From Libya to Nigeria – Is Sharia Really the Problem?

Preamble:

In the early hours of the 2nd May 2011, US President Obama greeted the world with the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most notorious terrorist leader. One thing that was not lost in the drama that ensued through and after the announcement, ranging from the widespread jubilation; assurance that the war on terrorism was not a war on Islam to the hasty burial that was attributed to be in ‘line with the dictates of Islam’, (Whitaker, 2011) was the undertone that the international political scene in the last ten years has had this shadow of a war cast on it. This is a war that from all intents and purposes began as a form of religious extremism and will not simply go away with the killing of Bin Laden. This therefore is not simply about one man but about religion – either interpreted wrongly or misunderstood. Whatever the reasons, religion is making headlines so much in recent years to go unnoticed. For on New Year’s Day of 2011 there was the case of Egypt where a suicide bombing at a church killed 21 people and wounded 79. The Daily Times quotes Time magazine as having written that “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians — in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam” (Daily Times Editorial, 03/01/2011). Meanwhile, in April, the declaration of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South of Nigeria as winner of the 16 April presidential elections, against his main opponent Mohammadu Buhari from the Muslim-dominated North, was the only signal that the Northerners needed to go out on the rampage and cause the death of over 500 people (The Guardian, 2011).

But the questions that need answering ab initio is whether when a thing looses its essence it can still be rightly called the same thing. If we are in agreement that it is the essence of a thing that gives it being, we are apt to agree that when that essence is lost, that thing should cease to exist.  Hence this question could be extrapolated to ask whether when a group becomes extreme and commits heinous crimes and terrorist activities like the recent bombings on Christmas Day in Nigeria, it is logical to keep labeling them ‘Islamist’? How logical is it to label Boko Haram as bad because they are asking for an ‘Islāmic’ State according to Sharia Laws when NATO powers effectively installed a government in Libya that declared it was going to be governed according to strict Sharia Laws? If Boko Haram which claims to be adherents of Sharia are extremist, does it follow that the new government of Libya is extremist? Does this have any bearing on the facts being peddled that arms are leaving Libya to Nigeria? Is the problem really a religious one or religion is simply being used as a pawn in a broader political game to create chaos and division, which could be the prelude to another imperialist intervention in Africa?

Before answering these question, I will like to take a look at how religion has been playing out with politics and development, especially in Africa.

Religion, Politics and Development:

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, suggests that religion, like morality, should be eliminated if the world were to achieve a new political and economic existence. According to him, “Communism abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on new basis” (1968:52) hence, it would seem therefore that Marx did not simply seek to criticise the logic of religion as a set of beliefs but rather, his criticism sprang from the fact that he saw religion as a hindrance to the realisation of an egalitarian society. His argument was therefore that religion reflects society hence any criticism of religion must of necessity be a criticism of society itself.

These sentiments of Marx were also expressed by different writers in different forms but who all arrived at the conclusion that religion was going to wither away (Bruce, (Ed.) 1992; Aldridge, 2000). The prevailing rationale of such discourse has been underpinned by the four major assumptions of the Westphalian synthesis (Philpott, 2002) that: Political sovereignty lay with the state and the states were the key actors in the International Relations system; states would not interfere in the religious affairs of other states; states increasingly refrained from promoting the welfare of the church; as the functions of the modern state increased, the temporal functions of religious bodies also declined.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the foundations of modern sociological theory is the assumption that the modern world is becoming ever more secular and that religion is dying out or becoming irrelevant to modern life. (Berger, 1969) But it is now apparent that the facts do not bear this out. Even in China, as in the rest of the world, especially in the developing world, religion is evolving dynamically and having a great influence on public life and “…refusing to be condemned to the realm of privatize belief, …is once again reappearing in the public sphere, thrusting itself into issues of moral and political contestation” (Haynes, 1998).

Conventionally, development studies and international political economy focused on the causes of poverty, income distribution, disparity in wealth, and some baseless dichotomies between politics and economics while, religion was viewed as detrimental to progress. More recently, however, far from fading from political relevance, religion has assumed a new and more important, mobilising role in many cultures, including those considered fully ‘modernised'(Haynes, 1998). This has led to a breakdown of the negative view about religion, partly due to the widespread failure of secular development programmes to achieve poverty reduction and end inequality and injustice. Religion is now seen as a potentially crucial to the achievement of developmental aims (Haynes, 1998; 2007).

Setting the Records Straight…

While it may not be difficult to see that religion became divided from politics in the Western world with the increasing rise of secularism, this has not been the case with most third world countries (Haynes, 1998). A case in point is that of Nkrumah who, despite his adoption of Marxist materialism, makes it clear that “strictly speaking …Philosophical Consciencism even though deeply rooted in materialism, is not necessarily atheistic.”(1964, p.84) Nkrumah’s intention was to make his ideology an option for the African to rise up from their slumber and assert the dignity of the African personality. It was his conviction that the African personality is not an exclusive personality but must take cognisance of its historical experiences. This is because;

…with true independence gained… A new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and Euro-Christian African, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principle underlying African society. …A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time and ideology which will not abandon the original humanist principles in Africa. (Nkrumah, 1964, p.70)

Unfortunately, the level of progress anticipated by Nkrumah did not materialise and this can be said to be partly due to the great divide between theories of development and the practical realities in Africa.  It is in the light of this that Haynes (1998) analyses the effects associated with modernisation – socio-economic and political change, involving urbanisation, industrialisation, centralisation of government, and the insertion of national economies of Third World countries into a world political economic system, and comes to the conclusion that the nature of religion is accountable to structural and systematic traits and developments.

It is therefore obvious that the failure of most African nations to be able to forge that harmony that Nkrumah advocated, could be at the base of what is today termed Religious extremism or inter-religious conflict. Let us get back to the case of Nigeria then.

First: Is the Boko Haram a religious group and if so are they Islamic? 

