The last decade of this century will be characterized as a decade of crisis, conflict, and chaos. If conflict is not confronted, it will lead to chaos – Dr. Ekeke

Conflict is a confirmation that God is at work – Dr. Gearl Spicer

Conflicts – especially religious and political conflicts will characterize this century. Conflicts are going to be inevitable in this 21st century if great leaders do not emerge and know how to handle crisis and resolve conflicts. Off-course, one of the key skills necessary for leading in the 21st century is going to be how to handle conflicts. Tactful negotiation and conflict resolution will be helpful skills for those aspiring to lead in any fashion in this century.

The reason why I made the above statements is because since the beginning of the 21st century, we have seen an unprecedented number of terrorist threats, attacks and conflicts than ever before. In September 11, 2001, more than three thousand souls perished in a dastardly terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City and Pentagon in Washington DC. Since the last decade, there have been ethnic, religious, economic, and political motivated violence and wars that have decimated thousands of lives in Senegal, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Middle East, Israel, USA, and many other places around the world. The plethora of challenges facing mankind and the planet earth are no longer merely economic, social and moral depravity, but environmental, political, religious and threat of nuclear arsenals.

In the civilized nations – like the United States of America, we have seen political violence and killings motivated by hateful political rhetoric by conservative radio talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, Shawn Hannity, etc; the conservative religious right and so-called Tea party movement. There is no doubt that the recent shootings that severely wounded the U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killings of six people including a Federal Chief Judge and 9-year-old girl, an aspiring politician, who asked her parents permission to attend the meeting in order to meet with the young, vibrant and moderate Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and currently struggling with her life are motivated by such vitriolic rhetoric and divisive political wrangling. The State of Arizona has totally neglected the Federal Government by passing an Immigration law that is within the parameters of the Federal Government. The Arizona Governor, State Senate and Judiciary totally showed disrespect for President Obama’s government and total disregard for human freedom and compassion for the so-called illegal aliens. The State of Arizona has just become the “Mecca for prejudice and bigotry” as quipped by one sheriff.

In the third world countries - the story is not different. In Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya and other places in Africa, we have seen abuse of power and tyranny where majority of the citizens are ravaged by poverty, crime, corruption, lawlessness, injustice, religious intolerance and ethnic hatred, tribal wars, violence and killings, spiritual blindness, political instability, poor infrastructure and health epidemics. As Nigerians prepare to vote in general elections in April this year, we have witnessed religious upheavals, political motivated killings in the city of Jos, and outrageous bomb blasts in FCT, Abuja near army barracks and several other regions around the country. There has been other political violence and killings among the ruling party, People Democratic Party, which happens to be the biggest political party in Nigeria and Africa. Since the past decade, PDP had been in power, its leadership has not been able to provide Nigerians with the so-called dividends of democracy or produce results that the citizens can value. Instead, PDP government and its leaders in the Local, State and Federal have been involved in all sort of corruption, money laundering and lawlessness. PDP has not given Nigeria the expected leadership it deserves or provided the enabling environment and infrastructure to position Nigeria – the Giant of Africa, to aspire to be among the twenty richest economies in the world by the year 2020.

Having said that, every major event in the last decade showed that crisis, chaos and conflict are going to occur more often in this century than ever. In this piece, I will argue that religious violence and political motivated wars will be more prevalent in this century. This is not a prophecy of doom but a wake-up call to those in various positions of power and influence to be prepared for conflicts. I will conclude by giving a piece of advice on how to handle conflicts with care, compassion and courage.

Why conflicts occur

There is doubt that one of the leading indicators of the past decade in this century is the challenge of religious animosity, violence and wars. Religious conflicts occur because of intolerance, ignorance, and fear. Religious ignorance and intolerance breed violence. Religious conflict is a big threat to the security, unity and prosperity of any country. Despite enormous technological advancement and social progress, stark poverty still looms in many nations of the world. This is so because mankind have rejected God and enthroned New Age religion, psychological and metaphysical means to address spiritual matters, human relationships, progress, and wealth creation. Sin and disobedience against God have caused a tragic degradation to the human family and society at large. As a result, the planet and her inhabitants are ravaged by sin, prejudice, injustice, greed, poverty and all sorts of debauchery.

