CONTENDING WITH A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM!
Justine John DYIKUK
Christianity and Islam are two great religions. Volumes have been written about the magnanimity of these two faiths. Having common parentage is not only the issue here but viewing these two giants with the lenses of critical reasoning either in world or local affairs, no doubt reveals what political scientist Samuel P. Huntington calls, “the clash of civilizations;” which among other things makes for the misgivings of these creeds of Abrahamic heritage!
This piece makes a case for a civilization of love which goes beyond any tribe, tongue, people and nation in a world and nation (Nigeria) tossed by the embers of rift/violence in civilizational apparel. Where do we go from here?
Common Abrahamic Pedigree
Christians and Muslims have a common origin. In historical litany, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are religions coming from the Middle-East. The Holy Books are clear on this. This is why Muslims regard Jews and Christians as the people of the book (Quran 3:64-71) who practice monotheism – believe in one supreme God. Muslims consider Ishmael, first born of Abraham, from the Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, to be the ‘father of the Arabs’ (Gen. 16:3 and Quran 4.2.2). Abraham’s second son, Isaac, son-of-promise from, Sarah, is the ‘father of the Hebrews’ while Christians align themselves with him in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham of being the father of multitudes (Gal. 4:22-31).
What went wrong – The Clash
History tells us that as monotheists, Christians and Jews from the Abbasid dynasty to the Mongol and Ottomans Empire(s), enjoyed freedom of worship. Many countries of the world are testimonies of people of different religious views co-existing in harmony. The United States of America, India, Ethiopia, and Uganda among many others are cases that come to mind.
Like a flash, the crusades, inquisition and conquests emerged from either direction. Gorgy scenes of these are not palatable to the memory and can be better described as the undoing of religion, Christianity or Islam. Objectivity reminds us that there can be no truism between the schools of thought of Hitler or Bin Laden. Where people make reference to malevolent ideologies and deeds of ignominious-villains as a justification for renewed ‘criminal-radicalization’ of faith and terrorism against other innocent citizens and defenseless people, history is set to repeat itself in an inglorious manner but God forbid!
It is only a mad man who goes to sleep while his house is on fire. We are living in trying times globally and more importantly, locally; reading the hand writing on the world and taming the tide of times might just be panacea. But first, we must admit that adherents of the religions under review have as one of my teachers would say, gone bananas or worst still, misfired! But the question flooding the minds of many is, what brought about the current incessant extremism (Suicide bombing and violent attacks) rained on innocent Nigerians by religious fanatics mostly within the north central and north-eastern parts of the country? How about the vengeful reprisal attacks in some parts of Kaduna State which no sane person should approve?
Islam for instance has been in existence since the eight century but globally, Islamic radicalization is a phenomenon which is not far from us in history. The free Wikipedia encyclopedia furnishes us with the following information; some scholars like Mark Burgess of the Center for Defense Information, trace the roots of Islamic terrorism back to the 11th-century Assassins. Its modern transformation has its roots in the 19th century as evident by the Wahhabi movement, an Arabian fundamentalist movement that was formed in the 18th century which established a broad following during the 1800s and gradually inspired other fundamentalist movements during the 20th century. Burgess opines that the escalation of terrorism during the later 20th century can be traced in three pivotal events circa 1979. Why did things suddenly become bad in our country? Perhaps religious scholars of this abstraction who have been silent all the while would attempt an answer!
Drawing from Huntington’s submission, there is a major civilizational clash between these two religions. One is seen as an heir of Western civilization and the other, Arab-middle-eastern. This is reflected in a rift of values viz:
Free speech Verses silence
Rationality Verses Emotionalism
Pluralism Verses Exclusivism
Dialogue Verses Confrontation
Openness Verses Reservation
Pacifism Verses Militarism
Forgiveness Verses Vengeance
The list goes on and on but the point is, both at home and abroad, the result of this clash seems a case of triumphalism of one religion over the other, activism as in campaign for membership and relevance, aggressive exclusivism cum arrogant radicalization of opinions leading to what I call ‘religious eugenics’ – outright elimination of those who do not share one’s religious opinions and world-view(s)!
It might interest the reader to know that, Michael Mc Cabe SMA in an unpublished paper “Mission in an Islamic Milieu” opines that this conflict is within Islam and outside it -ad intra and ad extra. The great majority of Muslims around the world and in our country are peace-loving. These traditional Muslims from Afghanistan to Iraq, Palestine to Pakistan are often taunted by the extremists Muslims (their kith and kin) – it is an in-home fight and struggle.