The name Boko Haram in Hausa translates to ‘Western education is sacrilege’ while the Arabic interpretation of the Sects’ name is ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. There is therefore no denying that Boko Haram is a religious group. What however is debatable is whether they are Islamic. The natural tendency for most mainstream media has been to take the easy way out – create news that will be popular no matter how cheap. Yes! Cheap because I have rarely seen a media house questioning how a group can be called ‘Islamic’ simply because they claim they are. At the beginning of this discourse, I made the point that if a thing looses its essence, it ceases to be that thing. If a group comes up claiming to be Muslim or Christian but has a unique interpretation of these religions, all what one has to do is go to the foundations of these religions and verify if their claims tie with the essential creeds of the religion – if they do not, the it is logical to look for another name for them rather than simply qualifying them as ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’. The fact that a person or group of persons claim to be Muslim or Christian does not make them that. A Muslim is one who lives according to the dictates of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet (and not their  personal interpretation of it) while a Christian will be a person who lives according to Biblical principles and inline with the teachings of Christ Jesus. Anything outside of these as St. Paul rightly captures “Comes from the evil one”.

Does Boko Haram bear any similarities with the New Government of Libya?

The answer is yes. First they both claim they want the institution of Sharia. Secondly, they are all rebel movements. The new government of Libya was a rebel movement that was given legitimacy by NATO and her allies. It therefore means that if Boko Haram is only illegal and bad today because it has not received the blessings of a UN Security Council Resolution and the backing of NATO forces – or have they not, perhaps not yet!

Which brings me to the issue of the recent unprecedented sophistication of  Boko Haram, a group which can effectively be traced back only to 2002. Where were they all the years following Nigeria’s independence? Why did they not surface during the periods Nigeria was going through one military regime to the other? How did they come to realise they had an ideology to propagate only during the so-called period of Nigerian ‘democracy’? How come Obasanjo, a ‘christian’ president could not stop them but Yar ‘Adua a Muslim was able to get them and get their leader killed only for them to wax stronger during Jonathan another ‘Christian’s’ regime?  The answer to these are obvious. During military regimes, it was difficult to simply play a political game hiding under the cloak of religion because  religious leaders such as the Emirs somehow had a voice then, and could easily rally the people to denounce such aberrations to their religion. Meanwhile, while Yar ‘Adua as a Muslim was able to forge the harmony needed for Nigeria to move forward, most of the so-called ‘christian’ leaders are not able to do so.

Malam Garba Sani, a senior official at the Nigerian Muslim Forum on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story points out that  “Boko Haram is not only expanding in terms of its area of operation, but also in terms of targets, in terms of strength, in terms of overall ability to strike. However it is only indicative of the level of strength and ability that Boko Haram has. It hasn’t yet elaborated or disclosed the strength of this organisation yet.” Has anyone paused to question why Goodluck Jonathan was quick to support a no-fly-zone against Libya and one of the first to recognise the National Transition Council? Has anyone questioned why it is that shortly after this recognition, there was a bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja? Has anyone questioned why it is only after the Libyan conflict that Boko Haram has become this sophisticated only in 2011, effectively extending to the capital only in August? Has anyone questioned why it is that Boko Haram until the  July 10, 2011, bombing of the All Christian Fellowship Church in Suleja, Niger State and the recent December, 25th bombings been attacking mainly Muslims and government Institutions?

Patrick Wilmot, a Nigerian writer also on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story provides an insight but when he states that “Boko Haram is trying to create the maximum effect in terms of killing large numbers of people. The political effect is to create tensions within the ruling party itself, the PDP, which is a coalition of people from the north, the south, the east and the west and also Christians and Muslims. In the larger society itself, it aims to create more tension between Muslims and Christians, leading to a greater degree of segregation between the populations“.

This viewpoint shows that the original intention was to create antagonism within the political sphere, effectively destabilising the ability of the ruling party to take effective action as Yar ‘Adua did and crushed the group. When this has been somehow achieved given the willingness of the government to play ball in the Libyan case, with President Jonathan consciously or unconsciously providing the backing by supporting the no-fly-zone and recognising the NTC, the next phase is now in operation. Religious antagonism is therefore the trump card.

Any forewarning…

Gaddafi in one of the messages accredited to him, while denouncing all forms of religious extremism hiding under the cloak of Islam, issued a warning “Do not let them use you. Be united. Build your defences for they are coming if they manage to pass Libya.This warning was not hearkened to and the result is what we witness in Nigeria today – a very sophisticated Boko Haram which is now capable of creating a religious war in Nigeria. Does that ring a bell? Yes it should. Libya was just the first phase of a bigger game and having passed the litmus test, it seems it is time for Africa to await its recolonization – this time it will be under the guise of humanitarian interventions. The arms crossing from Libya into Nigeria is therefore not a coincidence. It is also not coincidental that arms that leave Libya should be able to find Boko Haram when the group has been and still is seemingly faceless with no known central leadership.

Final Words:

This write-up does not claim absolute knowledge of Boko Haram and neither are the assumptions made here considered dogma. What however I can say with certainty is that whatever the political game being played using Boko Haram, it is yielding dividends. The Nigerian government is gradually loosing the monopoly of violence over its territory and Nigerians are gradually getting to the stage where any tiny spark will ignite a horrible clash between Muslims and Christians. Unfortunately, neither the Muslims nor the Christians will be able to find the source of the problem because the ideology called Boko Haram will become faceless as the country disintegrates into a failed state.

THERE IS CLEARLY A MOVEMENT FROM LIBYA TO NIGERIA – A SHARIA STATE OF REBELS NOW RULE LIBYA AND A GROUP OF REBELS HAVE GAINED PROMINENCE IN NIGERIA WITH THE SAME INTENTION OF INSTITUTING SHARIA. THE ARMS THAT CREATED THE LIBYAN ‘STATE’ IS NOW IN NIGERIA WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF CREATING A BOKO HARAM STATE.

The difference however is that while Libya was small and her case could easily be manipulated using the so-called Arab Spring, Nigeria is so large that unless there is sufficient internal chaos it will be difficult for any external intervention to make headway.  Note should be taken then that Boko Haram far from being anything Muslim or Christian is simply a political cancerworm that is being used under the guise of religion.

NIGERIANS BE WISE!

