by Gbenga Osinaike
These are trying times for the Christian community in the country. For those of us in Southern Nigeria, it may be difficult to comprehend the onslaught on Christians in the North because we are not directly involved. While our brothers and sisters are frequently murdered we are busy praying for prosperity and thinking of how to expand our coast.
Although some Christians in the south are not indifferent to the plight of our brothers and sisters in the north, many of us are yet to fully appreciate the magnitude of the crisis. The truth is that the days of repression and annihilation of the Christian faith are here with us now. And this is not a new phenomenon. The attack on Christians dates back to the ancient times.
Christians were stoned to death or thrown into the den of lions for their faith. Through the ages, especially in the early years after the ascension of Jesus Christ, believers were killed almost every day. Records have shown that many of the apostles did not die from natural causes. In fact, many Christians were used as bonfires during wild parties organised by some of the emperors of Rome.
It is instructive to note that the persecution of the true believers in Jesus Christ was rife in the then Roman Catholic Church where the Pope was in charge. Voices that dared question his authority and actions were often silenced. For example, William Tyndale was burnt on the stake for daring to translate the New Testament portion of the Holy Bible to English language. Several other people paid with their lives for their efforts in ensuring that the Christian gospel was spread among all men and that people would not be perpetual slaves to the papacy.
Beyond the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, the major threat to Christianity has been Islam. Considering the fact that Islam came into existence about 300 years after the Bible had been canonised, this is rather unfortunate.
At that time, Muslims had capitalised on failure of Christendom to focus on the core of the gospel as an opportunity to sweep through North Africa and Arabia, where churches once existed, and establish strongholds.
History recounts how the Christian Crusades, which took place between 1095 and1291, were launched to reclaim territories annexed by the jihadists. They helped to halt the continued spread of Islam on lands formerly occupied by Christians and would have continued, but for the intervention of church leaders of that age.
In the last three decades, events have shown that some adherents to the Islamic faith believe they should take the world by force of arm. The question many people have continued to ask is: What should be the attitude of Christians in these days of repression? The Bishop of Enugu Diocese of the Anglican Communion, Emmanuel Chukwuma, had warned that Christians will embark on reprisals if the weekly bombings in the north continued.
Many Christians shared in that sentiment. The other day a Christian leader had used the Scriptures to buttress the point that God is a man of war. He gave the example of Peter who drew out his sword and brought down the earlobe of one of Jesus’ assailants. He wondered where Peter got the sword from. He then argued that the disciples were always carrying swords while they were with Jesus. But that was the only record of a disciple using sword. In a series of other accounts the disciples were vulnerable.
James was beheaded and Stephen was stoned to death. Also, John the Baptist was beheaded. Up to the time of the communist onslaught on Christianity, Christians have been vulnerable to attacks. Many of them have died cheaply because they did nothing to defend themselves.
But the times have changed. For many believers of this generation, it has become increasingly difficult to follow Jesus Christ’s teachings not to respond to violence with violence. This is very hard for our little minds to comprehend.
What Christ is saying in essence is that Christians should he ready to be taken for granted. But how long are Christians going to keep their fingers crossed and watch as they are being decimated? It is easy to preach peace and call for caution when one is not involved. But those who feel the pain know where the shoe pinches. They know that they are dealing with a set of people whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world, as explained by Paul the apostle in one of his epistles.
I suggest that Christians in the North should begin to seek an alternative to public gatherings. When the communist government of the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics moved against Christians, the idea of the underground church came up. Christians started meeting in homes and unlikely places. In that way, they proved to their persecutors that the church was indestructible.
The church is about people who have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. It is about the saved and the elect. Today communism has crumbled and the church of God is marching victoriously in the old Soviet Union. And many of those who kicked against it are now embracing Christ.
Christians in the North should begin to meet in their homes. This is not about cowardice. It is about doing everything to live and to make the enemy look stupid. It is when we live that we can cooperate with God to expand His kingdom on earth, thereby rescuing millions of people from eternal condemnation.
I advocate the closure of every church building in the North for now. Let Christians stay indoors during worship days. Let the home cells be revived and families should begin to hold meetings in their homes.
For those of us in the South, it is time to go back to our knees and intensify our prayers. God will not do anything, except we pray. When we pray, God will answer. I have a feeling that God is allowing this crisis to happen so that we will stop being frivolous and petty in our actions.
For long we have shifted our attention on the mundane things and have not served God the way we should. The average Christian wants to ride the best car and live in the best house to show that he serves a rich God. But that is rice Christianity. It is Christianity of the stomach. It will not get us anywhere. Rather, it will continue to make us vulnerable. It is time for us to turn to God and serve Him the way we should.
*This piece was first published in The Punch