those behind Boko Haram it is like their religion’s primary objective is to fight others. It is like they want to validate Blaise Pascal’s (1623-62) saying that “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”. In the Christendom, the word of God admonishes Christians in the book of Philippians chapter 4 verse 8 thus: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”. I believe other religions also admonish their followers to be doing what is true, honest and what is of good report. If terrorism is seen as a virtue in the Arab world, we should not see it as such in Nigeria because of our cultural differences.

Mahatma Gandhi, famous for his non-violent leadership, on March 23, 1922 proclaimed that “Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed”. Permit me to repeat myself again, I do not think there is any religion that supports hatred, killings and violence in any form.

Finally, the Bible says in Ecclesiastes chapter 8 verse 11 that “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil”. I am of the opinion that President Goodluck Jonathan should put in more efforts to bring the perpetrators of Boko Haram to book. He can step on toes if that is what it would take to stem the tide of terrorism in our nation. Nigerians are behind him. He should not be afraid.

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