References:

Berger, P.L. (1969). The social reality of religion; London: Faber

Bruce, S. (Ed.) 1992. Religion and Modernisation; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 170-94;

Aldridge, A. (2000). Religion in the Contemporary World. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Haynes, J. (1998). “Religion in Global Politics: Explaining Deprivatization”; A paper For the ‘Religion and Politics’ panel, PSA Conference, Keele University, (April)

Haynes, J. (2007) Religion and Development Conflict or Cooperation? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1975. On Religion Moscow: Progress Publishers, Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1968 [1848] , “Manifesto of the Communist Party” in Selected Works Moscow: Progress Publishers, 35-71

Nkrumah, K. (1964) Consciencism, Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation with Particular Reference to the African Revolution. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd

Petito F. & Hatzopoulos, P. (eds.) (2003) Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile, New York: Palgrave,

Philpott, D. (2002) The Challenge Of September 11 To Secularism In International Relations World Politics, Volume 55, (1), (October) pp. 66-95

Whitaker,  B. (2011) Bin Laden’s Body Buried At Sea, The Guardian Newspaper, 02/05/2011 Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/binladen-body-buried-sea

“My Football Field/Tram Experience” – Racism, Ignorance, Stupidity or Nationalism?

ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD…

It has been with some degree of amusement or should I add fascination, that I have read stories today about Suarez’s 8 match ban and possible fine for being found guilty by the FA for racist remarks! This comes on the same day the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service announced its decision to bring charges against John Terry for allegedly racially abusing another player. My amusement and fascination was not really provoked by these two incidents but rather one that took place a few weeks ago.

ON A TRAM…

What I find a bit difficult to get over is the renewed ‘concern’ being shown towards victims of racial abuse.  The woman on the video titled ‘My Tram Experience‘ that went viral within a few days simply said what so many people in the world want to say but lack the courage. Watching her, I felt nothing for her but pity – not only for her but also for the innocent child she was carrying on her laps. While views differ so much on the woman’s attitude, I have not ceased to ask this question as I watched the video several times over – Is she really RACIST; IGNORANT, SIMPLY STUPID or A NATIONALIST?

BY INTELLECTUALS…

I want to dispel the thinking that this woman is as  bad as she has been made to look especially after she got arrested. Do not get me wrong… I am no supporter of discrimination of any form but we need to get the facts straight.

From the 18th and 19th Centuries, most European views of Africans for example had been one of a distinct category of humanity, a view based on the supposedly irreconcilable foreignness of African mental processes. For example one of the most celebrated scholars in Western thought argued that that Africa falls outside the boundaries of world history. He boldly argued that  “We [Europeans] cannot feel ourselves into [the African’s] nature .…Only by means of thought can we achieve this understanding of his nature; for we can only feel that which is akin to our own feelings.” (1) Hegel‘s argument was based on the original distinction between normative  existence and the African being.  He did not mix words then when he came to the conclusion that “Africans have not  achieve full self-awareness, as “their consciousness has not yet reached an awareness of any substantial objectivity.”  According to this view, Europeans, with their exclusive access to objective rationality, were the only ones capable of interpreting and understanding the African’s essential character. Was Hegel RACIST? MAYBE! IGNORANT? PERHAPS! STUPID? MAYBE NOT!

BY A PSYCHOPATH…

When Hitler, decided to incarcerate millions of Jews because of their race, the world did not react – about 6 million died in concentration camps. It was only when he started his re-militarisation  and re-occupation campaigns, that war was declared on him – in fact the world went to war against Hitler because he invaded Poland (the same Poland whose people are insulted by the woman in the video). Was Hitler RACIST, IGNORANT, STUPID or A NATIONALIST? All will say he was none of the above as all of them fall short of describing him – HE WAS SIMPLY A MONSTER OR A PSYCHOPATH! I concur.

BY COUNTRIES….

At the end of the war the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came up as part of peace processes in the world just three years after the United Nations was formed to curb any such Hitler-type aggression. It begins with the WONDERFUL WORDS “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”,

Wonderful! Is the simple word for such giant strides taken to stop a repeat of what Hitler had done. But under the watchful eyes of the UN with the declaration of human rights very much intact, it was a fierce battle before African States could gain political independence from their erstwhile colonial masters. It was with the existence of the UN and  paradoxically in the same 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights that  South Africa’s governance was built on a system of racial segregation called ‘apartheid’. Was apartheid Racism! YES!  Were its perpetrators Ignorant? MAYBE! Were they stupid? I doubt it!

That same fateful year, a new State called Israel was born and they have denied Palestinians all that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, effectively doing to them the same things that Hitler had done. Strangely enough, all those who demonize Hitler welcomed Apartheid and will die to support what is happening in the Gaza. Are Israelis and their supporters RACIST, IGNORANT, STUPID OR NATIONALISTS?

It would seem that the problem is not really who is abused or whose rights are denied in the world today but rather who does it. Or perhaps I just happen to have a nuanced view of what these terms mean.

RACISM, IGNORANCE, STUPIDITY OR NATIONALISM…

Racism is usually considered to be a belief that there exist  inherent differences among the various human races that can be said to account for cultural or individual achievements.This believe in a way usually involves the notion that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others. The first aspect could have been fueled by views such as that of Hegel, Levy Bruhl and others who used it to justify the slave trade. The myopia in such a doctrine does not lie only the fact that it is something that has no empirical basis but also because in reality there is no homogeneous race – one in which all are either achievers or all are failures. Some societies have made more technological or industrial or infrastructural advancements than others, but given the cyclic nature of history, this is not a given that the presently more advance society translates into a superiority of race. It is only a matter of priority in time. Also within each of the societies is a mix of greater and lesser persons. My point here is that going by the first view of racism, it amounts to nothing more than myopic egocentricism which is tantamount to STUPIDITY.

Closely linked to the second aspect about having the right to rule others, racism is seen as a case where a policy or  system of government is based upon fostering such a doctrine. I can recall vividly a great speech on immigration made by the British PM David Cameron in April, 2011, in which he argued that “When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods… This has been the experience for many people in our country and I believe it is untruthful and unfair not to speak about it and address it.”  Cameron was simply observing an issue of national policy that is aimed at protecting the UK.