When there is conflict between Muslims and Christians, it is ad extra and the masterminds are primarily the minority zealots. When Christians become enraged and take to reprisals in the wake of any attack or show aggression against any core Islamic teaching, the fundamentalists most times weep sentiments and the peaceful Muslims often succumb. Is the ‘Boko Haram Republic’ unconnected to this? The challenge is to pacify the peaceful ones against drawing large numbers from the peace-makers says, Mc Cabe.
On the socio-economic and political dimensions, there is a falsification of religious truth, economic truth and political truth which makes for the unbridgeable lacuna in the relations between Christians and Muslims. Poverty, illiteracy, the Almajiri system in the north are portent incubators of chaos. The erstwhile Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Abdullahi Ango’s classification of Boko Haram as criminal, political and religious is indicative of a multifaceted evil dawn on us. Sunday Trust of 24 June 2012 reports Ango as blaming the current happenings on the political, social, and economic fronts on “…Northerners in position of responsibility” for failing to live up to the expectations of our founding fathers “…in terms of honest and purposeful leadership – in the old Northern region.”
Drawing from the above submission, some public affairs commentators have fingered the current ugly scenario of insecurity in our country on fabricated/false-flag attacks or Diocletian’s Problem-Reason-Solution; a military as well as political phenomenon in which the elite create enemies in order to re-order society in their tyrannical image and likeness thereby not only funding but fanning the flames of terrorism against their people to find a scapegoat; when they offer solution, they people celebrate them. Could the creation of militia groups used as body guards or fighters of political enemies like the sara shuka – Bauchi, yan kalare – Gombe to mention a few not be connected to this?
At this juncture, one would want to ask; who are the sponsors of Boko Haram activities targeting mainly Christian worshipers in the north (mostly on Sundays) and the powerless Nigerian populace? Are contemporary Nigerian Christians suffering what their forebears went through during the tyrannical reigns of the Roman Emperors Nero and Diocletian? A sure case of Problem-Reason-Solution, one might think! As George Santayana would say, “those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
Clue to reverting the sad trend of events among believers and indeed all Nigerians is cultivating a ‘civilization of love.’ Love has no tribe; it knows no religion or color. Beyond differences in articles of faith and all qualms between Christians and Muslims, Christianity and Islam (from their common lineage) share the twin golden commandments of love of God and neighbor.
German missiologist, Kosuke Koyama, insists that we need ‘a crucified mind’ rather than ‘a crusading mind.’ We equally need to revamp an interfaith culture that entails mature faith and courageous interaction with one another in mutual respect, love and understanding.
In Nostra Aetate No 2, the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in other religions; She “…exhorts her children prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness to the Christian faith to acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral good, as well as the socio-political values found among them.” What could be more profound?
It will be recalled that the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) in the document Achtiname instructed his followers to defend Christians against aggressors. The Holy Quran chapter 9: 29 emphasize respect and love for the people of the book. In Islam, Jihad is two-fold namely, the ongoing fight/struggle within an individual in terms of choosing right or wrong and territorial conquest but never forceful conversion!
The tablet of 8 June 2002, page 16, carrying the caption of an article “Relating to other faiths: How far can you go?” by Jacques Dupuis, is very instructive for our discourse. It says, holding unto one’s faith need not undermine a commitment to mutual dialogue on equal terms – being prepared to listen to the other, to allow oneself to be challenged by the other and to believe and hope that through prayer/dialogue, one can come to a more appropriate understanding of the two faiths – one’s and the other’s.
We need an integral liberation from the shackles of ignorance/illiteracy, (brain-washing) poverty for optimal human capacity building, education, and unprejudiced efforts towards peace. While vigilance and security is the responsibility of all, government must ensure constant border-checks and the security of lives and property. Stake-holders, traditional and religious leaders must ensure a balanced citizenry. If justice and peace prevails, the dreams of our heroes past of the unity and integrity of our nation would be sweet melon in our mouths. Where have we thrown the blessings of Abraham? Are we throwing away BOKO (Education) to hand over to his descendants, BOMBS and BULLETS? God deliver us!
Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest and Public Affairs Commentator writes from Bauchi.
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