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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
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NOW THAT BENUE IS RED… (2)

THE SANCTITY OF LIFE

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gen 9:6).

Still on our reflection on the state of the nation. On May 3rd, another killing took place in Guma Local Government Area claiming 6 lives. This Benue flow since this month has turned to Adamawa. A day before, four villages in Numan Local Government were completely burnt down and no fewer than 15 people died. It is the same problem of herdsmen-farmers´ clash. One still wonders why nothing tangible has been done about it. The danger is that famine is at our doorstep. We will be greeted by 2019 with food crisis. But that is not the only problem. If we do not die of hunger, our fellow human being will kill us. Man keeps being wolf to his fellow man. We have no hiding place. Everywhere is a war front.

This week, we reflect on a serious issue; how come that killing means nothing to Nigerians? How did we degenerate so fast to this state of anarchy? We simply do not have sense of the sacred as regards human life. Every religion and culture in Nigeria professes this sanctity of life. Hence, killing is not only a sin, it is a taboo and merits excommunication. In the Judaeo-Christian belief, the sanctity of human life stems from the fact that he is created in the image and likeness of God. Hence, this sanctity is not something man acquires as a result of virtue. Rather it is a divine imprint so indelible. Because of that, it is enshrined in the commandment, "thou shalt not kill." This commandment is hardly observed in Nigeria today. The sanctity of human life offers the basis for the inviolable dignity of man independent of the quality of life. Hence God could punish Cain for killing his brother Abel. The way we trampled on human dignity in our country also shows how we value human life. If we do not value life, then we can treat people as we like even to the point of killing without having our conscience pricked. Blood means nothing to us. It is as good as a pool of water. Loss of the sense of the sanctity of life creates a culture of death.

Have you ever come to think of it that whenever there is a genocide in Nigeria, we do not have the exact number of the casualties? Are you not disturbed that a great percentage of Nigerians are not documented? Do you know that only few people in Nigeria know what is called death certificate? There you are. You now know where I am going. Human life means nothing to us. Right from the time of our Independence, Nigeria has been a blood river basin. From the pre-Independence Kano riot of 1973 to the present Fulani herdsmen´s killings, the story of my country can be told along a narrative thread of war and violence punctuated here and there by an occasional episode of quietude which hardly lasts. The pogrom committed against the south-eastern Nigerians during the Nigeria-Biafra War and the "No Victor, No Vanquished" declaration still plays itself out today making us a nation built on falsehood and bloodshed. Campaign and post-election violence, jungle justice, military bullying, religious war, domestic violence, armed robbery, ritual killing, kidnapping, terrorism and herdsmen's ethnic cleansing are all domestic phraseologies today. Dead bodies can be found lying along the roads without making any news headline. It is normal for people to die. It is normal to kill people. It is normal to see blood flowing like a river. It is normal only in Nigeria. Where is our traditional sense of the sacred?

No Nigerian life worth anything. We have degenerated into a state of nature where force and fraud are the sole virtues. Sometime two weeks ago after an evening Mass, a woman in her late 70s approached me and we started a discussion. When she noticed that I am from the Biafran part of Nigeria, she became so excited and decided to drive me to her house for a dinner – something untypical of Germans (they are not used to spontaneous invitation). She invited me not just for a dinner. She wanted to show me a book written by her friend. This her friend was a medical doctor and was among the German Red Cross team that ministered to the dying people of Biafra during the 30-month civil war. The book with the title Hinter den Fronten Als Arzt in Biafra (Behind the Fronts as a Medical Doctor in Biafra) speaks of the horror of that war, the soldiers´ inhuman treatment on the non-combatants, children dying of malnutrition on a geometrical increase, starving nursing mothers and languishing elders, the creating of ghost cities and people taking refuge in the bush as well as the sudden aborting of life dreams. These are the horrors of war. A memory of them ought to send a signal to us whenever the atmosphere is charged to beware of war. Events of the past ought to teach us how precious human blood is. In Nigeria the reverse is the case. The more we kill the more we desire to kill. We have lost the sense of the sanctity of human life. I think of our children today and get depressed. I hug millions of them in prayer, innocent babies born into a climate of fear and anxiety. Children getting used to the rotors of the fighter jets, the staccato of machine guns and explosion of grenades. These are innocent souls exposed to violence at an early stage in life. They witness domestic violence on a daily basis, papa slapping mama as if she is his maid and sometimes the other way round, children being intimidated on a daily basis and barred from expressing their feelings, the experience of jungle justice on a daily basis, the annals of violence on the TV screens and pages of newspapers, abusive arguments on Facebook pages and other social networks. All these create a fertile ground for the world of tomorrow. We are giving birth to children who have no idea of what peace is all about. The commandment "thou shalt not kill" makes no sense to them since killing has become the order of the day. In the next 20 and 25 years, all these absorbed impressions will start manifesting in them. We will then reap what we have sown.  There is fire on the mountain. The atmosphere is already polluted.

If care is not taken, Nigeria would soon be worse than Syria. I am afraid. We must set politics aside and rebuild a sane society where human life still matters. We must instil in our children what the sanctity of life is all about. We must teach them that no matter where one comes from, we all are created in God´s image. We must tell them that no life is superior to the other irrespective of class, creed or language. The horrors in Benue diffuse to every part of the country and understand no sense of discrimination. Time may come when people will start eating their fellow human beings just for survival. We must fight against this. Now that Benue is red, we are reminded of that commandment of God, "thou shalt not kill".

 


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