The question then is: HOW DIFFERENT IS CAMERON’S VIEW OF IMMIGRANTS AND THE WOMAN’S ON THE TRAM? While the woman has been branded racist for saying that immigrants had destroyed ‘her’ country, Cameron is right when he says the same thing. I am not insinuating here that Cameron is or was racist. What I am highlighting is that National policies will always ‘discriminate’ against foreigners but it is not simply in a bid to protect the country. IT IS CALLED NATIONALISM – the general attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity.

A third aspect of racism is that which is expressed in form of hatred or intolerance of another race. This is the one that calls for serious concern as it usually amounts to actual physical violence against the discriminated race. What I do not seem to understand is that footballers are banned or fined and a woman is arrested for making comments that are similar to those made every day in policies about immigration in a country that is supporting the ethnic cleansing and extermination of a town because of their race… AND NO ONE SEEMS TO SEE ANYTHING WRONG with it.

 I personally do not think calling me any name makes me that – because in most cases those calling the names are usually suffering from an inferiority complex. If people like Nelson Mandela were called Kaffir and they rose up to get over a hundred awards within a decade, then I daresay that he has ‘glorified’ the name, and only an idiot should think using it makes someone inferior.

If the President of the United States of America is called ‘Boy’ and ‘Tar Baby’ within a week, then I daresay that it is an honourable thing to be a White House ‘Boy’. The names did not qualify Obama, rather I think Obama has qualified those names. The people who called those names far from dishonoring their revered Presidency made me understand that another name for the US President could be ‘Boy’ or ‘Tar Baby’. If it is honourable to be the US President then it follows that it is an honourable thing to be a ‘Boy’ or ‘Tar Baby’.

In conclusion then, one can rightly argue that most of what is happening today in the international scene is a re-enactment of the acts committed by Hitler – when governments trade in arms, support rebels to topple governments, deny people the right to self-determination – all in the name of foreign policies, they sponsor genocides, support racism and perpetrate the highest levels of Human rights violations which they so much claim to want to protect.

NO PLAYER DIES FROM BEING CALLED NAMES BY ANOTHER IN A FOOTBALL FIELD; NO ONE DIES WHEN A WOMAN EXPRESSES HER FRUSTRATION ON A TRAM BY CALLING HER FELLOW CITIZENS NAMES… BUT MILLIONS DIE WHEN GOVERNMENTS ARM DICTATORS IN THE NAME OF FOREIGN AID; MAKE THEIR FOREIGN POLICY THE DEGRADATION OF OTHERS IN A BID TO PROTECT THEIR COUNTRIES; DENY OTHERS THE RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION FOR SELFISH REASONS AND SUPPORT ILLEGAL TAKE-OVER OF GOVERNMENTS WHILE EMPOWERING OTHERS TO KILL. 

1. G.W.F. Hegel.  “Africa” in “The Natural Context or the Geographical Basis of World History” in Lectures on the Philosophy of World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. (177)

Britain may be a Christian Country… (nsnbc.wordpress.com)

but its government marches to the beat of another drum

Prime minister David Cameron has told Britain: “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.”

He was speaking on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible which, he said, had helped to give Britain a set of values and morals that make us what we are today.

And Cameron doesn’t accept the argument about the church not getting involved in politics. “To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions.”

True, but can our churchmen ‘do politics’? They perpetually fail to get a result even on the Church’s ‘home turf’, the Holy Land.

It’s painful to be reminded that while Israel was planning its murderous 3-week assault on the people of Gaza (including the Christian community there), which it launched three Christmases ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland with the Chief Rabbi to show joint solidarity against genocide.

“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity,” he announced. “How shall we be able to read the signs… that evil is gathering force once again?”

He needed to look no further than the prison camp that the Holy Land has been turned into by the never-ending Israeli occupation. Couldn’t he sniff the stench of profanity besieging the Gaza Strip which, some claim, Israel uses as a warfare laboratory? Hasn’t he noticed a strong whiff of evil in the judaisation of Jerusalem and the expulsion of its non-Jewish citizens?

And when the Archbishop visited the Holy Land in 2010 the Israelis prevented him seeing the horrors their thugs had inflicted on Gaza and obstructed him in his Christian mission there. But he still fraternised with their rabbinate and their President, and paid homage to Yad Vashem and the Holocaust, thus appearing to legitimise the blockade, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities and Israel’s contempt for international law and human rights.

The Pope fell for the same propaganda trick.

The Church clearly needs the mother of all shake-ups before it’ll be capable of rolling up its sleeves and getting political.

Our not-so-Christian government

Britain as a country may still be Christian but what about its government? Mr Cameron describes himself as a “committed” Christian but only a “vaguely practising” one. What does that mean? Are Christian principles getting in his way?

Or is he sending a coded message of comfort to friends in Tel Aviv and Washington?

For Cameron also claims to be a Zionist.

He voted enthusiastically for the Iraq war, an irresponsible and un-Christian thing to do based on neo-con lies. And look what it has cost in lives and wholesale destruction. Now he and foreign secretary William Hague are upping sanctions designed to cripple the Iranian economy and bring misery to that country’s civilian population. Shades of Iraq… sadistic action once again based on mere suspicion of wrongdoing, not actual proof. Is this proper behaviour for even the “vaguest” of Christians?

The political baggage Cameron has brought with him includes a foreign secretary who has been a member of Conservative Friends of Israel since his teenage years and a minister for Middle East affairs who’s a former officer of that same fan club.

His defence secretary Liam Fox, now departed in disgrace, was dubbed “a champion of Israel within the government”. He famously said: “In the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies…”

How can it be right for Ministers of the Crown to make such ludicrous commitments to a belligerent foreign power that continually defies international and humanitarian law and, I hear, shoots children for amusement – according to a horrifying article by surgeon David Halpin, The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force’? 

When Cameron became Conservative leader he proclaimed: “You need to know that if I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel.” And once in Downing Street he pledged: “In me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible…I want to be clear, we will always support Israel…”

Supporting Israel means, of course, endorsing the regime’s lawlessness and criminal ambitions. Is that an option for a real Christian? And when will Mr Cameron have time to concentrate on Britain’s best interests in the Middle East, which is the job he was elected for?

Furthermore Britain, like all other countries that think themselves civilised, is under a solemn international obligation to make sure there’s no hiding place for the world’s vilest criminals. It’s a responsibility no Christian should shirk. However, when Tzipi Livni, who was responsible for mounting Operation Cast Lead and for the 1,400 deaths that followed, complained that a warrant had been issued for her arrest in London, Cameron and Hague immediately mangled our Universal Jurisdiction laws to create a safe haven for her and other Israelis wanted for crimes against humanity.

Having ensured that Madam Livni could safely go shopping in Bond Street, the devoted Mr Hague said: “The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice.”

The Zionist cuckoo in Christianity’s nest

Cameron waxes lyrical about the King James Bible but acts as if he was brought up on the less admirable Scofield version, which has been the standard religious text on the other side of the Atlantic.

Cyrus Scofield, a convicted criminal and described by one American newspaper as “a shyster”, was commissioned to re-write the King James version by inserting Zionist-friendly notes. The idea was to change the Christian view of Zionism by creating and promoting a pro-Zionist sub-culture within Christianity. The Oxford University Press appointed Scofield as editor, and the Scofield Reference Bible has been a best-seller especially in the US for nearly 100 years.

It introduced a new worship icon, the modern State of Israel, which did not exist until 1948 but was already on the drawing board of the World Zionist movement.

American journalist Grace Halsell explained the re-hashed Biblical message: “Simply stated it is this: Every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us. Never mind what Israel does, say the Christian Zionists. God wants this to happen…

“Scofield said that Christ cannot return to earth until certain events occur: The Jews must return to Palestine, gain control of Jerusalem and rebuild a temple, and then we all must engage in the final, great battle called Armageddon. Estimates vary, but most students of Armageddon theology agree that as a result of these relatively recent interpretations of Biblical scripture, 10 to 40 million Americans believe Palestine is God’s chosen land for the Jews.”

Ultra-literal reading of certain Old Testament texts has persuaded Zionists to believe that Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish tribes are transferable to the largely unrelated people that comprise the modern state of Israel. They hope for, and are obviously working towards, the final battle they call Armageddon, in which Israel’s enemies (and God’s, of course) will be defeated. After that Jesus will return as the Jewish Messiah and King to reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and the Jewish people will enjoy privileged status in the world.

That is the Zionist dream of world domination in a nutshell.

We see how politicians become eager stooges, but if you are as puzzled as I am how a true Christian could possibly be taken in by Zionism, a short paper on the phenomenon is available from Sadaka http://www.sadaka.ie/Articles/Papers/PAPER-Christian_Zionism.pdf.

An effective antidote is The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a statement by the Latin Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued in 2006 http://imeu.net/news/article003122.shtml. They are in the front line. They know the score. It is summed up in a single sentence:

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.”

Merry Christmas, Mr Cameron.

Source: Stuart Littlewood on nsnbc

21 December 2011

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk

Great Speech By Michelle Obama in Soweto: Video and Words

The speech Michelle Obama delivered this morning at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa:

Thank you. Thank you so much. It is such a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you today.

I want to start by thanking Graca Machel for that just gracious, kind introduction. It is overwhelming. And I want to thank her for her lifetime of service as a champion for women and children. And from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for all of the kindness and generosity that you have shown my family for our visit here. Thank you so much.

I am also honored to share the stage with another remarkable leader, Baleka Mbete. She has played a vital role in advancing equality and promoting development here in South Africa. Thank you to the both of you for joining us here for sharing this moment with all of us.

I also want to thank the Archbishop of Johannesburg for honoring us today with his presence.

And of course, I want to recognize our guests of honor –- these 76 extraordinary young women leaders from here in South Africa and across the continent. (Applause.)

These are young women transforming their communities and their countries, and let me tell you I am so impressed by all of them. I am so proud of everything they have achieved.

And finally, I want to thank the leaders and the congregation of Regina Mundi for hosting us in this sacred space today. It has been more than three decades, but those bullet holes in the ceiling, this broken altar still stand as vivid reminders of the history that unfolded here.

And you all know the story –- how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans. Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.

But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church. The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets.

And while no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15.

Many of the students hadn’t even known about the protest when they arrived at school that morning. But they agreed to take part, knowing full well the dangers involved, because they were determined to get an education worthy of their potential.

And as the Archbishop noted, that June day wasn’t the first, or the last, time that this church stood in the crosscurrents of history. It was referred to as “the parliament of Soweto.” When the congregation sang their hymns, activists would make plans, singing the locations and times of secret meetings. Church services, and even funerals, often became anti-Apartheid rallies. And as President Mandela once put it, “Regina Mundi became a world-wide symbol of the determination of our people to free themselves.”

It is a story that has unfolded across this country and across this continent, and also in my country — the story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw, who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked, and sacrificed, everything they had for the freedom they deserved.

And it is because of them that we are able to gather here today. It is because of them that so many of these young women leaders can now pursue their dreams. It is because of them that I stand before you as First Lady of the United States of America. That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation. And all of you -– the young people of this continent -– you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love.

So the question today is, what will you make of that inheritance? What legacy will you leave for your children and your grandchildren? What generation will you be?

Now, I could ask these questions of young people in any country, on any continent. But there is a reason why I wanted to come here to South Africa to speak with all of you.

As my husband has said, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. And when it comes to the defining challenges of our times –- creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease — for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner.

That is why my husband’s administration is not simply focused on extending a helping hand to Africa, but focusing on partnering with Africans who will shape their future by combating corruption, and building strong democratic institutions, by growing new crops, caring for the sick. And more than ever before, we will be looking to all of you, our young people, to lead the way.

And I’m not just saying that to make you all feel good. The fact is that in Africa, people under 25 make up 60 percent of the population. And here in South Africa, nearly two-thirds of citizens are under the age of 30. So over the next 20 years, the next 50 years, our future will be shaped by your leadership.

And I want to pause for a moment on that word -– leadership — because I know that so often, when we think about what that word means, what it means to be a leader, we think of presidents and prime ministers. We think of people who pass laws or command armies, run big businesses, people with fancy titles, big salaries.

