Let’s take a trip into memory lane. “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand…” These are memorable words from our first National Anthem. The new one is also echoes this need for oneness:
If all our people had one heart, what a great heart Nigeria would be. “Oneness” is the greatest need of our beloved nation.
Things, however, are not as they should be. Whilst nothing that many other nations of the world have similar problems arising from ethnic divisions, it is interesting that in the entire human race, there are only three ethnic divisions. But Nigeria has about two hundred and fifty registered languages There are, of course, numerous others not yet registered by linguists.
Her population is over 140 million. The northern part is inhabited predominantly by Hausa, Tiv, Birom and other ethnic divisions.
In the Southwest we have the Yorubas, whilst the Southeast/South-south regions are occupied predominantly by Ibos, Efiks, Ibibios, Kakabaris, Edos, Ijaws, Urhobos, Tsekiri, and various other minor tribes.
The Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and Ibos together make up 65% of the country’s population. In spite of her multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural diversities, Nigeria could really be a happily united nation if we allow the God we have enshrined in the National Anthem and, Pledge and God of creation to “direct our noble cause” Nigeria could become one of the greatest nations on earth.
THREE BIBILICAL ETHNIC DIVISIONS
Apostle Paul looked at ethnicity from a three-dimensional perspective. That will be our approach throughout this book. Apostles Paul mentioned these in his first epistle to the Corinthians when he wrote: “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church”. 1 Cor. 10:32. We will take a closer look at each of these groups to know the ethnic division we belong to, that is, from God’s perspective.
1. THE JEWS
The Jews are the biological descendants of Abraham, Gen. 12:1-2. Of course, without saying, no Nigerian falls into this group; not even by naturization (conferred citizenship).
Their mission as a race was fourfold:
To be a witness to the one through God in the midst of universal Idolatry (Deut. 6:4; Isaiah 43:10); To illustrate to the nations the blessedness of serving the one true God (Deut. 33:26-29; 1 Chron. 17:20-21; Psalm 102:15); To receive and preserve the divine revelation (Rom. 3:1-2); To produce the Messiah (Rom. 9:4) and (The Book of Genesis; James W. Knox).
2. THE GENTILES
The second ethnic division Paul mentioned is “Gentiles”. This comprises all races and nations that did not descend from Abraham’s seed, that is, anyone that is not Jewish. These people, not being biological descendants of Abraham, were pagans who did not know God and had no part in God’s promises and covenants with His chosen people, Isreal. They didn’t have the law of God (as Isreal had). All other races apart from the Jews were regarded as Gentiles. That would, of course, include Nigerians because we were never part of God’s chosen people. Though Christ, however, one can be moved out of the “Gentile” group into the “church” group.
Since the Old Testament period, God has been reaching out to the “Gentile” ethnic division, to make us His people. He has been making inroads, through His chosen instruments, into pagan lands as demonstrated by the dream Abimelech had when he took Serah, Abraham’s wife, when Abraham travelled to Gerar, a pagan land. (See Gen. 20:1-18). The incident revealed to King Abimelech and his people the character of the holy God of Israel.
Note the changes that took place in the relationship between Abraham (who knew the law of God) and Abimelech (who did not know the law of God). After Abimelech received revelation (Gen. 20:3-7) about the true situation concerning Abraham:
He gave sheep, oxen, menservants and women servants to Abraham, Gen. 20-14; He restored Sarah his wife to him, Gen. 20:14; He gave him permission to live anywhere that pleased him inn the land of Gerar, Gen. 20:15; He gave him a thousand pieces of silver, Gen. 20:16; Abraham in turn prayed to God and God healed Abimelech. His wife and maidservants were able to bear children again, Gen. 20:16-17.
The lesson here is a simple one: Abimelech did certain things because he did not know God, but when he received enlightenment through a dream, he changed. That’s God’s desire concerning all who do not know Him. His desire is that both those who know His ways and those who don’t should dwell together in peace and harmony. Tribal and religious conflicts often arise because either one or both sides see reasons why they must get engaged in a conflict, but never stop to ask themselves, “Is this really that God wants us to do?” Every religion preaches peaceful co-existence. If we are true adherents of our various faiths there would be true peace in the land.
Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or religion, have a lot of gain from one another if we listen to what God is saying to all nations. He says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you live peaceably with all men”, Rom. 12:18; “… Be at peace among yourselves” 1 Thess. 5:13.
He is “God of all flesh,” “Olorun” “Osalobua”, Allah”, etc, really understand Him as He is others may not necessarily believe in what you believe or in whom you believe but one thing both Christianity and islam agree on is the need for peaceful co-existence. Anything outside this, therefore, is religious extremism which must not be allowed by the security organization in the country like God came in a dream to make peace between Abraham and Abimelech, He is still doing so today. First, however, out hearts must be open to hear Him. Secondly, there must be willingness to follow His leading in our efforts “to build a nation where peace shall reign”.
God is still revealing Himself to Nigerians todays. His desire is to move us from the “Gentile” ethnic group to the “church” ethnic group.
3. THE CHURCH
The third ethnic division Paul mentioned is his epistle to the Corinthians is the “church of God”, 1 Cor. 10:32. This does not imply that the church is an ethnic enterprise. On the contrary, it simply means that God is presently at work in every nation on earth calling out His own into His Body called “the church”. As mentioned that all nations of the earth would receive redemption through the seed of Abraham (Jesus Chris) Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:8-9. The door into the church is now open to both Jews and Gentiles.
