Divine unity, which is an antidote to bigotry, hate and terrorism, provides an opportunity in this Easter season to re-think and reflect on our world which is increasingly being filled with hate and bigotry as conditions that dispose groups to terrorism and genocide. Hate and bigotry – in ethnic, religious, racial, sexist, gendered and political forms – are conditions of brokenness, forms of weakness.
In a March 17, 2016 statement the United States Secretary of state, Mr. John Kerry characterised as genocide the atrocities of the Islamic State Group – ISIS (DAESH in Arabic). With the relative “silence” of Al Qaeda, which used to be the visible face of global hate, bigotry, genocide and terrorism, it has now been replaced by DAESH as the visible global face of terrorism. DAESH has carried out targeted killings – especially along religious, ethnic, national, and political lines – within and outside the Middle East and the Arab world.
So, the United States’ characterisation of DAESH as an instrument of genocide is significant. It is the first characterisation since the Sudanese action in Darfur in 2004. And, as if listening and ready to respond, DAESH came out on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 – when hatred, bigotry and terrorism struck again in Europe – and walked the streets of Brussels in Belgium, with the devastation sending over 30 people to their graves.
The hopelessness and helplessness the global community has found itself in through global acts of hatred, bigotry, terrorism and genocide stalking the streets of the world is well captured in the deep-hearted statement of a Brussels woman, who said, “We all know that we are not safe anywhere. It can happen anywhere and at any moment”.
Yes it happens every time. It did happen in January, 2015 when masked gunmen armed with AK-47s and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) stormed the offices of a French satirical news magazine, Charlie Hebdo in Paris in a terror attack that left 12 people dead, including the editor and two police officers.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a statement of hate, bigotry and terrorism. The press was the immediate target. The victims are human freedom and the human person, fit for adoration and respect, and who ought never to be constructed as a religious, ethnic, racial, political “other”.
“It can happen anywhere and at any moment”, so said the Belgian woman. But perhaps because it happens every time in Nigeria, hate acts, bigotry and terrorism no longer make the dramatic headlines they make in Europe in the country. The Nigerian bigotry and terrorist brand, Boko Haram competes with the Al Qaeda and DAESH brands in possibly committing the worst genocide issuing from hatred and bigotry in the world.
And what about state sponsored bigotry and hate? In Nigeria, in the state’s relationship with the Muslim sect, Shiites, state-sponsored hate and bigotry competes with group hate and bigotry. In the same year as the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Nigerian army under the command of Lt. General Tukur Buratai mowed down over 200 Shiites who were rallying in their hundreds on the streets. True, rather unfortunately, the Shiites violated municipal vehicular and human traffic in Zaria, Kaduna State, as they are often claimed to do.
But the army claimed the Shiites – who have not been proved as carrying weapons on that day up till now – were planning to kill their Chief, General Buratai. However, the Shiites claimed that they were mowed down because of one thing: their belief and identity as a religious sect. If true, to objectify someone in the context of his/her faith and identity and turn them into objects fit for mass graves is hate and bigotry.
This is why the silence of the Nigerian president and Commander in Chief, Muhammadu Buhari on the massacre in Zaria, Kaduna is strange and uncomfortable. He did not immediately condemn the massacre. The same President gave a strange, flawed and questionable account of bigotry when he categorised those who opposed his unilateral decision to take Nigeria into a coalition of Islamic states (ISMAT) even when Nigeria is not an Islamic state, as “Christian” and “bigots”!
In the same month and same year as the recent Brussels terrorist attack, the ethnic conflict and hate crimes between the Fulanis and the Agatus raised its head once more in Benue State, Nigeria. The Fulanis renewed the group hate and bigotry between them by reportedly massacring over 300 Agatus. The Nigerian government has not officially confirmed the exact number of the dead. But the Fulanis themselves claimed their action against the Agatus was a reprisal attack. But to engage in ethnic cleansing like the Fulanis and the Agatus do is a case of hateful and bigoted objectification and social construction of each other as the ethnic “other”.
While bigotry may not necessarily end in terrorism, terrorism cannot proceed without bigotry – a case where “the other” – a differing ethnic, religious, racial, gender, political group is constructed as a mere object devoid of God’s uniting and loving essence – fit only for the grave. This is why the global world needs unity – a non-political one – to rethink the ending of hatred, bigotry, terrorism and genocide today.
Divine Unity, which is an antidote to bigotry, hate and terrorism, provides an opportunity in this Easter season to re-think and reflect on our world which is increasingly being filled with hate and bigotry as conditions that dispose groups to terrorism and genocide. Hate and bigotry – in ethnic, religious, racial, sexist, gendered and political forms – are conditions of brokenness, forms of weakness.
But Christ Unity is not political unity. Christ Unity requires that we empty ourselves of that matter, that material content which separates us from those we wrongly construct as the “other”. It is a state of the deliberate emptying ourselves of sectarianism; a state of not seeing our sect as the “real”, “authentic” or “true” one as some religious sects do; a state of not seeing our faith as the “real”, “authentic” and “true” faith, as some religious faiths do; it is a state of emptying ourselves of dogmatism. Christ Unity is a state of emptying and destroying the material in us which stands in the way of unity. It is a state of emptying ourselves of thinking that we are exceptional in our faith, sect, race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc, and in our relationships with fellow human beings.
Christ Unity is enabled when we empty ourselves of these material things to be in unity with the other and our God. Sadly, what we are supposed to empty in ourselves is what bigotry and hate merchants – group, state and non-state – hold onto; what they wrongly affirm as being true and exceptional about themselves.
May this Easter season of the celebration of the joy in the conquering of darkness, the conquering of our brokenness, the conquering of death, lead us to re-think this sense of Divine Unity (non-political unity) in our lives, in our relationships with fellow humans as moments to bring hate, bigotry, terrorism and genocide to an end in the world, in our world.
Adeolu Ademoyo, firstname.lastname@example.org, is with the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.