And most young people don’t fit that image. And I know that often when you try to make your voices heard, sometimes people don’t always listen. I know there are those who discount your opinions, who tell you you’re not ready, who say that you should sit back and wait your turn.

But I am here today because when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don’t have time to sit back and wait.

I’m here because I believe that each of you is ready, right here and right now, to start meeting these challenges.

And I am here because I know that true leadership -– leadership that lifts families, leadership that sustains communities and transforms nations –- that kind of leadership rarely starts in palaces or parliaments.

That kind of leadership is not limited only to those of a certain age or status. And that kind of leadership is not just about dramatic events that change the course of history in an instant.

Instead, true leadership often happens with the smallest acts, in the most unexpected places, by the most unlikely individuals.

I mean, think about what happened here in Soweto 35 years ago. Many of the students who led the uprising were younger than all of you. They carried signs made of cardboard boxes and canvass sacks. Yet together, they propelled this cause into the consciousness of the world. And we now celebrate National Youth Day and National Youth Month every year in their honor.

I mean, think about the giants of the struggle –- people like Albertina Sisulu, whose recent passing we all mourn. Orphaned as a teenager, she worked as a nurse to support her siblings. And when her husband, Walter Sisulu, became Secretary-General of the ANC, it was up to her to provide for their family. When he was imprisoned for 26 years, it was up to her to continue his work. And that she did. With a mother’s fierce love for this country, she threw herself into the struggle.

She led boycotts and sit-ins and marches, including the 1956 Women’s March, when thousands of women from across this country, converged on Pretoria to protest the pass laws. They were women of every color, many of them not much older than all of you. Some of them carried their babies on their backs. And for 30 minutes, they stood in complete silence, raising their voices only to sing freedom songs like Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica. Their motto was simple, but clear: “If you strike a woman, you strike a rock.” (Applause.)

Ma Sisulu, the students of Soweto, those women in Pretoria, they had little money, even less status, no fancy titles to speak of. But what they had was their vision for a free South Africa. What they had was an unshakeable belief that they were worthy of that freedom –- and they had the courage to act on that belief. Each of them chose to be a rock for justice. And with countless acts of daring and defiance, together, they transformed this nation.

Together they paved the way for free and fair elections, for a process of healing and reconciliation, and for the rise of South Africa as a political and economic leader on the world stage.

Now, I know that as your generation looks back on that struggle, and on the many liberation movements of the past century, you may think that all of the great moral struggles have already been won.

As you hear the stories of lions like Madiba and Sisulu and Luthuli, you may think that you can never measure up to such greatness.

But while today’s challenges might not always inspire the lofty rhetoric or the high drama of struggles past, the injustices at hand are no less glaring, the human suffering no less acute.

So make no mistake about it: There are still so many causes worth sacrificing for. There is still so much history yet to be made. You can be the generation that makes the discoveries and builds the industries that will transform our economies. You can be the generation that brings opportunity and prosperity to forgotten corners of the world and banishes hunger from this continent forever. You can be the generation that ends HIV/AIDS in our time — (applause) — the generation that fights not just the disease, but the stigma of the disease, the generation that teaches the world that HIV is fully preventable, and treatable, and should never be a source of shame. (Applause.)

You can be the generation that holds your leaders accountable for open, honest government at every level, government that stamps out corruption and protects the rights of every citizen to speak freely, to worship openly, to love whomever they choose.

You can be the generation to ensure that women are no longer second-class citizens, that girls take their rightful places in our schools. (Applause.)

You can be the generation that stands up and says that violence against women in any form, in any place — including the home –- especially the home –- that isn’t just a women’s rights violation. It’s a human rights violation. And it has no place in any society.

You see, that is the history that your generation can make.

Now, I have to be honest. Your efforts might not always draw the world’s attention, except for today. (Laughter.) You may not find yourself leading passionate protests that fill stadiums and shut down city streets. And the change you seek may come slowly, little by little, measured not by sweeping changes in the law, but by daily improvements in people’s lives.

But I can tell you from my own experience –- and from my husband’s experience -– that this work is no less meaningful, no less inspiring, and no less urgent than what you read about in the history books.

You see, it wasn’t that long ago that my husband and I were young, believe it or not just starting out our careers. After he graduated from university, Barack got a job as a community organizer in the struggling neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago. A lot of people there were out of work and barely getting by. Children had few opportunities and little hope for their future. And trust me, no one thought that this skinny kid with the funny name could make much of a difference.

But Barack started talking to people. He urged them to start working on the change they wanted to see. Soon, slowly, folks started coming together to fight for job training programs and better schools and safer housing for their families.

Slowly, the neighborhoods started to turn around. Little by little, people started feeling hopeful again. And that made Barack feel hopeful.

And I had a similar experience in my own career. Like my husband, I came from a modest background. My parents saved and sacrificed everything they had so that I could get an education. And when I graduated, got a job at a big, fancy law firm — nice salary, big office. My friends were impressed. My family was proud. By all accounts, I was living the dream.

But I knew something was missing. I knew I didn’t want to be way up in some tall building all alone in an office writing memos. I wanted to be down on the ground working with kids, helping families put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

So I left that job for a new job training young people like yourselves for careers in public service. I was making a lot less money. My office wasn’t so nice. But every day, I got to watch those young people gain skills and build confidence. And then I saw them go on to mentor and inspire other young people. And that made me feel inspired. It still does.

See, my husband and I, we didn’t change any laws, we didn’t win any awards, get our pictures in the paper. But we were making a difference in people’s lives. We were part of something greater than ourselves. And we knew that in our own small way, we were helping to build a better world. And that is precisely what so many young people are doing every day across this continent.

These 76 young women are outstanding examples. Take Gqibelo Dandala from here in South Africa. She left a lucrative career in investment banking to found the Future of the African Daughter Project, an organization that lifts up young women in rural and township areas. Of her work, she says: “…we are building a legacy which will outlive and outgrow us…”

And then there’s Robyn Kriel. She’s a young reporter from Zimbabwe who has written about corruption and human rights abuses in her country. She was beaten by police; her home raided, her mother imprisoned. But she still hasn’t lost her passion for reporting, because, as she put it, the people of Zimbabwe “want their stories to be told.”

