Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Thought Picnic: Tolerating diversity on the streets of our humanity

Death on our streets
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Karl Marx [Wikipedia]
One fateful day in May 2013, a young 25-year old father of one who had served his country in the treacherous battlefields of Afghanistan and returned unscathed was butchered on the streets of London, his name was Lee Rigby.
The scene of that murder, macabre, gruesome and beyond belief was the handiwork of Michael Olumide Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, 22, both black, British and of Nigerian descent.
Just like me
Nigerian descent by reason of both their middle names and surnames which are of Yoruba origin, very much like mine are, we are Third Culture Kids.
“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” [Wikipedia]
That is probably where the similarity ends, beyond having Christian names this tale takes a turn for the worse.
Drugged by religion
They took religion, became religious and adopted an outlook to life and circumstances that seem to give cause to what they presumed was their oppressed existence – their fellow Muslims were suffering around the world; that appeared to justify their heartless act – to take an innocent human being off the street and butcher him like a dog and that informed their soulless utterances – expressing no empathy, care or remorse for the evil acts wrought by their hands.
They were opiated by religion that nothing they did made sense and whatever made sense to them was to any other human being manifestly evil, incomprehensibly beyond words and lacking in humanity that they had become demons in human skin.
Blinded by belief
They represented the extremes of how religion can blind people to the community, communion and commonality of our humanity with all its differences and diversity. The tendency to feel one has right by some deity or some instruction to lose perspective of the fundamental human rights of another and thereby deprive them of their freedom, their life, their expression and their pursuit of happiness.
As we battle with our conscience we sometimes lose consciousness of the fact that regardless of what we believe or what we are persuaded of, we may not understand the world of others besides ourselves, but as fellow human beings they have a right to live, survive and thrive in the world we all share – free of persecution, prosecution and execution - it is called tolerance.
Harm no one
The greater lesson here is not so much about heritage, culture or religion, but the need to recognise within ourselves our Good Samaritan humanity not to harm others because of our persuasion, omission, commission, inclination, indifference, silence or utterance.
Examples of which is fearfully expressed in the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria where children and people are massacred, and a government continually stand clueless of ability, purpose, resolve or empathy apart from the wringing of hands, the miniskirt ban in Uganda, the new homophobic laws of Nigeria and Uganda along with the religious and cultural expression that underpins such inclinations.
Free our streets from offence
As we all freely walk the streets and justice is served by taking extremists off our streets, we must be careful not to hound off the streets others whose only offence to us is to be different, diverse and divergent from what is our norm but not their norm.
Back to England, may Lee Rigby rest in peace, his family, relations and friends find some closure and strength in the fond memories of that innocent man and that we all learn that religious fanaticism can lead to ruinous consequences for both believer to the wider society. Our humanity must always inform, temper and moderate our beliefs, not the other way round.


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