It's been some days now since the people of Adunu, Niger State (a community of predominantly Christians and a handful of Muslims and African Traditional Religion worshippers) woke up to discover that the traditional shrine has been razed down by fire. Those living around the shrine said that it started around 3am when they started hearing sounds like gunshots which even made some people to run out of their homes thinking that armed bandits have invaded the village. Unknown to them that the sound they heard were of breaking drums, calabashes, and other items used by the traditionalists for their worship. While there's yet to be any claim from any individual or group to such a disastrous happening, popular opinion alleges that the perpetrator may have been a Christian who is not happy with the presence of such a shrine in a village with Christian majority.
While this claim can neither be established nor verified, it begs the question, "should Christians burn down pagan shrines?"
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Nevertheless, this is an issue we need to address because it is no longer a strange happening especially in Nigeria. For example, on the 13th of August, 2015, it was all over the news that an Anambra based pastor burnt down the Ukolo Uga shrine.
Similarly, in September 2016, an Ogun based pastor Mr. Fagbere Wale also burnt down another pagan shrine. We can therefore not blame those pointing accusing fingers at the Christians for such an act.
But should a Christian actually burn down a pagan shrine? What's Christianity's take on this issue?
Let us look at some basic facts regarding this.
In the great commission where Jesus Christ sent his disciples to preach the Good news to all nations (Mk 16:15), Jesus did not ask them to destroy pagan shrines or Jewish synagogues. He only stated that "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned" (v. 16). However, he did not task the disciples with this "condemnation".
Instead, in Luke 6:37, Jesus teaches us thus: "do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you".
We would see that the disciples kept to this, as seen in the lives of great Christian pillars such as Peter and Paul. In Acts 2, Peter only preached to the multitudes concerning the salvation brought by Jesus Christ, "and about 3,000 people were added to the group that day" (2:41).
Also, in Acts 17 when Paul"was greatly upset when he noticed how full of idols the city [Athens] was" (v.16), rather than plan on destroying them, we are told that he held discussions with the people of Athens until he was brought to the Areopagus (the city council) and he was able to convert some prominent figures like Dionysius (who was a member of the same council) and Damaris.
2. THE CHURCH
The Church recognizes the freedom of religious expression even in her mission of evangelization. Dignitatis Humanae (On Religious Freedom) states that "...the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits." (DH 2).
3. THE CIVIL SOCIETY
The civil society equally recognizes religious liberty as found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 18) that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
4. OTHER REASONS
It is, as a matter of fact, an act of religious extremism to a Christian to go about setting other people's place(s) of worship ablaze. Such a Christian is not different from a terrorist.
It is also not only an injury to the society, but also a great loss to the community because our history and tradition are threatened through such inhumane acts.
Finally, it is highly unchristian of anyone to burn pagan shrines because as Christians we do not use force to convert people, instead we use love because "love conquers all" (1 Cor. 13:1-13).
Content created and supplied by: BahagoDavemary (via Opera News )