Friday, 24 March 2006
Nigeria in the news again
The Church Times take on the Guardian interview is broader, as revealed by the headline over the report by Rachel Harden: Dr Williams defends Akinola on anti-Muslim riots. The CT press column also deals with the interview at length, but that will not be available on the web for another week.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Peter Akinola, acting as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has issued A Call to National Mourning as explaine in this press release: CAN declares Two-Day National Mourning.
The Living Church reported this together with some comments from Canon Popoola, in Nigerian Strike Will Protest Sectarian Violence.
And for completeness, here is the defence of the archbishop’s earlier remarks that was made by Bishop Robert Duncan.
Added Friday afternoon
However, there is further news via Blog of Daniel about how others outside the church view the Nigerian legislative proposals in Human rights in Nigeria. And Peter Akinola says “Amen.”
Sixteen human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have urged Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in this Letter to President Obasanjo Regarding Bill to Criminalize Gay Rights to withdraw what the groups characterize as a “draconian” measure that not only “contravenes international law” but violates the African Charter on Human and Peoplesâ€™ Rights, which “ensure(s) rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.”
The bill also undermines Nigeriaâ€™s struggle to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, as a further story from Human Rights Watch points out: Nigeria: Obasanjo Must Withdraw Bill to Criminalize Gay Rights.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Friday, 24 March 2006 at 8:55am GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
It is interesting that, even after the criticism of Abp. Akinola for his prior remarks, he has now issued a statement calling for Christians to stage a general strike to protest Muslim violence in the North, but which fails to even mention the Christian violence in the South.
"Dr Williams defends Akinola on anti-Muslim riots"
Ouch! (If that headline gets Rowan Cantuar where he lives . . . well, *Truth Hurts* ;-/)
Although I don't agree with Akinola's support for banning gay people forming associations, I do think we should support him and all Christians in Nigeria when so many are being attacked and killed, and churches and properties destroyed.
The story of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan - being persecuted and officially threated with death for his faith - is being repeated constantly in many parts of the Muslim world (though it looks like US pressure may force the authorities to release Rahman). Then there is the low level violence that Christians in Muslim areas often just have to live with.. with little protection from the legal system..
Why can't the western church wake up to what is being done ?
On an other note, I think that Simon Sarmiento should be proud that this horrible Nigerian affair is in the news again.
It is much due to his dedication and good work.
I wish I'd posted on this a couple of days ago, but real insight only came with a few nights sleep and the sermon today on Habbakuk.
Rowan Williams is doing a good job of modelling Jesus' exhortation to "love thy neighbour" (which some might say includes our enemies) - as Jesus expanded at (see Luke 6:27-28 & 6:37). It is also consistent with Desmond Tutu's position as expoused at the 9th World Congress of Churches (see summary at http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/cover032306.htm ) I also liked Tutu's humility when he admitted to his own concern where someone he had previously encouraged had since gone off the rails.
One of the key lessons from the Habbakuk sermon today is that sometimes God hands us over to mistreatment by bad people (or hands the cup of wrath to us so that we behave badly) in order to bring us back to our senses to realise how selfish and unjust we ourselves had become.
With respect, I think the Western churches are in fact quite well aware of the case of Mr. Rahman in Afghanistan. I am aware from the news that some are appealing to the US State Department. I'm sure some are appealing to the Foreign Office in London.
On the other hand, I have to stop and question our expectations. We should have no expectations that Christians would be well treated in many parts of the world. People are certainly suffering for the Christian faith in many places: Pakistan, India, China. Sometimes they're suffering because they don't have the "right" Christian faith. Arguably this is happening in Russia where the Orthodox Church feels threatened by Protestant bodies; and in China, where only the official "Three C" Church is tolerated.
And in Nigeria there is violence between Christians and Muslims. We have a lot to pray for, thinking of those folks. We have a lot to be thankful for, living where "freedom of religion" has real meaning.
Doesn't anyone remember that Jesus didn't just say love your neighbor as yourself, He also said to love your enemies.
In illustrating the love your neighbor statement, Jesus chose a Samaritan, considered by Jews to be unclean and possessed by the devil to show that love. The Jews were so against Samaritans that they tried not to even talk about them directly, except as a slur. Sort of like the way the Churchian are wont to treat with gays.
The campaign for homosexual rights- with much though not all of which I would go along-
needs to be set in perspective when Christians in different parts of the world face death for their beliefs- or escape it with Soviet style impugning of their mental integrity. I am not an Anglican (why incidentally are their no comparable Catholic sites?- I am continually asked for a UK address although I live in France when I attempt to register) but cannot help admiring Archbishop Rowan's attempts to handle these seemingly intractable issues.