In the last two years, I have read hateful comments and seen animosity being leveled especially against Christians and spiritual leaders. While I do not completely defend Christians and their leaders, I believe most Christians deserve what they get from non- Christians because they act and behave the same – even sometimes worse than those in the world. The hostility toward Christians by non-Christians and people of other faiths especially our Muslim friends are alarming and apprehensive. Most of this hostility has been fueled due to the fact that Christians have refused to read, study and understand what the Bible teaches about whom they are and what they suppose to be doing in a morally bankruptcy society and debauched culture in which they find themselves. Even though, we are all very partisan in nature and ought to pray as well as involve in political process, nevertheless, most Christians have refused to exercise those important responsibilities but rather become gullible to the philosophical and inconsistent teachings by many false teachers, counterfeit prophets, and Satanic churches designed to counter the true church of Jesus Christ as well as aim to enrich themselves by brainwashing and manipulating the Word of God for their selfish ends.

In the continent of Africa, religious violence and ethnic cleansing are enormous. Religious violence has decimated more lives in Africa in the last fifty years than hunger, disease, accidents and even wars combined together. Africa and Middle East have been properly called a "Bloody Continent." They are a battleground between Islam, Christianity and traditional religions. Muslims and Christians kill each other in Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, Senegal, Rwanda, Burundi and other places in Africa and the world. In addition to the bloody violence and conflict between these widely known religions, we have the pagans and African traditional religions with thousands of fetish shrines such as the Okija shrine all around the country. Their Fetish priests use hypnotism and witchcraft to deceive ignorant, debased and hopeless people looking for quick and magical ways to achieve success or solve their problems. Some of these fetish priests kill and slaughter new born babies for rituals and witchcraft.

There are also the adulterous religious systems and satanic religious leaders who parade themselves as the moral authorities in our society and yet the land suffers from all kinds of satanic violence, evil and wickedness. Our religious leaders have woefully failed in their divine duties to rebuke sin and wickedness in high places. They have compromised and contaminated themselves with the Devil and corrupt practices of these shrines, secret occults and their pagan priests. And it is so evident and reflective in our culture by people’s attitudes, mannerisms and ways of life are pompous of voodoo, juju, witchcraft, sorcery, spirits, mediums and all manners of demonic powers.

And then there are those who profess to be tongue speaking Holy Spirit filled believers who claim to be miracle workers. Despite the visible presence of many magnificent places of worship and religious centers around the country, all sorts of social, moral and unethical behavior exist abundantly in the land. These false prophets promise people healing, prosperity and God's favor when their lives and hearts are completely in disobedience to the Word and Commandments of God. Therefore, what we have is spiritual blindness and morally bankrupt society due to desperate economic conditions and poverty. How many times have we read stories and cases of wickedness, violence, prostitution, rape and rituals in the Churches? Bribery and corruption are accepted behavior and rampant even among Christians and their leaders. There is a persistent idolatry and wickedness all over the land, oppression of the poor and the needy and crush of the weak.

In addition to gullibility of parishioners is biblical ignorance, which is also a big disease in the church today. More than 60% of Nigerians claim to attend church services every Sunday and sit under so-called men of God and miracle workers and yet rituals, divination, astrology, sorcery, witchcraft, magic, and all manners of evil and satanic worship remain rampant in our society. Greed, hatred, corruption, idolatry, jealousy and envy continue to flourish in our society. The Word of God is His presence and where there is presence of God, evil, unrighteousness and ungodliness cannot be in abundance as it is in our society today. What I am observing in this generation is moral bankruptcy, biblical ignorance and satanic spiritual capitalism.

Another major factor that will lead to political activism and violence, which leaders in this century must confront, is debauched moral culture and social degradation. Despite the wealth and opulence of the Western world, their cultures and societies are declining rapidly. There is a huge social apathy, moral degradation and spiritual capitalism. In the Western nations, the anti-family activities, radical feminists group and the liberal agenda are working tirelessly to destroy the family, which is the foundation and bedrock of every civil society. The homosexuals and radical feminist movement want to redefine the institution of marriage and family by advocating same-sex marriages. In United States, Canada and many European countries, anti-family agenda is strong, active and fighting hard to destroy the most important institution on the planet.

This problem is so complicated because most Christians have refused to be the salt and light of the world that Christ died for and called them to be. If they read their Bible correctly, they should understand that Jesus’ ministry was about anointed teaching, biblical preaching, healing, casting all manners of diseases and calling people to repentance. Jesus Christ did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He did not even attempt to change Jewish society and culture. While the Jewish religious and political leaders expected a political deliverer, Jesus came as a humble, yet courageous leader calling people to repentance and offering them a better way of life – a life filled with hope, faith, trust, love and compassion. He did not deliver the Jewish people from the ruthless leadership of the Romans but rather offered them - peace by calling them to repent of their sins and be free from the power of sin, death and Satan. He offered them eternal life.

