A young man angered many Christians recently when he uploaded a video of himself apparently eating a bible and cursing Reverend Father Emmanuel Obimma (Ebube Muonso) for burning a shrine at Ekwulobia, Anambra State. I understand that many people were provoked by religious sentiments in their response to the young man’s obviously senseless act. However, I wish to state the objective facts of the matter, not as a Christian or as an adherent of any traditional religion, but as a Nigerian and a cultural activist.
1. No shrine should be burnt by ANYONE under any guise whatsoever. We need to learn religious tolerance (yes, traditional religion is RECOGNISED in Nigeria as a religion). No one gave any person the right to burn another man’s place of worship, however fetish it may be perceived. This is especially if the shrine is a communal one. Why don’t they go about burning mosques for the same reason? Is it because the traditional worshippers are few, scared and lack political connections? Fulani herdsmen are killing Christians in the country and nothing is being done. Southern Kaduna has become a wasteland where the horrors of the holocaust is re-lived by the inhabitants. The so-called pastors and Christian religious leaders have not spoken out for Christians to defend themselves. They have also not torched any mosque or even verbally castigated the senseless murders. Some have had their own pastors killed and they couldn’t even say anything about it. Why do they flex muscles over peaceful shrine goers? Are they the threat to Christianity?
2. Eating a bible or tearing it is counterproductive because it means nothing and does not equate the crime committed against the shrine. Burning a church may be the best way to go in this regard (if an eye is to equal an eye). However, arson is a crime under the law and the law of the land must be respected at all cost. The bible eater should have taken the legal path by sueing the so-called pastor and his church to court for arson and wanton destruction of a religious place (and a cultural heritage site as well). As far as I am concerned, his act is counterproductive, not vengeful enough, and done simply for show.
3. No one should support the burning of the shrine or the eating of a bible. It is best to be objective and not allow religious sentiments to becloud judgement in this instance. Imagine if a church is burnt by adherents of a traditional religion? Christians will cry with rage and shout “foul play”! People will be arrested, investigations made, prison sentences passed, and many more. However, because it is a traditional religious shrine that has been burnt, no Christian or Muslim cares. After all, it is a “pagan” religion! Who gave anyone the moral justification to judge what is to be burnt or not? Why can’t we do unto others, what we want them to do unto us?
Whether Christian or not, we have to be tolerant and do things to support harmony. Gone are those days when “demon destroyers” and the likes burn cultural artefacts, religious places, etc, and destroy grooves, natural habitats, etc, in the name of whatever. Just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean you should destroy it. You may preach against it but leave it at that. Even if the adherents have “repented” and no longer practise the religion, they have no right to destroy the shrines. It is better they leave it to grow weeds and when someone, for whatever reason, may want to study or worship in the shrine, it will be accessible once the weeds are cleared. Just for emphasis, I reiterate that burning the bible is counterproductive and shouldn’t be supported as well. Any objective mind would know that a legal means (arresting the pastor) would have sent a stronger message.
Let Christians face their contemporary realities of terrorism and systematic cleansing rather than pay attention to traditional worshippers and their shrines. If the same energy which pastors put in burning shrines and “casting demons” is put into helping Christians at this time of persecution and slaughter, it would go a long way, at least to give hope to people. If the pastors and prophets who catch witches and wizards, break yokes of poverty, collect fat tithes and offerings, stay in mansions and fly private jets, etc, transfer their attention to the plights of Christians being persecuted daily by herdsmen, it would go a long way. If radicalism and terrorism has come to stay, defensive Christianity must evolve to match it.