Ps The western agenda for freeing these various countries (with the valiant exception of those Italian soldiers who risked their lives in a vain attempt to prevent Kossovo churches being put to the torch) does not appear to have included religious pluralism. (There was a similar case of a death penalty by the sharia authorities in Kuwait after the first Gulf War).
One of the great achievements of Victorian Anglicanism was the evangelisation of large parts of Africa ( North America was largely settled by existing Christian populations). Subject to the primacy of the claims of truth, this heritage should not lightly be put in jeopardy
"The campaign for homosexual rights- with much though not all of which I would go along-
needs to be set in perspective when Christians in different parts of the world face death for their beliefs- or escape it with Soviet style impugning of their mental integrity."
Well, speaking of "impugning of their mental integrity", Clive: I dare say many more LGBTs have been historically and/or currently "impugned" (via electroshock, castration, imposed hormones, painful aversion treatments, not to mention the cruel joke that is "reparitive therapy") than have Christians...
On-topic: How sad, that Human Rights Watch seems to have a better grasp of the Golden Rule, than does the Anglican Communion. :-(
This is a slight tangent, but relates in that a major obstacle to peace are religious shepherds who embrace violence, suppression or isolation to retain their authority.
There were four articles I've read in the last day that address this theme and combined they cover all three Abrahamic religions:
http://www.torah.org/learning/halacha-overview/chapter4.html which includes: "A Jew who incites others to idolatry must be mercilessly punished... your hand shall be the first to put him to death..."
which includes: "...an apostate in a Muslim society, according to this view, forfeits his freedom of expression. If he goes public he should be executed..."
Then this article does a good comparison of the similarities in "pimping" between two of the major religions: http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_rob_kall_060327_pimping_suicide_2c_pim.htm which includes: "In both cases, these pimps are using innocent victims-- dupes who they take advantage of. In both cases, these pimps find vulnerable people who will do their bidding, who will sacrifice for them."
Finally, this article binds the above together http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/1821_rabbis_and_imams_in_se.htm the participant is reflecting on the recent Seville conference and his previous attempts at interfaith dialogue 20 odd years ago. He comments at one point "But I gave it all up because after a while I came to feel that there was little seeping down to grassroots."
When that is combined with the other three articles, one starts to see a pattern of some religious leaders who are prepared to enter into dialogue, whilst others actively work to ensure the barricades are in place. This then begs the question of who is winning from the conflicts? Arms merchants, political "experts" who don't want anyone to resolve the basis of their their personal careers, power bases, or human/national/business self interests. After all, if your career or interests are based on over-exploitation, fear-mongering, unquestionable autocracy; you are actively going to obstruct anything that would jeopardise your power base.
The other thing that worries me about the "kill the traitor" approach is that the boundaries keep getting blurred. At a broad brush stroke, religious leaders justify killing people of other faith or those that convert because they are worshipping false gods. However, what I also see is that they then start to justify suppressing or murdering those of other branches of the same faith. Even more insidious, the targetted murder degenerates to killing those of the same faith and branch who would jeopardise the violent leader's power base. Somewhere in this transition the idea of protecting people from false gods has degenerated into protecting one's own image of god. I think there needs to be a good cross-faith theological discussion and agreement met on this area, not just between faiths but also within faiths. What is happening is that it is degenerating to those who are prepared to use force dominate, again taking us back to Zechariah and Habbakuk, where God hands us over to wasteful shepherds to make us consider what is a godly shepherd as we suffer under cruel and oppressive conditions.
Dear Cheryl, I always find it incredible that, despite Christ's teaching to love your neighbour as yourself and "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" even some branches of Christianity have resorted to inquisition and execution for people who do not believe as they do. I guess that it was very much caught up with the secular politics of the time, but nevertheless it shows how human considerations can drive the heirachy and their supporters to act in ways that are far from Christian.
How much more those religions that have no such high morals about love and suffering ? "XXX is a religion of love" is the standard claim for nearly all religions I have come across (except maybe some forms of satanism), but that love usually only extends to those who are "in", and certainly *not* to enemies of the religion !
Thank you for continuing the dialogue, and I think your last paragraph encapsulates the conundrum quite nicely. That is, that humans find it easy to "love" those that affirm our self-identity and power base, but not those who are seen as irrelevant or, even more so, those that are seen as a threat.
However, the last few days have been heartening. People are becoming aware that there are players who benefit from having people unable or unwilling to talk to each other, and starting to contemplate what that means. Even more heartening are people talking about not allowing such inciters of hate to control the agenda.
