By Stephen Ojapah MSP
“I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6). Jason Soroski a renowned bible commentator has this short analysis to offer about this passage. “As Jesus tells his disciples that he is the way, there are multiple meanings involved.
First off, he addresses our very human instinct to know where we are going before we start a journey. The disciples wanted to know the next step, the next turn, the ultimate destination of where this journey in faith would lead them”. He is the definite Faith experience that every Christian should long for. This kind of exclusivist, passage of the bible creates a sense of entitlement to the keys of heaven by Christians. Nevertheless, Jesus made himself clearer by saying, “I have other sheep too that do not belong to this fold, they too listen to me” (John 10: 16). As you read the early passage with a sense of entitlement, the second verse, humbles you with the generosity of God, how the windows of heaven is not limited to anyone religion.
The people of Israel for centuries have prided themselves, as the chosen race. St Paul in his letter to the Galatians made it abundantly clear, in Jesus: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Humanity is one, no matter the linage we use in addressing one another. Any attempt by a race, tribe, or religion to establish supremacy over the other, is not only, unscriptural, against international law, it is damn right evil. The Apartheid in South Africa enjoyed a lot of scriptural backing: Genesis 11, Deuteronomy 32:8, Acts 1:8, and 17: 26, 1 Corinthians 7: 17-24, and Revelation 5:9 and 7:9.
Learned and seemingly godly Reformed theologians developed an impressive biblical case for apartheid—apartness. They were totally convinced that the Bible endorsed the separation of the races. They insisted that their policies were pleasing to God because they were grounded in Scripture. The Reformed Church of South Africa was the largest denomination in the country by far. They had a number of large and well-supported theological seminaries with very high standards. Their best scholars had doctorates from mainly Dutch Universities. What is more, they were very evangelistic and worked tirelessly to see black South Africans converted and worshiping in their own churches.
In the 20th century, in the face of external attacks on white rule, the best-Reformed theologians gave their able minds to developing biblical support for separate development (Apartheid). They argued that the Bible taught that humankind, by the will of God, was separated into different races that should each have their own lands. They insisted that Apartheid was pleasing to God because Scripture endorsed it. Broughton Knox made a case for the Biblical foundation of Apartheid at Moore College, Sydney, in the mid 1960’s before the principal, and Donald Robinson, the vice-principal. Stephen Bradley, the bishop of the breakaway Church of England in South Africa, spoke to students in support of Apartheid at the invitation of Dr. Knox. The “biblical” case for Apartheid is as follows:
1. The world is predicated on a number of unchanging creation “orders” (i.e. God-given hierarchies, institutions, structures, and relationships), namely, the family, male leadership, the state, work, and race.
2. The Bible teaches that God has created different races. The story of Babel tells us that the separation of people into different races with different languages is God’s will. In Acts 2:5–11, Rev. 5:9, 7:9, 14:6, and other passages, the Bible clearly states that God recognizes that people are divided, and identified by race. For the Apartheid theologians, difference between races trumped any similarities.
3. Acts 17:26 was possibly the most important text for Apartheid theologians. “From our one ancestor God made all nations (Greek ethnoi) to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the time of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live.” This text was interpreted to mean that God had divided all the people of the world into different nations or races and allocated a region for each. They saw this as unambiguous endorsement of the policy of separating the different races of South Africa and allotting an area to each. Acts 17:26 was to them what 1 Tim. 2:11–14 is for complementarians. This one text settled the matter. Those who accepted what it said were obeying God, and those who did not, were opposing God.
As we approach the 2023 General elections, we commend the entire process into the hands of God, and we pray that God will give us credible leaders that will take Nigeria to the standard of relevance and importance in the International community. As we prepare for this process, we are equally worried on some of the ongoing video clips in Hausa Language circulating in some parts of the country especially in my beloved northern Nigeria. Here I have translated the preaching of two leading Islamic Clerics from Hausa to English. As it concerns the supremacy of Muslims over Christians, so long as elected positions are concern. Thanks to the final views of my brother and friend Shiekh Maraya.
“Election is around the corner; the simple message is that Muslims should vote into power their fellow Muslims, God didn’t create an unbeliever (Christian) to rule over a Muslim it can only happen by accident but not by destiny. Vote a fellow Muslims brother into power the party shouldn’t be a problem, the condition in Taraba state is disheartening and everyone is fed up reasons because Muslim didn’t cooperate with each other, voting a Muslim into power is a blessing therefore we shouldn’t throw away the blessing.
Mallam Jalo has spoken about it and I have pity on him each time he pours out his mind concerning Muslims and their lack of cooperation with one another. He says some Muslims in Taraba state are not willing to work together, it is better to work with a fellow Muslim than an unbeliever because on the day of reckoning, you will be placed side by side with an unbeliever and this is trouble for you. No matter how horrible or bad a fellow Muslim will be he is always better than an unbeliever is. An unbeliever will insult you, your religion and your personality but a Muslim will never do that. May God bless the entire Muslim Ummah” (Sheikh Abubakar Mukhtar Yola).
“A particular religion or tribe should not oppress another religion or tribe. When a Christian political aspirant chooses a Christian, as his/her running mate this will be an oppression on the Muslims, and this is also applicable to Muslims. Therefore, there should be justice, fairness and transparency so that there will be love, unity, peace, progress and harmony in our country because Nigeria is the only place we can all call home. A Christian should choose a Muslim as a running mate and a Muslim should do the same. Some religious leaders go contrary to their teachings and preaching in their various places of worship. Some go as far as canvassing for votes for the members if their faith, just because they are of the same faith. This is against section 97 of the 2022 amended constitution and punishable by the law, with 1-year jail term or payment of 1 million naira as a fine and in some cases both punishment are applicable but the law enforcement agencies do not punish the perpetrators of this offence. That is why many do and get away with it.
“Political aspirants should not be hungry for votes, or do disgusting things in other to attain positions instead; they should be concerned about the peace and stability of the country. In Kaduna state, the governor is a Muslim and his deputy is a Muslim too but if you check thoroughly what have the Muslims benefited? Nothing! Their houses, shops, business places and mosques have been demolished and destroyed, the same Muslims have been sacked from work and also tuition fees have been increased the same Muslims cannot afford the fees but when the governor was a Muslim and a his deputy was a Christian none of these were recorded. When there is cheating and wickedness in the system, God will certainly leave us to our bad deeds. In the Hadith God says I am therefore do not be cheats. God did not create only Muslims in this world every human being was created by him. Therefore, I am calling on political leaders to be free and fair while choosing their counterparts” (Shiekh Halliru Abdullahi Maraya).
Let the ministers of peace, promote the culture of merit and equity, and let the preachers of hate, tribe and religion, give peace a chance. God did not create Muslims supreme over Christians.
Fr Stephen Ojapah is a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is equally the director for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, a member of IDFP. He is also a KAICIID Fellow