Truth, dialogue and peace | Dailytrust

Truth, dialogue and peace

The quest for truth has been a perennial desire even in the face of crisis and death. This is because truth is liberating. Truth is divine and eternal and the road to reach the truth is dialogue. The result of truth is peace that is consequent upon justice and the leadership to delivers service to God and humanity. Jesus said, “To this end was I born, and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice. Pilate then said unto him, what is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Jesus did not answer because he the truth was present before Pilate. Till date, truth is a mystery to humanity, it is the foundation of every dialogue and an indispensable element for the growth of any nation. It is the property of no individual yet it is the treasure of all people. It is a core pillar on which true peace and progress can be achieved in any given society. It stands straight on its own whether appreciated or not and will always serve its purpose in pointing towards a direction for those who cherish it to follow.

A nation that fails to follow the path of truth especially as it concerns its history and constitution can never make progress, just as an individual who denies the truth of oneself hardly makes any headway. The first truth and the foundation of all truth is God (Qur’an 22:6). God has placed within every creature the capacity for truth (Qur’an 20:50). Through this nature, truth can connect with truth. Every one that is of the truth hears the voice of Jesus Christ (John 18:37). God makes possible the connection between those who bring the truth and those who accept the truth (Qur’an 39:33). True Prophets are messengers of truth. Progress or failure, to a large extent, depends on how faithful people or nations adhere to the truths of their lives or constitution. For any society to make progress it must rest its tenets on truth and not falsehood or propaganda.

Thomas Jefferson was right in his observation that truth is certainly a branch of morality and very important one to society. Irrespective of how people may rationalize about truth, it will always stand and shine out if the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it is removed. Thus, a nation can easily destroy itself if it refuses to accept the truth of its history. It is on this that dialogue becomes very necessary since truth remains the indispensable instrument of any dialogue that bothers especially on the corporate existence of any nation. Truth, when spoken especially in humility, is meant to build up and not to destroy a nation. In this regard, it must always be appreciated and commended especially in those who have the courage to speak the truth to those who hold power. On the basis of this, those who hear the truth that touch their lives personally and that help in nation building generally should not see it from a negative perspective but from a positive one.

Unfortunately, one of the cardinal issues affecting African continent in general and Nigeria in particular is that those in position of authority perceive truth as attack on them or the position they occupy. This attitude cuts across political, religious and traditional leadership in Africa. If Nigeria as a nation is to make any significant progress in the present century, especially at this point in her history, it is time to tell the truth to her. This truth must be of her history, of who she is, where she is in the world and where she wants to go. Any denial of these basic truths would rather push her into constant retrogression and without any meaningful progression towards the future. Yet, these truths must be told in humility but without any compromise and with the sole aim to move the country forward. It must, in turn, be accepted in all humility with those charged with leading the country at this moment using the light that emits from these truths for introspection and adequate action especially as it affects their office.

A correct diagnosis is the first step to healing. This is why the country must confront the reality of her history to see at what point things fell apart. This calls for sincere and frank dialogue where truth would not be seen as an attack on power. When those who speak the truth are perceived as enemies, then dialogue suffers a setback. This gives opportunity to praise singers to perpetuate their sycophancy.  They could even turn out to manipulated manipulators to a point that they are the only people whose voice are listened to. They pretend to profess truth to attract the love of those in authority. They end up saying only what the Boss wants to hear. This sycophantic tragedy is pictured by Stephen Lenin in these immortal words: “only enemies speak the truth, friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty”.

This, however, does not in any way imply that all those who speak the truth are the so called “enemies”. It was a former President of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, who maintained that part of the problems of African Presidents is that those they trust as their advisers to tell them the truth about the situation of things feed them with lies just to keep their jobs; and when they leave office, they discover that all they have been telling them are lies. Nothing can be more factual than truism when it is expressed by none other than one who has been in the corridors of power. This also goes to prove the fact that truth no matter how it may hurt is very necessary for the progress of any nation and the building of the nation. Nigeria has been blessed with many resources, both human and natural, but the fact that she has not been able to confront the truth of her history and dialogue with it, has prevented her from riding high like other nations of the world.

Nigeria must not deny what she is and accepts what she is not. The nation must respect those who point out to her what her true nature is and how it should behave to rise like other nations of the world. They must never be perceived as enemies who do not wish the nation well. Responsible and authentic journalists, activists and those genuinely in opposition should be commended for pointing out the direction that may place her among the comity of nations.  Those who govern in political and religious circles must strive not to live in denial of the reality of the national existence. There is need to do a little reflection and see if this denial of the truth has helped us in our task of nation building. The complexity of the problem will heighten if the government spokesmen and women turn every criticism into battle and try always to divert attention from the main issues to frivolities. It is regrettable that Nigeria as a nation is facing many challenges of political turmoil, insecurity, poverty and social vices. These problems could be surmounted if those in authority accept to communicate the truth of the situation to the people instead of propaganda. In other words, these problems could be translated to a shared responsibility only if those in authority pay attention to the truth which the people are saying with constructive criticisms.

The importance of truth is also needed in the demographic aspect of the nation building. To be sure and till date, the Nigeria society is not sure of the total population of the people that make up the country. The simple reason is because every state, region, province and religion in Nigeria does not want to tell the truth of their population.  Each segment always seeks to selfishly inflate the figures for their own advantage thereby making it difficult to have an accurate count of the people. Whatever we do let us love and fear God. Let us pray to God to hear us in truth as we work out our salvation (Psalms 69:13).

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Fr. Dr. Anthony Okolo CSSP is a Nigerian missionary in Arizona, USA

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