How to respond or handle conflicts

Throughout biblical history and even this time, genuine prophets and spiritual leaders had always denounced sin and injustice – not per say by political activism but by calling the leaders of nations to rule in the fear of God and work to provide just and fair society. In the prophetic ministry of Isaiah who reigned during the time of Kings Uzziah, Jotham and Hezekiah. You will read that those kings were extremely wicked kings with exception of King Hezekiah, who ruled with the fear of God. Kings Uzziah and Jotham abused the power of their office and led the people astray. They crushed the poor for their own profit. First, Prophet Isaiah challenged the rebellious people of Jerusalem and Judah to repent of their sins and turn to God. He called on the people to clean up their acts. Isaiah denounced Judah for her idolatry and immorality and called for national repentance, prayer and fasting. Second, prophet Isaiah rebuked the kings for their social injustice and called on the leaders to restore a just and fair society otherwise judgment and destruction would come suddenly.

The 21st century is in dire need of God-fearing leaders who truly understand the divine purpose of leadership. Great and effective leadership requires the kind of skills of a compelling vision that is embraced by all, that offers value to citizens by offering meaning, dignity, and purpose. The ultimate aim of leadership is to build strong and safe communities, cities and nations with more humane relationships and progress for all. God-fearing leaders are urgently needed in this time and age – leaders who understand how to create a safe and righteous environment for their citizens - leaders who have the negotiating skills and courage to deal with conflicts and conflicts resolutions. Leaders who will work to create just and safe communities and who are passionate about the lives and well-being of their constituents. The 21st century needs leaders who can confront conflicts and crisis situations with calm, courage and compassion. Leaders who are willing to work together to design strategies to lead in this challenging times, who are ready to learn the skills and techniques to engage in leadership crisis of our time.

During times of great challenges like we have today in Nigeria and else where in the world, great and fearless leadership are critically important. Whether it is natural disasters, nuclear threat, terrorist attacks, political instability or other catastrophes, a crisis that hits with no warning, great leaders demonstrate calm, resolve, and courage.

My advice to Presidents Obama and Jonathan

I am very humbled to offer this piece of advice to the incumbent president – Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Do not make th2 2011 presidential election a “do-or-die” election. Let your words and actions speak for you. Let Nigerians vote their conscience. As Nigerians prepare for general elections in a few months, I call upon the incumbent president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and all politicians to rise to the challenges of leadership. Leaders must see in troubling times a testing ground for developing strength, faith and courage. Those in position of power and authority will always be confronted with crisis. Leadership challenge will occur where there is weak character and compromised leadership. Wise and strong leaders do not compromise. Strong leaders know how to face crisis and challenges with courage and wisdom. Conflict and challenges are inevitable in the life of a leader. Wise leaders handle conflict with care, courage and compassion. Great leaders never compromise but rather confront challenges, crisis, and conflicts with courage and strength. If crisis and conflict are not confronted, it will lead to chaos. Conflicts must be dealt with. Any leader who compromises with violence and crisis will succumb to it. Courage is one of the greatest ingredients of pure and great leadership. No one can become a great leader without strong character and godly courage. Godly and courageous leadership is the dire need of leaders of this century. Leading in the 21st century will require tactful negotiation and conflict resolution skills.

Finally, Mr. President, please understand that leaders will be criticized whether they lead well or not. Criticism is inevitable in leadership. It is just part and parcel of leading. The recent detention of one of the critics of the government, Prof. Okey Ndibe, is a big mistake. We are in democracy and anyone who aspires to lead people and nations in a democratic system of government must be prepared for criticisms - positive or negative. No one is fit to lead unless he or she is ready and prepared for criticism. Wise leaders accept constructive criticism with humility and wisdom.

Let me conclude by encouraging Nigerians to vote their conscience and for the right candidate – those who will work on your behalf and not for their personal interest. You must go out to register, then cast your vote and demand that your vote is counted, because your vote is your voice and power in a democratic system of government.

Dr. C. K. Ekeke is a theologian, author, consultant and leadership mentor.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by thewillnigeria.com