So this ethnic division (the church) is a gathering of all the saints from the two previous ethnic division discussed (Jews and Gentiles) who have responded to the call of salvation by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. It is the baptism of the Jew and the Gentile into one Body.
It comprises people called out of every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation (Rev. 18:1-4; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Hosea 11:1; Rev. 5:9).
These are people:
Called out of darkness into light, 1 Pet. 2:9; Called to a new hope, Eph. 4:4; Called with a Holy calling, 2 Tim. 1:9; Called to a high calling, Phil. 3:14; Called to a heavenly calling, Heb. 3:1; Called unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus, 1 Pet. 5:10; and Called to His Kingdom, 1 Thess. 2:12.
The church consists of those who obey the call world-wide, regardless of nation or culture.
It comprises people who have decided to leave the flesh and the devil behind, and to hear from, and live for Jesus Christ. It is presently growing very strong in Nigeria.
Irrespective of tribe (Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Kalabari, Isoko, Edo, Urhobo, Ijaw, etc) and irrespective of religion (Christianity, Islam, etc), there is something every patriotic Nigerian will agree with: No one decided they would born into the tribal group they now belong to. It’s God’s doing. Going back to Adam, we all have the same parental origin Gen. 3:20; and going back to the tower of babel, we all spoke the same language once, Gen. 11:1. The difference only came through the two covenants God had with Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and ishmael, Gal. 4:21-31. However, it is time to outgrow the bitter political, tribal and religious conflicts that have wasted many innocent souls in our land and chart a new way forward. We cannot afford to leave a legacy of bitterness and hatred for upcoming generations. After the 2010 Christmas eve bomb blasts in Jos, killing of worshippers in Maidiguri, Borno State, the leaders of Christianity and Islam (the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and the President General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, under the platform of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which both they are co-chairmen, said “the violence was politically motivated but with religious colouration”. Nothing that the masterminds of such killings and bloodshed “want to make Nigeria ungovernable at all cost”, they added that now the inter-Religious Council is “building up a new culture of tolerance, peace and unity among religious adherents in the country, no Nigeria must resort to killing of fellow citizens and destroying their property under any guise”. (See “The Guardian”, Wednesday, December 29, 2010).
As it is, christianity will never become extinct in Nigeria. Rather it will continue to record new peaks in conversion, church attendance and membership. Similarly, the islamic religion which has been there since the time of Prophet Mohammed “cannot be wished away”. Whilst Muslims reject Christ as Son of God, preferring to see Him as just a prophet, Christians too reject Mohammed because the Bible points to Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth and the life”, John 14:6. Clearly, both faiths are like parallel lines. It is a volatile situation trying to suppress is: Let none condemn people of other faiths. The freedom of worship is still part of the constitution of Federal of Nigeria. Let the quietness of spirit and humility which all faiths on earth profess be found in the adherents of the various religions and there will be great peace in our land. The only road we can safely walk as a nation and expect no bumps and potholes is therefore, the way of religious tolerance. Let us all walk this road. This incidentally is also the position of the nigeria Inter-Religious Council. It should also be the position of all well-meaning Nigerians. No matter how much we try as Christians, not everyone will beliver in our Lord Jesus Christ. Similiarly, no matter how much our muslim brothers and sisters try, not everyone will believe in their Prophet Mohammed. So let everyone worship the way they want and pray the way they want. That is the only forward. We are all stakeholders in project Nigeria. We muust make it work. Unity does not just happen. We have to work at it.
God has a plan for the entire human race. Every faith is regulated by its doctrines and by what its adherents think are the true laws and precepts handed down by God or its founder or progenitor. For Christians, we must continue to take the massage of reconciliation brought by Christ to all parts of Nigeria and all corners of the earth (Act 1:8). The ministry of reconciliation handed down to us must not grow cold in our hands.
In Christ’s dictionary, therefore, there is no Jew and no Gentile; there are people of God.
Unfortunately, many barriers and divisions have been created by human beings for selfish reasons. The principle of “divine and rule” is still being employed by politicians to advance their selfish and political ambitions. Political violence with religious colouration must be shunned. Nigerians must refuse to fall deeper into this pit. The youths should refuse to used. Rather than destroy the youths, by using them to hunt political enemies, help them to know the truth and “In love and honesty to grow” as contained in one of the lines of the national anthem.
There is need for a new national orientation. God must be allowed to rule individual lives (Rom. 8:14). This is what will usher in a new set of values to live by. Christians must continue to reach out whoever is willing to listen.
God’s plan from the beginning has always been to reconcile all mankind to Himself. He is already doing this through Christ. He wants to rule all nations by His Spirit.
What is happening in God’s church today, therefore, is more than a movement or religion; the end-time is actually witnessing an assembling of God’s people “the firstborn which are written in heaven”. Heb. 12:23.
Whether you are Nigerian, Ghanaian, Canadian, American, European, or South African etc, God is extending everyone an invitation through Christ: “Come and become a citizen of the holy nation”. Globally, he is forming one people with one God.
Oh God of creation
Direct our noble cause
Guide thou our leader’s right…..
These are words from our National Anthem. This “God of creation” is God of peace. Let every Nigerian Christian and Muslim hence forth become a peace-maker. Religious fundamentalism is not part of the Nigerian culture. By nature, we are peace makers.
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