Nigeria – Religion’s Deafening Silence
GM Note: This is a guest post from Chris of Objectively Stupid. If you want to be a guest blogger at Godlessmom.com, contact me. Thanks Chris! Many of you are probably logging in to view Godless Mom’s blog to read another excellent post by a woman who is bound by no deity, bringing her child up without bronze-age nonsense guiding her (how does she do it?!) and filling our Twitter streams with excellence alongside her Adonis of a husband. I base this latter assumption entirely on his taste in music. Make sense? Good.
I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed when you get this far into the post and realise that this is not, in fact, the case. This is actually being written by a balding man with a beard, who just wiped his curry sauce lathered fingers on his own sock as he can’t be bothered to walk to the kitchen and get a tissue. No-one will blame you if you go and watch Breaking Bad instead.
I suspect a fair few of you reading this will be well acquainted with Twitter – the online arena of communication which teaches you how to delete most of what you write so that it fits in the little box without going red. If you’ve been there in the past week, then it’s also safe to assume you’ve seen the #BringBackOurGirls hash. I hope you have, as it’s an incredibly important event still taking place.
Last month the militant Islamic group known as ‘Boko Haram’ assaulted a school in North Eastern Nigeria and took captive 276 young girls. This has caused outcry worldwide, with a huge social media campaign gaining momentum in the first few days aiming to secure support for the girls and their families and build awareness of this abhorrent crime. It seems to have been very successful in reaching these goals thus far, as the story has hit international news organisations, governments and has been publicly supported by Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon.
If you’re in the United Kingdom you may have seen that the government has offered assistance to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in the form of a group of experts being flown out to assist Nigerian government and security forces, as well as the Special Air Service allegedly having been put on standby to help out. You may not be aware of this, having had the Subway logo fused to your retinas by The Mirror and The Sun. Trust me though, our government did actually offer help. I know, right?
If you’re in the United States and your eardrums haven’t been blown out by people shouting ‘Benghazi’ at each other on TV, you may be aware that President Obama has ordered 200 US troops to be sent over to assist the Nigerian security forces and he too has offered the full support of the US government. Michelle Obama also voiced incredibly strong support for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. But don’t forget Benghazi, alright?
Boko Haram, meanwhile, have been involved in the kidnapping of a further 8 schoolgirls, hundreds of murders and generally disgusting behaviour. They’ve accepted full responsibility for the kidnappings and explained that they plan to sell the girls off as slaves, child brides or whatever else one might want to purchase a young girl for. The self proclaimed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau has said “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah”. He then goes on to say “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women”. This is utterly shocking to most of us, of course. Unfortunately though it is the reality which many have to live with in Nigeria.
So, we have worldwide condemnation of this atrocity and massive support for the Nigerian schoolgirls and their families and friends, who must be going through the most awful time right now. Here we are now, weeks later. There’s been a rather deafening silence from the “Burn people alive for drawing a cartoon” camp, though. We learned not long ago that that people can be driven to horrific acts of violence and intimidation over a cartoon published in a newspaper by someone of another faith, in another country. I would have thought that even stronger condemnation would erupt when a crime is carried out by your brothers in faith, against children who are creations of your own almighty Lord. It seems not. As I write this, there is very specifically not an angry mob of which I am aware setting fire to embassies and killing diplomats over this crime against humanity. Maybe if we draw a cartoon of it and put a picture of Muhammed drinking a skinny latte in one of the panels?
The Vatican decided to wait until today – three weeks later – to condemn the actions. I assume God was too busy watching my neighbours have sex outside of wedlock to be able to busy himself with telling the Pope “Kidnap, slavery, murder and rape are bad, by the way”.
The actions – or lack thereof – of the leaders of the world religions are actually very relevant in this case. I know that we can’t blame most Christians or most Muslims for this horror, it is indeed the act of a small minority. However, the leaders of religion do have a responsibility here thanks to their relentless missionary bombardment they’ve endured upon Africa over the past centuries. This is a very good example of what happens when you take a largely tribal part of the world and in one hand offer them a promise of peace and prosperity, then with the other hand a holy book which you claim to be the final word of God. A God who doesn’t like the idea of you using contraception, even if it does mean contracting HIV and giving birth to 5 children when you have not a penny to your name. A God who tells you that women are the property of men and should be obedient to their husbands at all times.
When a huge number of people are left in abject poverty and told that they must continue to birth children into poverty and obey the word of God and the word of men (is there really any distinction here?), it is a lot easier for these groups of extremists to move in with God on their side. ‘Look, it says it right here in this book! Women should be obedient to me, why shouldn’t I sell them?’
Whilst I do not have a religion or a belief in an omnipotent creator, I accept that religion isn’t about to disappear any time soon. I’m also not so naïve as to believe that the disappearance of religion would cause world peace and put a stop to those people who commit awful crimes against their fellow human. I do think that now, more than ever, is a time when religion needs to take a stand against those who proclaim faith as a sanction to commit these ghastly acts. It is not a matter of whose God is the best, or whose God is ‘real’, it is a matter of not allowing this appalling kind of behaviour to continue under the flag of divine sanction.
With religion being a feature on our Earth for a while to come, it is time that the various religions use their powers of influence for a good which will benefit humanity as a whole. My heart and the hearts of millions around the world are with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, the girls and their families – a long way from here, but our brothers and sisters none the less.
Religion hasn’t worked very well for Africa. Let’s give humanity a go. Most importantly, let’s bring back our girls.