A New Face To Religious Intolerance
Religious intolerance would normally mean when a person refuses to respect other people’s practices and beliefs on religious grounds. However, like many other concepts, religious intolerance seems to have gone the Nigerian way by taking on a totally different meaning. For instance, we now have a situation where religious people are now the intolerable ones and are insensitive to other people even to the extent of being overbearing..
Every morning, we are abruptly awakened at the crack of dawn by an intolerable crackling of bullhorn speakers mounted conspicuously outside religious places of worship, calling people to prayer. When we set out before day break to escape rush hour traffic we hear blaring handheld microphone sets of street evangelists preaching to nobody in particular but to everybody within an earshot. Finally, when we return home after enduring a hard day’s job we keep vigil with the church next door as speakers reverberate in the quiet dead of the night forcing us to keep awake till the wee hours of the morning. Only to be awakened at the crack of dawn to the intolerable crackling of speakers calling worshipers to prayer. And the cycle begins again.
I do not mean to berate churches and mosques for praying to their God. That would be classic religious intolerance. However, some religious institutions are intolerant with their excessive, overbearing and extreme insensitivity to their neighbours with their noise making and nuisance. Why speakers are hung outside places of worship is simply beyond me, just like the recent acrimonious actions of the Synagogue Church of all Nations are inexplicable.
Let us start from the beginning. Before the building collapsed, the Synagogue Church in its wisdom decided to break building regulations by redeveloping its guest house to a six storey building despite receiving approval for four floors only. The outcome of this sinful and flagrant disregard for law and order led to the collapse of the guest house and loss of over a 100 lives. As it seems, the loss of life, whether local or foreign, seems to matter little to our government. The Lagos State Government astonishingly suspended the investigation into the building collapse after our Chibok evading President Goodluck Jonathan visited the collapse site to console Prophet T.B Joshua for his loss and threat to life by “a hovering aircraft”.
We do not need a prophet to tell us what we already know, which is how some religious institutions through hero worship by various members, political patronage by some politicians and mind boggling stashes of cash seem to live above the law. What is astounding is how intolerable these institutions have become, such that, in cases of catastrophe like what was witnessed in the Synagogue Church, they can prevent government officials like the National Emergency Management Agency from assessing the disaster site for days and physically assault journalists trying to report the rescue efforts at the site and thereafter offer journalists a bribe to distort the story.
What is even more repugnant is the dubious attempt to deflect the dialogue from the real issues of erecting an illegal and structurally defective building by the pathetic attempt to blame the collapse on an unidentified flying object through a video recording released by the church. More saddening, and I dare say maddening, is the statement by the idolized Prophet T.B. Joshua calling the deceased “martyrs of faith” and the solemn promise to take his teachings to their countrymen who crave to fellowship with him.
While everybody has their level of tolerance, I think that the church’s response to the disaster was callous and contemptuous. I know that we should revere our religious leaders but how much should we tolerate? We already tolerate the call to prayer, vigils, outlandish lifestyle and private jets of these religious leaders but should we also tolerate criminality? Even Jesus Christ, whom we forget to worship when we idolize prophets and pastors, did not tolerate criminality but chased them out of the synagogue when they tried to turn it into a den of robbers.
As the courts take over and begins to look into the case of the collapsed building, I have just one advice to give. Get the long whip of the law and flog them out! This shall be a temple of worship and not a den of robbers and thieves! Call them out! We sit and watch you pour into our cup till it runs over. The cup has run over. Whose job is it to mop up the spill?