Killing In The Name of The Lord – By Tony Okoroji

Hatred appears to have taken over the world. Whether it is in the Middle East, East Africa or Nigeria, the slaughtering of innocent people is no longer shocking. It is an everyday thing. It has become normal. ‘Unknown’ gun men are running riot across Nigeria, killing and maiming at will. Nothing is sacred anymore and no one is off limits.

In the last two weeks, the perennial carnage between the Palestinians and the Israelis exploded again. On television, we are visited by the gory images of the mayhem caused by the massive Israeli military machine that appears ever ready to rip to shreds the Palestinian men, women and children. Some Israelis and hundreds of innocent Palestinians, old women and mere children have been slaughtered like cattle in a never-ending war in which they are neither participants nor do they quite understand the reason.

Massive buildings come crashing down like a pack of cards.
Meanwhile, the people responsible for this massacre and their friends justify this horrific killing field. They explain it with a lot of grammar especially at the United Nations. Those who have the big guns also own the big loudspeakers and the sophisticated PR specialists. So, they activate their propaganda machinery to dominate the narrative. Nothing is true or false anymore. It is all a matter of how you coin it and spread it. So, they justify the carnage by announcing that they are defending their people! Of course, they have ready support from their friends with the veto power.

It does not matter that the innocent women and children so brazenly murdered are some other person’s ‘people’ and also children of God. We live in a world in which might is right and so the children of the slaughtered old women and the brothers of the murdered children, who probably will never have access to any significant military machine, will eventually turn themselves into suicide bombers and explode themselves on innocent civilians. And the cycle of blood continues.

Every crazy group in the world unleashing death on everyone around them can justify the killing. It is usually based on an ‘us against them’ mind set of some spiritual, tribal or political leader hungry for control who drums up the immense bitterness fuelled by some ancient bigotry or hatred that eventually turn the young, frustrated and restless into destructive machines.

Talk to any members of the vicious Boko Haram group or ISWAP that have unleashed fear and death across Nigeria or the other ethnic separatists that are emerging everywhere in Nigeria and they all have religious or tribal justification for their senseless killing of innocent men and women. Members of the Al Shabab gang who have gunned down many innocent people in East Africa are sure that they are doing God’s work. Whether it is Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram or even the IRA that kept Northern Ireland in commotion for a long time, they all beat their chests and assert justification for the innocent lives they have taken. Check out their justification and it is based on some skewed religious beliefs or some real or perceived injustice done to their ‘people’ today or in times gone by.

Nothing frightens me these days more than the seemingly unstoppable spread of fundamentalist religion. Contrary to popular notion, this terrifying development is not limited to the Islamic faith. All over the world, there are self-styled prophets in religious garments indoctrinating masses of people who they will unleash on the world and who would become cannon fodder in their war to rid the world of those who do not agree with them.

All of these ‘men of God’ preach love but the love they preach is not love for all children of God but love only for the people who think like them, pray like them or love like them. If you think differently, you are vermin which must be exterminated to create their pure world. They have convinced themselves that they are holy warriors fighting God’s battle and that they have the right to kill in the name of God.

But who are these people supposedly fighting in the name of God and killing the children of God? Who told them that God needs their help? Who informed them that they are more effective than God, the maker and giver of life, who if he chooses can wipe out whole nations in a twinkle of an eye? How can a war be holy in which innocent children of God are killed?

Karl Max did say that religion is the opium of the poor. I agree. Take a map of the world and check out the regions where there are fervent religious activities. These are where you will find nations in commotion, in poverty and in decline. Not too long ago, I spent some time in the UK and the United States. Sunday mornings, the streets of the major cities are practically abandoned. The churches are empty except for minority groups. Yet, these are the people from whom we inherited our religious beliefs. We have become far more religious than them with very little to show for it.

Please drive on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway. There are interesting developments on both sides of the road. Apart from a few recent commercial ventures, nearly every significant structure on the road is owned by a religious group of either the Christian or Islamic faith. If the structure is not a worship centre built on acres of choice land, it is a university owned by the same religious groups.

A lot of the children whose parents contributed the tithe and offering with which the universities were built will find out that the universities are not priced for them. I have wondered what would eventually happen to those who study at the universities from Mondays to Fridays and worship at the churches on Sundays. Where are they going to find work? From where will they earn the money to maintain body and soul and pay tithes to the religious establishments so that they can continue to boom? If you cannot see the looming problem, you are probably one of those who believe that Nigeria won the last World Cup in Russia.

Before anyone concludes that I am anti – religion, let me state clearly that I am a Christian and that I go to Church. I however do not believe that every Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Ifa Worshiper, or anyone who does not worship the way I do is condemned to hell fire. It is the same way that I do not believe that the people who come from my part of the country are always right and the others are forever wrong. Similarly, I do not believe that when the time comes, it will matter whether you face the east or the west when you worship your God or whether you come from the North or the South or whether you are straight, gay or lesbian. We are all children of one God.

Chief Tony Okoroji is Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)

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