It is a common belief that, “each person derives contentment from genuine labour.” We pray with the refrain of Psalm 89: “Give success to the work of our hands, O Lord.” The Psalmist prays for humanity to understand the true meaning of life with a clear vision and grace filled mission of life: “Before the mountains were born or the earth or the world brought forth, you are God, without beginning or end. You turn men back to dust and say: “Go back, sons of men.” To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night. Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart. Lord, relent! Is your anger forever? Show pity to your servants. In the morning, fill us with your love; we shall exalt and rejoice all our days. Show forth your work to your servants; let your glory shine on their children” (Psalm 89). The allurement of the world with transient joy does not make many people think deeply about what actually gives meaning to life. The poverty of the human heart has turned human beings to render the world poor with their insatiable greed.
Adam Smith, a Scottish political economist and philosopher (1723-1790) says that human beings cannot fulfill all their needs because the resources are not available in abundant when compared to their needs. But a particular need of an individual can be satisfied. The poverty and suffering in the world today is the greed of a privileged few who have access to the common treasury. In his book, “The Wealth of Nations”, Adam Smith identifies human nature as selfish and egoistic with unquenchable desire for material wealth such that “human wants are insatiable” (https://www.google.com). There is no limit to the desire of human material appetite. If those in government who should regulate the distribution of resources end up stealing the wealth of the nation, they make fighting corruption a mockery.
Why is it that some human beings do not learn from the experience of rich people who have died and abandoned their wealth to others? How come many do not recognize the irony that putting the whole heart on material things is vanity of vanities? Why is it so difficult for human beings to understand that “no condition or position is permanent?” Why do some people still store up treasures on earth to rot and rust? Some people amass property for their children and children’s children. At the end of the day the children may not even want to do anything with the wealth that has been amassed for them. Responsible children are aware that they have their own lives to live outside the lives of their corrupt parents. This is why you see so many houses and properties of a deceased person wasting away in foreign countries, the cities and villages of their home countries. Many while in political positions are afraid of the future and they do not want to descend from riches and fame to poverty and low profile. These people need faith to believe the words of Jesus. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:32-34).
The greed to remain in power and wealth has often been among the causes of violence because every act of violence is an expression of the interior revolution in the heart. When the heart is disturbed, the tendency is to behave abnormally. Internal disorder of a person can lead to split personality or schizophrenia. When Jesus asked the Demoniac, what is your name (Mk 5:9)? He answered, my name is legion for we are many (Mk 5:9). Legion in the Roman empire was used for the largest division of the Roman armies, which numbered 6000 infantry and 120 Calvary in the New Testament times besides auxiliary and special service troops (J McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible (London, Geoffrey Chapman, 1980) 503). Greedy and corrupt people perceive themselves in multiple. One of the major causes of internal disorder is the greed to satisfy human complexities that are expressed in the satisfaction of the flesh. This could take the form of unquenchable appetite for food, drink, sex and useless luxury. A lot of people do not even know what they need for happiness. They pursue insatiable wants instead of the basic needs that can truly give them contentment. A lot of people have no idea of the value of taking care of the soul more than the body.
Hunger may endure but it is easy to get satiated with food yet, hunger has made some people slaves at different levels. Some are calling the hungry people to stage a revolution to change their conditions of penury and to call the government to do the needful so that the suffering people do not go into stealing, prostitution, kidnapping and terrorism. Many Nigerians are crying that the nation is under siege. The drums of ethnic stigmatization are sounding so loud that the traditional and political leaders must assist in calling their bandits to cease fire. The bandits should know that those who are using them to enrich themselves will deny them when luck runs out of them to face justice. This is the time to long to be Patriots, Saints and Martyrs who are courageous to suffer for the cause of justice and the wellbeing of the people who are now living in fear and fury. This is the time for Pastors and Imams to engage in the proclamation of human dignity and call on the government to provide the basic amenities to secure the life and property of the people. This is the time to preach salvation of the souls in preference to the gospel of prosperity.
Great Saints and Martyrs in the past inflicted violence on their own bodies to address the materialism of the secular world in the form of fasting and penance. They did not amass wealth and fame at the expense of human blood. Many world religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etcetera recommend fasting and penance for their followers. This penance gave rise to more love, more generosity and more desire to live in peace and harmony. Faith is the mission to a desired vision. The religions that accept Abraham as a father in faith must value the sacredness of human life. In faith, we must allow our treasures to be stored in heaven. We must not slaughter a human being like brute animals. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him wanted to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
If we set our hearts on the treasures of life and eternal salvation, it would be difficult for anybody to promote violence in the name of religion and ethnicity. Religious violence is perpetrated by individuals and social groups. Some of these violent actions start with physical abuse, vandalism, torture, rape and murder as we are experiencing now in Nigeria. Kidnapping has become a means of rapid income. It is alleged that some of the kidnappers have connections with those who have pledged to protect the citizens. If it is true that security agents can have any connection with the kidnappers, then the hope of the citizens will turn to abysmal despair. It is becoming difficult to believe that even though religion is used to justify violent behaviour, the immediate motivations of the individuals involved may not be religious but personal economic gains. May God transform the hearts of the bandits to better human beings!
Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) (firstname.lastname@example.org)