We sure live in different times from the one I knew in my childhood. Born in Nigeria during the civil war of the 60’s impacted my childhood. Self-awareness for me began in the aftermath of the war with endless reports of horror from veterans, pages of newspapers, returnees from the war and the general populace. Embers of ethnicity were still being fanned by some as the government of the day proclaimed ‘No Victor No Vanquished’ and embarked on massive infrastructural repairs to heal the wounds of the war and to reunite the country. My boyish heart absorbed all the above with trepidation and I hoped it would never happen again. The prospect of another outbreak of war loomed over the average rural mind that surrounded me in the village of Ndayako-Mokwa.
However, all the fears would give way with time because nothing of that sort happened and I found myself maturing in a country with relative peace, where the memories of the devastations of war actually served as a deterrence to its resurgence. The initial fragility of the peace gave way to national tranquility except the occasional eruption of religious or ethnic agitations. Such threats were always easily quelled by the superior fire power of the Nigerian national army and the nation would trudge on like they never happened. Several of such including the Maitatsine riots of the early 80’s, OPC and MASSOB uprisings of recent times, militancy and ethnic agitations in the South South region of Nigeria were subdued by the nation.
In the minds of many, Boko Haram was to be one of such challenges – an evil wind that was supposed to blow away within months. However, when they began to bomb churches and police stations, it began to pose a different challenge. Soon, mosques and markets were added to the targets and suicide bombing turned it all into a national nightmare. Before our very eyes, a movement of destroyers, targeting soft targets became a force, occupying part of the Nigerian territory and declaring the establishment of a state within our nation state! The question now is, will it ever end someday and will such be history?
Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist groups like Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and Isis are rooted in religious ideology that is primitive and has no place in the modern world. No doubt, the initial spread of Islam had centuries ago taken place in a day and age of lots of inter-tribal and inter-ethnic wars which served as the means of establishing territories and boundaries before the clear demarcations of recent history. The religion was also established through armed invasions of territories given to idolatry and who rejected the propagation of Mohammed’s gospel. Such a method therefore finds support in the Quran as it was written within that context.
The times have however changed and modern methods of evangelism have been embraced for the spread of various religions and ideologies. Christianity does not support violence in any form in evangelism but history records how Emperor Constantine of Rome legislated Christianity as religion for the entire empire and the ancient crusaders killed and maimed those who opposed Christianity. They were certainly out of line with God.
So what should our responses be as Christians in times like this? The starting point is to come to terms with the fact that the development itself is one the manifestations of biblical prophecy about the end of times. Jesus and Paul spoke about wars, perilous times, violence and wanton destruction taking place in the last days.
“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Mark 13:13 NKJV
“But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” Luke 21:9 NKJV
Our attitude should be one of building our faith in God and of building that of our families for divine protection. God is faithful to watch over us and it is never His will that we live in fear.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”” Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV
Generally, we must also respond with defiance against such religious violence. We must hold on to our faith even in the face of terror. The early church did and we must do the same. We must keep believing in Jesus even at the peril of death. It’s time to put strong emphasis on consecration and on the need to carry our crosses as disciples of Christ. Persecutions will continue and increase in these last days.
As heinous as the crimes are, we must defend our nations at national and communal levels, yet be loving and accommodating of people of other faith, especially Moslems. Only love can be a positive witness of Christ. We must also realize that not all Moslems are persuaded of extremist ideologies nor support them.
Finally, lift up your heads in hope of the return of our Lord and Saviour, who will certainly rescue us from all our earthly sorrows at His return.
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”” Luke 21:28 NKJV
Even so I pray, come Lord Jesus, quickly.