• Against religious racism
“No one in creation is rich but he that fears God. No one is truly poor but he that lacks the truth.” St. Ephrem the Syrian
The year 2020 will remain fresh and alive in the minds of many on the face of the earth. It was the year when the world was plunged deeply into the deadly scourge of the Coronavirus pandemic that started in 2019 from the ancient country of China and has now enveloped the world. It was also the year when there was a worldwide cry against racism, especially against blacks in America and some parts of Europe. Without a doubt, the fight against racism as a social menace has been on for centuries, but it seems to have become part of human reality, subsisting in social spheres to the point that it has become so worrisome for anyone to bear and watch.
It has led to the killings of many, whose names resound till the ends of the earth. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to others. Mostly, it gets more clout when it affects blacks and peoples of colour; it has even birthed the organization or movement “Blacks Lives Matter”. Still, it is a social problem that has eaten deep into the ways of men and women, and has led to the collapse of many institutions across the world. However, what is of great concern is that this social ill has taken a new and subtle form, and has gotten into the realm of religion, especially in Christianity. Yes, racism has found its way into the abode of Christ, amongst the disciples of Jesus Christ. This is not to deny that the social side to racism has never been with Christians, history tells us that in the affirmative. But this new form of racism is one wherein some people mouth the doctrines of the Church as “white or foreign”, as standing in contradiction to the ways of “Africans”.
That Africans should wake up from the slumber induced by the foreign “God”, teachings and become aware of their superiority above the beliefs of the white men and women. It will surprise you that those who have become religious racists are Christians, many of them Catholics, baptized, communicants, and confirmed within the Church; they have been taught by the Church, armed with philosophy and theology. But it is obvious that these studies did not go through them or they lack conviction for their beliefs. Going on, these people stand against the Church, refusing to align with the Church or Christianity, wishing to operate their faith as they see fit. They have become nominal Christians, people who believe in God but with a different perspective from the other Christians.
They also form the branch of Christianity or type of Christians that see themselves as part of the enlightened sect; the few ones who are “woke”, who have been set free from the shackles imposed on Africans by the white man’s religion. They spread their beliefs, opposing the purity of the sources of the Christian faith. Such issues as the identity of Jesus Christ, his race or colour, Christian (or Church) marriage, the saints, the hierarchy of the Church amongst other things are abhorrent to them. As part of their maxim, the Church is a scam; the religion of the white man is a scam, a delusional practice used to rob the people of their freedom.Well, their fume is a product of today’s societal version of enlightenment.
This goes to confirm that there is an ongoing and covert battle against the Church in today’s world and religious racism is part and parcel of the war. With this war has come the destruction of places of worship, pictures and statues of the saints, defamation of the name of God and the religious practices of the Church. Conversely, while these religious racists enjoy the benefits of the white man’s religion – education, democracy and good governance, technology and other things, their bone of contention is the place and value of God, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Church as couched by Christianity. Well, in today’s world where the weak and the silent are easy targets for those who are loud and social bullies, God and the Church are simple and easy targets because they are always seen as “silent”.
To those who operate within the ambit of religious racism, either directly or indirectly, it is key to note that there is no aspect of Christianity that harps racism. The fact that one has issues with his or her understanding of Christianity should not imply a badmouthing of the faith. Racism only divides the world and bringing such into the faith will only divide us because what unites us even in Christianity is our humanity which we all share with Jesus Christ who became man to save us; Jesus Christ is both God and Man, two natures united in one divine person. The teachings of the Church are not foreign to Africans albeit their innate peculiarities. They are deeply rooted in the scriptures and traditions which have Africa within its pages.
The practice of Christianity is deeply rooted in Africa; Jesus Christ has roots in Africa through his flight into Egypt; the early church and Christians took the faith to African countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, and many more. There are many saints of Christianity and the Church who have come from Africa, who spread the faith to other parts of the world. The likes of St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Victor, an African pope of the Church, Blessed Michael IweneTansi from Onitsha, etc. confirm the reality and verity of this. In fact, history backs this up! To know this, a sincere study for the truth, divulge of relativism and impurities is necessary.
• Rev. Fr. Kenneth Mereh is the Assistant Administrator of St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos.