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EDITORIAL

A Case For Religious Tolerance

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The Easter messages sent out by both the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and its main rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as well as other prominent Nigerians and church leaders were for all to embrace love and tolerance, drawing from the example that Jesus Christ showed mankind in his earthly sojourn. Those messages could not have been more apt for the occasion considering the level of intolerance of other peoples’ way of religious and cultural expressions in the world today. Often, this intolerance is expressed in different ways, from denying people of other beliefs their rights and privileges in the society to the extreme action of snuffing life out of them, sometimes right where they are communing with their God in prayer.

On Easter day, two security officers displayed the highest level of intolerance by wilfully killing worshippers during an Easter procession following an argument over right of passage. While the matter is still under investigation, it was reported that  a Civil Defence officer and his policeman friend made a detour, switched off their headlights and crashed into several people from behind during a joint procession by Anglican and ECWA Churches in Gombe, killing nine members of the Boys’ Brigade and leaving about 30 others injured. The so-called officers had crushed to death those they were trained and paid to protect. Sadly, too, they were lynched in a mob action. That singular rashness not only caused anguish in the families of the children they killed, and consigned many others to serious injuries and possible deformities, but they themselves lost their lives and put their families in trouble. It is not likely that any Christian would intentionally use a vehicle to crush fellow Christians in an Easter procession.

And on Easter Monday, a passenger bus crashed into another Easter procession in Numan area in Adamawa, injuring 17 persons. And while there is no hint yet that it was not an accident, it sure caused some disquiet in an area noted for religious tension.

From across the world, condemnations and condolences  are still pouring in over the Easter  Day terrorist attacks that targeted Christians worshipping in churches and foreigners staying at hotels in Sri Lanka that left 253 people dead and over 500 others wounded in the country capital, Colombo.

It was an attack that completely devastated the South Asian Island country located on the Indian Ocean, especially its minority Christian population.  There are suggestions that this bloody attack may have a link to the Christchurch New Zealand terrorist attack a month earlier on March 15, 2019 during which a lone gunman, one Brent Harrison Tarrant, an Australian, went to two mosques in New Zealand’s capital city, Christchurch, and shot dead 50 worshippers, wounding another 50.

And just a few months earlier, in November 2018, militants in Egypt ambushed three buses conveying Coptic Christians to a pilgrimage centre and murdered seven of them, six of them from one family, and injured 19 others. In this same country on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, two bombs were exploded at St George’s Church in the city of Tanta, killing 45 worshippers and injuring 126 others.

Earlier in 2011, one deranged Norwegian, Anders Breivik, killed 77 persons at a youth camp just because he did not like government’s policy allowing people from other backgrounds to live in the country. That same year in Madala, near Abuja, terrorists on Christmas Day detonated two bombs at St Teresa’s Catholic Church, killing about 30 worshippers. That same day there were attacks on four other churches in Jos, Kano, Damaturu and Gadaka, with many dead and injured.

As a newspaper, we enjoin all men and women to practice the letters and spirit of their faith; all religions preach love, justice and brotherliness. There is no place in the true worship of God that authorises individuals to kill their neighbours just because they have different modes of relating with God.

This is asides the fact that right to life and freedom of religion are inalienable human rights which should never be denied a person by a fellow man.

In the wake of the Christchurch killings, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led from the front in sending out the message that such kind of intolerant behaviour was not welcome in her country. She not only strongly condemned the barbaric act, but also led the mourning and visited all the affected families to show them empathy and compassion. She succeeded in letting the voices of divisiveness and intolerance know that her country was a place for all men and women of goodwill to thrive and practice their faith without let or hindrance. That is the way other leaders should respond to issues like this.

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