The Boko Christians

By Akuoma Joshua

In the early hours of the first Tuesday of the year, the 7th of January to be precise, some Christians stormed some shrines located in the Umaji community in Enugu state. In the heat of their crusade, the Christians, known by the title "The Indigenous Christians of Umuaji" wrecked havoc in the place of worship. They trespassed the land, destroyed valuable items and burnt down the shrines. Yet what was their excuse for this? No the traditional worshippers hadn't kidnapped their children and sacrificed them, no they hadn't gone around destroying farms, burning homes, or causing any sort of trouble to anyone's means of livelihood. What had they done then? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The shrines were burnt all due to a ridiculous wild claim that they were somehow hindering the progress of the community.

This is not the first time Christian zealots are being accused of destroying African traditional religious shrines and artifacts, it happens everyday. In crusades and conventions, Christians continually make it an enduring mission to destroy traditional religious shrines and relics. For example in Imo state, a sect of Christians called "The United Congress of Mbaise Christians" purportedly destroyed a 100 shrines and were even boasting about their acts, promising to destroy more. The unfortunate thing is due to the level of development in the country, these cases are hardly reported or investigated.

But the most disturbing thing to consider is that society favours these sort of activities. In movies, which offer the best reflection of the values of society, the destruction of ATR shrines and artifacts has been romanticized. It has become the standard of the portrayal of the climatic battle between good and evil. In both real life and fiction, the average testimony and the average plot entails someone or a group of people with some sort of problem (mostly financial and marital) seeking help from a pastor. The pastor then "reveals" to them that their problem is due to the presence of a talisman in their landlord's compound, or a shrine in their village home. They would then retrieve the talisman or go to the shrine and destroy it. And so it is not surprising at all when these religious zealots take steps further by trespassing lands, razing down shrines and burning them to ashes. Most people support these acts, church members hail those who dare to dishonour the shrines, people in the community who hear about what was done celebrate the event, there is great joy and merriment at the

expense of the victimization of the innocent. And if so you, you reading this are among the merry ones, if you rejoice at the perpetration of violence on the relics of the traditional religions, if you also celebrate when their shrines are burnt and antiques destroyed, then you are a BOKO

Who is a boko christian?
A boko christian is one who believes Christianity is the one true religion and not only opposes others but is aggressively intolerant to them.

A boko christian is a religious fanatic who sees other religions as pure evil vehemently antagonizes them.

A boko christian is one who believes in and violently seeks the domination of Christianity.

A boko christian is one who trespasses and destroys the places of worship of other religions.

A boko christian is an unrepentant terrorist!
And of course, you don't have to directly engage in violence to be a boko christian, you are also a boko christian when you support these acts of religious intolerance and violence. In the same way you call the boko haram narrow-minded for seeking the domination of their religion, you are also narrow-minded for seeking the domination of yours. In the same way you say the boko haram are mindlessly violent for bombing churches, you are also mindlessly violent for burning ATR shrines. Tell me, why should it be a crime to have a religion different from yours? Why should it be a crime to be an African traditional worshipper. If the person constitutes no harm to you, why do you then go to inflict harm upon them? Why do you look for trouble when it sleepeth? I find it extremely amusing when those in the defense of the shrine destroyers say that the deities of the African traditional religions are dead, because if they were alive they would fight for themselves and therefore no mercy should be shown. I'm amused because these people say these things while forgetting that the shrine destroyers have a God who they are trying to do the fighting for. What hypocrisy!

Most importantly though we have fundamental human rights, and these rights include the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; right to peaceful assembly and association; right to freedom from discrimination and right to personal liberty. Everyone has a right to adopt whatever religion he/she wishes to practise, to worship any deity, to build a shrine in honour of that deity and to assembly together with others to worship it why should you violate these rights? For crying out loud if you think their god is evil do you not have a God to fight for you? Did God not personally destroy the deity of the Philistines when they captured the arc of the covenant? Did he need help? Or did Jesus ever go about destroying shrines or preaching that we do so? Unknown to some ignorant Christians destroying the places of worship of others is against the principal doctrines of Christianity itself which preaches tolerance, love, kindness and peace. So not only are you going against the religion you are trying to defend, you are going against the constitution and should be made to face the consequences like a common criminal.

The destruction of shrines has further implications, implications not just on the individuals directly involved but on society as a whole. Whether you

like it or not, African traditional religions are an integral part of our

identity. The shrines and artifacts tell the world about our history, they reflect our ancient practices and values, tell the story of our cultural

evolution. To deny the traditional religions those roles they serve in

society and to try to erase them from existence is trying to erase our history and cultural identity, it's saying we have no identity, saying are faceless people trying to fit in in a world full of cultural pride. To illustrate the gravity of destroying traces of one's cultural identity just imagine if the Egyptians had destroyed their pyramids and temples, imagine the great knowledge that would have been lost, imagine where their national pride would lay without those artworks detailing their conquests, achievements and early sophistication.

People all over the world, from the Native Americans and South Americans, to the Europeans, Asians, and even some Africans, take great pride in their cultural history. Instead of being mindless agents of destruction, they study these shrines and relics. They display them in museums, publish articles and make documentaries on them, all to show the high regard they have of their history. And need I say that they also make a lot of profit through booming tourism industries which arise mainly due to their show of great cultural pride. Nigeria could be like these countries, but instead we destroy all traces of our cultural history and pride, we implant into our children's minds the idea that everything that has to do with our culture is evil. And I pity the future of a country whose leaders of tomorrow have no pride in their culture, have no knowledge of their history, and only know the white man's culture.

If anything must be taken from this my dear readers, it is that tolerance

is key. Globalization is no longer just a concept, it is now a growing trend. It is becoming increasingly impossible for any society to live in a religious or cultural island. The world of diverse religions and religious integration has come to stay. The only possible image of peace in the world is that of diversity interwoven with tolerance. We must learn to accept the fact that others have religions different from ours, and we must accept it not just because it has become necessary but because we are morally conscious. There's a popular saying in the bible that you should do unto others what you want other to do unto you. If you do not want your rights violated as a Christian then also make sure you do not violate the rights of traditional worshippers and other non-christians. And if you must adamantly suggest that your religion is the true one and other religions are evil at least let your God do the fighting, not you.

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