And then there’s Grace Nanyonga, who joins us today from Uganda. Hey, Grace! You go, girl. Orphaned at the age of 13, she started cooking and selling fish during her school vacations to support her six siblings. Determined to get an education, she founded her own company, and she made enough money to put herself through university. And she’s now started an organization that trains local women to work at her company so that they can support their own families. Of her achievements, she says, simply — these are her words — “I made it against all odds” and “I want to be an example for girls in my country and beyond.”

Now, Grace could have been content to make lots of money, and just provide for her own family. Gqibelo could have climbed the corporate ladder, and never looked back. Where is she? Please stand. Grace got to stand. (Laughter.) Come on, where is she? Is she out there? And no one would’ve blamed Robyn — where’s Robyn? No one would have blamed Robyn if after all she’d been through she decided to quit reporting and pursue an easier career. But these young women — and these are just examples of stories that go on and on — these young women could not be content with their own comfort and success when they knew that other people were struggling.

You see, that’s how people of conscience view the world. It’s the belief, as my husband often says, that if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she’s not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health. If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well.

And in the end, that sense of interconnectedness, that depth of compassion, that determination to act in the face of impossible odds, those are the qualities of mind and heart that I hope will define your generation.

I hope that all of you will reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not your concern, or if you can’t solve all the world’s problems, then you shouldn’t even try.

Instead, as one of our great American presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, liked to say, I hope that you will commit yourselves to doing “what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are,” because in the end, that is what makes you a lion. Not fortune, not fame, not your pictures in history books, but the refusal to remain a bystander when others are suffering, and that commitment to serve however you can, where you are.

Now it will not be easy. You women know that already. You will have failures and setbacks and critics and plenty of moments of frustration and doubt. But if you ever start to lose heart, I brought you all here today because I want you to think of each other.

Think about Grace, supporting her family all by herself. And think about Robyn, who endured that beating so she could tell other people’s stories. Think about Ma Sisulu, raising her kids alone, surviving banishment, exile, and prison. When reflecting on her journey, Ma Sisulu once said, with her signature humility, she said, “All these years, I never had a comfortable life.”

So you may not always have a comfortable life. And you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once. But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.

It’s what happens when folks start asking questions — a father asks, “Why should my son go to school, but not my daughter?” Or a mother asks, “Why should I pay a bribe to start a business to support my family?” Or a student stands up and declares, “Yes, I have HIV, and here’s how I’m treating it, and here’s how we can stop it from spreading.”

See, and then soon, they inspire others to start asking questions. They inspire others to start stepping forward.

And those are the “ripples of hope” that a young U.S. senator named Robert Kennedy spoke of when he came here to South Africa 45 years ago this month. In his words, he said, the “numberless diverse acts of courage and belief which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

And that is how a church can become a parliament. That is how a hymn can be a call to action.

That is how a group of young people with nothing more than some handmade signs and a belief in their own God-given potential can galvanize a nation.

And that’s how young people around the world can inspire each other, and draw strength from each other.

I’m thinking today of the young activists who gathered at the American Library here in Soweto to read the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King for their inspiration.

And I’m thinking of how Dr. King drew inspiration from Chief Luthuli and the young people here in South Africa.

And I’m thinking about how young South Africans singing the American civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” in the streets of Cape Town and Durban.

And I’m thinking of how Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica echoed through university campuses in the U.S., as students -– including my husband –- planned boycotts to support students here in South Africa.

And I’m thinking of this church and how those stained windows depicting the struggle were donated by the people of Poland, and how the peace pole in the park outside was donated by people from Japan, and how every week, visitors from every corner of the globe come here to bear witness and draw inspiration from your history.

And finally, I’m thinking of the history of my own country. I mean, America won its independence more than two centuries ago. It has been nearly 50 years since the victories of our own civil rights movement. Yet we still struggle every day to perfect our union and live up to our ideals. And every day, it is our young people who are leading the way. They are the ones enlisting in our military. They’re the ones teaching in struggling schools, volunteering countless hours in countless ways in communities.

And in this past presidential election, they were engaged in our democracy like never before. They studied the issues, followed the campaign, knocked on doors in the freezing snow and the blazing sun, urging people to vote. They waited in line for hours to cast their ballots.

And I have seen that same passion, that same determination to serve in young people I have met all across the world, from India to El Salvador, from Mexico to the United Kingdom to here in South Africa.

So today, I want you to know that as you work to lift up your families, your communities, your countries and your world, know that you are never alone. You are never alone.

As Bobby Kennedy said here in South Africa all those years ago: “…you are joined with fellow young people in every land, they struggling with their problems and you with yours, but all joined in a common purpose…determined to build a better future.”

And if anyone of you ever doubts that you can build that future, if anyone ever tells you that you shouldn’t or you can’t, then I want you to say with one voice –- the voice of a generation –- you tell them, “Yes, we can.” What do you say? Yes, we can. What do you say? Yes, we can!

Audience: Yes, we can!

Michelle Obama: What do you say?

Audience: Yes, we can!

Michelle Obama: Thank you all so much. God bless you.

PROSPERITY PREACHING: A MENTAL FLIGHT FROM POVERTY

Preamble

Listening to His followers shout today, one cannot help but be marveled at the wonderful messages they preach… “Poverty is not your portion in Jesus’ name.” “In the name of Jesus, Prosperity is mine” “Our God is not a poor God” “You are not meant to be a Lazarus”.  Are these not good messages? Of course, they are good messages and prayers since no right thinking person will pray for anything less. “Poverty is a disease”, some say. No person will voluntarily do anything to contact a disease. Rather we all pray against them. But then, let us hear Christ speak “In his riches man lacks wisdom” Ps. 49. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Lk. 4:18 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matt. 5:3 “But alas for you who have wealth, for you have been comforted now” Lk. 6:24 “…The Son of Man has no where to lay his head.” Lk. 9:58 “Seek first the kingdom of God and all other things shall be added on to you.” “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” Matt. 16:26 “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” Mk. 10:25 “The poor shall always be with you” Mk. 14:7

