To the Church in Nigeria

By Olu Onemola

To the Church in Nigeria, I hope that this letter will find you well and that you will receive its message with open hearts and minds.

Over the past few weeks, Nigeria has witnessed what I choose to describe as a subtle pause in our rowdy history. From the twenty-fifth day of February, when millions trooped out to cast their votes, till the early hours of the first day of March — when the presidential election results were announced, we have all grappled with the sad dissolution of the long-held notion that our leadership formula must consist of both religions at the presidential level. However, that is not the purpose of this piece. 

Rather, I write to bring to your attention a grave threat that looms large over our national unity. I call upon the same voices that rallied the congregations across our land in the lead-up to the general election. I urge the pastors, the priests, the prophets, and the apostles who swayed millions of voters with their prophecies and proclamations to once again lend their voices to the cause.

Undoubtedly, the power of the pulpit in our national politics can no longer be ignored. However, today, the piercing silence from these same pulpits as bigotry is spewed amongst brothers and sisters — often of the same faith — cannot also be ignored. If the church has decided to become more active in the social issues that affect the nation, then, the church must take a united position on the issue of bigotry in our national conversation.

To remain silent while Nigerians, through their words and actions, seem to be descending into a “nasty, brutish, and short” state of nature, is to be complicit in the unintended consequences of allowing bigotry to thrive in our diverse nation. Whether on social media or in real life, by action or inaction, we must take the lead in rejecting bigotry in all its forms.

We cannot afford to allow those who wish to stoke the embers of discord amongst us to think it will be condoned. Those who have spearheaded such campaigns must be rebuked, and the Church, as an institution must take the lead in the re-education of all those that adhere to the Christian faith about this crucial issue.

There are times to remain silent, and there are times to speak. In these challenging times, when bigotry and hate speech are spreading like a disease in Nigeria, we must take action now. We can’t afford to wait until tomorrow, next Sunday, or a month from now. We must raise our voices and stand up for what is right. We cannot allow bigotry to take root as a poison that can spread in our already economically challenged communities. We must quarantine this cancer for the future of our nation and the generations that will come after us. 

More importantly, we must learn the lessons from our collective history, and remember the tales from nations like Rwanda where ethnic conflicts escalated into the tragedy of genocide.

In the past, the Church has vocalized its stance on even the most trivial of concerns. Hence, during this era of heightened national political and social consciousness, when a detrimental issue such as bigotry is looming large, all virtuous leaders must step up and boldly declare their position. And they better do it now, without delay before the virus spreads like wildfire beyond the confines of social media, where it has found fertile ground to thrive. 

Leaders of the faith-based community must step up and take the initiative. Even though bigotry did not start in the Church, the Church still has a moral responsibility to begin its end in Nigeria.

*Olu Onemola writes from Abuja—

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