Toddler steps, and I am sure there will be many mistakes and fumbles, but at least people are trying to walk. Here are a couple of the links that have given me hope in the last couple of days:
http://www.islamonline.net/english/Contemporary/2002/05/Article13.shtml which includes: "...our personal credibility as believers and religious leaders is also at a crossroads... The whole world, on the one hand, awaits our great expectations. We should rise to the situation that goes in harmony with the high hopes of millions... Undoubtedly, when our role is restricted to mere decoration we will no longer be effective."
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060329musxian.shtml which includes: "The participants will consider questions such as how Christians and Muslims have understood the role of political authority in the light of the justice of God, and how the responsibility of political authority for the unity of society can be reconciled with what has come to be known as the 'right to religious freedom'... Dr Williams said in a brief statement last week that he hoped the conference would build on the work of previous gatherings:... â€œThis meeting is a very special opportunity to bring these understandings into closer dialogue, in the interests of a stable and just world.â€"
And this was from left field (these people are often just angry so this is great): http://www.countercurrents.org/pa-nettnin290306.htm and http://www.countercurrents.org/beg290306.htm which includes: "Achieving a great civilization is always much more difficult than descending into chaos." and continues "An overwhelming majority of us were born in our religions and culture, and have made no effort to even know the basics of another religion let alone try to understand them. We tend to either evangelize or avoid talking of religions altogether. When we consider and compare cultures and religions, it is our unconscious effort to show the superiority of our beliefs. Often we tend to be self delusional, and compare the best from our religion to the worst of the other.
Religious texts do not lend themselves to easy piece meal interpretations. We quote part of the religious text that suites our purpose. One can find thousands of such examples without much effort.
It is important to remember, if we indulge in lies for our religion or against other religions in order to enhance our religion, obviously we are not fooling God. We are simply injuring the thing we purport to love, our religion and our character." and "It is the duty of truly religious people to raise their voices against the individual terrorism, but even more so the state terrorism, because it is done in our name. Because of the hold of religion on average populace, it becomes imperative to not let our faith be enlisted by the state to harm others. When the upholders of religion refuse to be a part of the solution, they become a part of the problem by design or default."
Who doesn't remember the Nigerian leadership asking the Nigerian Vanguard to not acknowledge the Changing Attitude meeting of November 2005? This is one example of those in power doctoring the truth to preserve their power base.
Yet apparently this kind of behaviour doesn't just happen in Nigeria, at least according to this article I found via the Melbourne Anglican website this morning... http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/the-email-that-ignited-a-parish-war/2006/03/24/1143083999429.html
Page 2 of this article includes: "No minutes were taken. Those who attended were asked to show their support for the ... ministry by standing. As they left, they were advised to keep the matter private and to "starve the issue of oxygen"."
More good news came in via email overnight. Some Muslims are starting to contemplate whether they should review Sharia law's violent punishments (see http://www.countercurrents.org/beg300306.htm called "Apostasy Laws â€“ An Injury To Islam By Muslims") I really hope they pursue this line of thought, it would be a major breakthrough for God in 2006. (Two of God's big ones for 2005 were acknowledging that God is greater than any human edifice or paradigm. Also many peoples' disstisfaction with the US was not because they were rich but because they because they were unjust and selfish).
There are many souls who need to rethink justice and whether violence or punitive justice actually works. Here are some of my contemplations on this matter http://www.wombatwonderings.org/files/maximising_redemption_p05_problems_of_retribution.pdf
Sorry if this has degenerated into a bit of a monologue, Thinking Anglicans have not been posting new material, and a lot of threads for the last few months seem to be converging at this time.
Dear Cheryl, Trouble with trying to influence other people's religions is that we tend to project our own assumptions and attitudes. I think that fulfilling Christ's great commission is the real answer.
From what I know of the life and writings of Muhammed, he was more reconciliatory and positive towards other religions earlier in his life and then became very much more agressive when he was rejected by Jews and Christians etc, and later made war against them and others in Arabia.
This seems to be reflected in the Koran - later writings are the more condemnatory of others, and sometimes override earlier more concilliatory ones... the famous koranic principle of "abrogation".
It is said that many moslem communities also tend to adopt the same approach: a peaceful collaborative style when in a small minority, but much more assertive or even agressive in circumstances where they become stronger. This sort of thing has been the subject of much analysis and discussion in Europe recently.
I know that people always read "religious intolerance" into any criticism of another faith by Christians (though not always the reverse surprisingly), but as you say, facts and truth are important - not just being nice.
I guess the rub for me is that there is no majority moslem country that I know of where corruption and injustice is not widespread and where religious and other minorities are not oppressed and discriminated against (and I don't just mean moral disapproval).
There would have been precious few 'Christian' countries which didn't also follow that pattern , Dave - before the welcome influence of Enlightenment liberalism.