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How to defend your faith!

Witness of life is the best way to defend our faith. Jesus did not teach Christians to defend him with swords, eloquent oratory and prolific…

At the dawn of creation, there were no classified religions in the way and manner we have today. Existence was anchored on humanity as God’s family and not pluralism of religion and ethnicity. Faith in humanity enables human beings to appreciate the mission and vision of life. God created humanity for himself hence no human heart can find rest until it finds rest in God. The mission of a human person is to know God, love him and serve him on earth. The vision of human beings is to find peace with God at the dusk of life. The human family is destined to live in peace with God Almighty as the Supreme King. God allowed human leadership to manage pluralism and diversity. To do this well is a key indicator of good leadership. A good leader defends his faith and tribe by carrying everybody along in a way and manner that ethnic and religious differences do not render the world asunder. If God wanted only one religion and tribe, he would have made it possible (Quran 5:48). One of the effects of pluralism is the tendency to blindly defend a fellow religious adherent and fellow tribe’s person who has no value for human life. The dangerous effect of this is ethnic profiling that can lead to unhealthy inter-tribal conflict.

Witness of life is the best way to defend our faith. Jesus did not teach Christians to defend him with swords, eloquent oratory and prolific writings. God is too Omniscience and Omnipotent for any human being to defend with sword, word and pen. During the Passion when the soldiers wanted to arrest Jesus, Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus said to him, put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26: 51-52; John 18:10-11). There is a better way Peter should have defended Jesus without drawing the sword. Jesus told the apostles to watch with him. Instead of watching, Peter slept. Jesus asked Peter, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour” (Matthew 26:40)? When Jesus was being led to calvary, Peter kept a distance until he denied Jesus three times (Luke 26:54-62).

Every responsible person makes efforts to be a good ambassador to his religion and tribe. Paul told the Romans, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you (Romans 2: 1-3,24).

The situation in the world calls on traditional, religious and political leaders to bear witness to God’s love, mercy and compassion. Every leader must know that there is no peace without justice. An unjust leader exposes his faith and tribe to public ridicule. The ugly effect of this is that some hungry people put on the garments of religion and ethnicity to defend the leader for peanuts. The right thing to do would have been a general condemnation of the injustice that is being perpetuated by the leader who has betrayed his religion and tribe with the sin of injustice. Then the hungry people who benefit from conflict will stop fighting those who attempt to correct the leader who lacks the political will to provide security and peaceful co-existence to the nation.

An ideal society supports a leader who has the Spirit of God. Everyone yeans for a leader who has the capacity to bring forth justice to the nations. The world hunger and thirst for an ideal leader who does not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice on the earth. Even the coastlands wait for his law (Isaiah 42:1-4). Justice is a value that is shared across different religions and cultures. A sense of justice leads to making right decisions on current problems. Evil is overcome only by good, hate by love, egoism by generosity. We must therefore sow justice in our world. To be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice. One must go further and refuse to play its game, substituting love for self-interest as the driving force of society” (Pedro Arrupe SJ; https://whycare.ie/index.php/justice-in-religion).

Justice is the only tool to social harmony and peaceful co-existence. In the Bible, “justice” means that those who want to defend their religion or faith must do the right thing. Justice means that people must live in right relationship with God, one another and nature. “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (Psalm 82:3). “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless and the widows” (Isaiah 1:17). In Islam, justice is a central theme. The Qur’an tells Muslims to be staunch in justice, witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves, parents, kindred, rich or poor (Quran 4:135). For the Hindus, justice (dharma) is the means to achieve the higher spiritual goals. Justice is linked to the principles of karma and ahimsa. Actions in this life will directly affect experiences in future existences. The Buddhist perceives justice in terms of the fair distribution of resources, the impartial rule of law, and political freedom.

If every leader has the political will to correct injustice and bring criminals even from his or her own tribe to justice, he would be free from criticisms. He would not need defence but praise if everybody lives in peace without fear and fury. What does God actually want from us? God has shown us what is good. God wants each and every one of us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God the creator (Micah 6:8). There is no better way to defend your faith, religion and ethnicity. There is urgent need to change our attitudes and orientations towards materialism. Those in the hospital do not think of their material acquisition. The dying and the dead do not remember the billions of money they have saved for the future. A criminal who has sold his soul to the devil does not need a hiding place in governance. A criminal is an enemy of his religion and tribe. Criminals need to be exposed to face justice. Amnesty to criminals is another form of crime. Rather, let us ask again and again, how did we arrive at this point where criminals have a loud and commanding voice in the society?

How I wish that Nigerians could stop profiling criminals with religious and ethnic categories. For instance, when you use expressions like, “Islamic Terrorist, Christian Terrorists, Fulani Herdsmen, Yoruba Terrorist etc”, you are simply giving the criminals a sense of belonging to a religion and tribe. A criminal by the very fact of his crime has excommunicated himself from his religion and tribe. No revealed religion or responsible ethnic group should accept and defend a terrorist group. This is because mortal sin separates a sinner from God and humanity. In Nigeria, there are so many credible people from every ethnic group in responsible positions. These responsible people should not support and defend the way and manner the criminals who come from their ethnic groups disgrace the name of their tribes. Every ethnic group has criminals hence naming criminals as criminals will deprive them of a hiding place. I pray that criminals may never be defended by any tribe or religion so that we can live peacefully on this planet earth that God has given humanity freely. May no person be so hungry for power to the extent of using these same criminals for his or her political ambition.

Rev Fr Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC [email protected]) & The Secretary General of the West Africa Inter-Religious Council (WA-IRC – [email protected])

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