Does it then mean that the position Christ holds and that which we, his followers hold, contradict themselves? How come Christ presents poverty as a laudable thing to strive after and yet today we call it a disease to be dreaded? Surely there must be a mishap somewhere. God surely did not mean that we should be stricken by the disease of poverty or any other disease for that matter. He says “I know the plans I have for you, plans to save you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and to give you hope.” Jr. 29:11. Since this is the case, why then did Christ say that the poor shall always be with us when he had in another place said whatever we ask we shall receive? Surely no one in the world today is praying for poverty. Even those who vow to live a life of ‘poverty’, say it is “poverty in the spirit.” Yes! This could explain it. But then let us see…

The Existential Reality

When Heraclitus held the view that strife is justice, he was not far from the truth. He was right to have blamed Homer for praying that there should be no strife in the world. To Heraclitus, this is tantamount to praying that the world should pass away. But come to think of it; can there be a world without strive? Let’s imagine a world where everybody is on the same pedestal-socially, economically, politically. Imagine every body being rich. Who will serve another? Who will be the Okada Man? Who will be the mechanic, given that everybody will be car owners? Who will be the garbage man? Who will be the cleaner? In short who will like to be another’s servant
when he can also pay for services? Of course you do agree with me that the world is structured such that some men will always be on a higher stratum than others. This is justice. As Plato had held, justice is when each person does that job for which he is best suited, since naturally, some are meant to be rulers, others to be guardians and others to be artisans and craftsmen. Willy-nilly, our society is one of classism. It’s a reality we must live with. George Orwell captures this better in his novel Animal Farm. Try as much as they could, the animals realized that it was impossible to have a society where they were all equal. This led them to conclude that while “All animals are equal, some are more equal than others.” Hence, while all men are created equal, (We hold these truths as self-evident, that all men are created equal) some necessarily have to be more equal than others for the smooth functioning of the society.

In the light of this, one begins to understand how chimerical the idea of eradicating poverty is. Also one grasps how utopic the notion of a classless society can be. What then happens to all the prayers offered against poverty and material backwardness? May be, Christ’s statement “You do not know what you are praying for,” Matt:20:22 and a look at James 4:3, “You pray for something and you do not get it because you pray with the wrong motive of indulging your pleasures” can put us in a good stead to make us understand better. But then, what is poverty?

The Real Issue about Poverty

In every day parlance, poverty is said to be the state of being poor; a state of lacking the basic necessities of life, which naturally means the lack of money. A person who is truly poor then is one who lives in a state of abject poverty. Contrary to what most of us think today, poverty is not the opposite of wealth, but the opposite of riches. Therefore, it is erroneous to conclude that when a man is not materially wealthy, he is poor. Our problems clearly arise from our insatiable quest for material possessions. People build huge ‘prisons’ with high walls and many iron gates, watch dogs, butler, security men, and call these houses, all in the name of being wealthy. People feel that it is when one has more than ten cars that one can say one has made it. But even those who get all these still crave for more. After all, human desires are like the world of the death, where there is always room for more. When then can a man be said to be truly saturated with material possessions? Surely, not the man who has so much, but the man who is content with what he has.

True Riches

The Aristotelian-Thomistic-Kantian philosophy of the kingdom of ends surely can help us understand what true riches are. Aristotle, St. Aquinas and later Kant had all held the view that everything tends towards an end. While the Aristotle said the end to which all men tend is eudaimonia (happiness) Aquinas extrapolates it a little to say it is the Beatific Vision.  It is Kant who captures all in the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, which states that the ‘subjective content is such that it treats the humanity in oneself or others solely as a vehicle towards one’s ends’.  The ultimate end of all human endeavors is therefore, happiness in this life and the beatific vision in the life to come. In reality therefore, and in line with Christ’s message, a poor person is one who is unable to get these two. If we are sincere with ourselves, we will agree that in our society today, the happiest persons are those who possess little material possessions and are content with what they have. They are not afraid of armed bandits, they are not afraid of economic downturns and recessions, they are not afraid of falling share prices, they are not afraid of sinking ships, they are not afraid of being over-taken in any power tussle, in short they realise and agree with Democritus that “If only a few goods are desired, these will seem many because a restrained demand makes poverty equivalent to wealth. Hence, they do not continue striving after the illusion called wealth. Men consider themselves materially poor, only when they begin to crave for much more than they need.

By now you must be wondering whether I am insinuating that people stop working hard to make life more comfortable. No! Far be it that I advocate such a position. All I am saying is that men should get their priorities right since the greatest complications of life arise from misplaced priorities.

What We Should Do

We cannot forget about most preachers, who today feel that the best solution to the problem of poverty is to mentally rise above it. All the preaching and prayers against poverty are never going to solve the problem. Why? Because it is the senses they appeal to and nothing more. The eloquent voice of the preachers, the harmony of praise chants, the pomp of church ceremonies, and the immensity of the congregation are what strike the people. As soon as all these end, the senses, meeting only the object of human passions and the stark reality of life, return to the quest for those things that they had been made to think were in their grasp.  Rather, let preachers exalt hard work and make people realise that their ultimate goal in life is happiness, which can be achieved with the barest of material possessions. If Christ spoke so hard against riches, it was never because they were bad in themselves but because detachment is more difficult for the wealthy. Their situation is made worse today by the fact that many preachers navigate their sermons today to suit them (the rich). In this case, most of them hardly ever hear the real truth about themselves. Little wonder we see many churches today with mighty structures but occupied by people with little or no faith. Clergymen are judged today, not by how many they converted while in a parish but by how many buildings and other projects they accomplished. What a pity?

Final Word

As a final word, I say to preachers: build the faith of people and you will not be afraid to preach objectively, since a faithful man will carry out his obligations to God no matter what the situation or what you say to him. In fact, many people do more when they realise you are not interested in how much they can do. Let people again begin to re-live the story of the widow who gave the highest, not because she gave much but because she gave all. Stop making people feel that the Kingdom of God can be bought with money.  To my brethren I say: let’s be content with what we have and try to be as comfortable as we can be in the state in which we find ourselves in life. While we must be ambitious, this should not be devoid of reason.