By Gideon Para-Mallam (Revd)
Gideon is the regional secretary of IFES-EPSA (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He lives in Jos, Nigeria.
F.B. Meyer said: “In its deepest sense love is the perquisite of Christianity. To feel towards enemies what others feel towards friends . . . to be always the same, not subject to moods or fantasies or whims . . . to rejoice with the truth . . . ”
We live in an increasingly difficult time where demonstrating Christ’s love to one’s ‘enemy’ is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it is much harder to do so now than ever before. Yet, this is what our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, demands of us as His faithful disciples – Luke 6:27.
Without the help of the Holy Spirit it is not possible to love one’s enemy. This kind of love is divine and Spirit-inspired. It is uncommon love without any pre-conditions. The world is used to those who fight back but stunned by those who show love even when wrongfully mistreated. The world is more at home with the principle of retaliation but Jesus reveals a secret of conquering the world using God’s weaponry – LOVE!
There are some amazing stories of terrorist who have been transformed by love. For example in Northern Ireland, it was the public forgiveness of a father whose daughter was killed by terrorists that precipitated the beginning of the end of their protracted violent crises. An Indonesia Pastor reached out to a Muslim terrorist group in friendship and this paid off when the same terror group, after the Tsunami of 2004, assisted in the distribution of materials to victims regardless of their religious identity.
From the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Kenya to the Boko Haram in Nigeria, Christians and their places of worship have become targets of bombs and gun attacks. Boko Haram has left no one in doubt of their ultimate desire to see Shariah Islamic law implemented in full. They bomb places of worship, kill Christians and Muslims and also attack the secular government of Nigeria and its symbols. Western education is detested and even seen as cursed, hence Boko Haram forbids it, yet ironically they use western technology to perpetuate their acts of terror. Thus, the University, a major centre of learning, has become a target of attacks with the first ever on a University campus on April 29th in Kano, Nigeria.
In Mali, Tuareg rebels, with the help of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, have taken over the Northern part of Mali, in French speaking Africa. Churches and Christian homes have been vandalized. Also, Missionaries, Christian students and church workers have all been sacked from Gao. Christians are now the target of hate crimes in some parts of the globe where selective killings are taking place. Still, Jesus calls us to love in return for hate, forgive instead of retaliate, and make peace in place of war.
IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) is committed to preaching and teaching these noble ideals as part of her desire to promote peaceful-coexistence among students in Africa who are the future leaders. The Church will overcome not by bombs, guns, and machetes but by LOVE, righteous living, faithful prayer and proactive steps in advocacy as she seeks to live out godliness in society, promote justice and stand up to fight corruption and bad governance.
In the two Sudans, celebrations over the peaceful separation of the new Republic of South Sudan from the north were cut short after only 8 months. The drumbeats of war re-echoed with the vibrating sounds heard and impact felt well beyond the Continent. How can students in Africa’s Universities become harbingers of peace and agents of social transformation through the powerful message of love and forgiveness which are at the very heart of the goodnews?
I was deeply encouraged when 14 bishops: Catholic and Protestant, along with the Anglican Archbishop of York in the UK, recently signed a press statement urging peaceful means in the resolution of the crisis between the two Sudans. Earlier, the IFES students in Juba (FOCUS) held a peace rally in the University of Juba and promoting a peace agenda. In December 2011 and February 2012, the IFES-EPSA Regional Office working together with NIFES, Nigeria and 10 other collaborating bodies, three of which are Muslim groups, held peace gatherings in communities where Muslims and Christians live together.
At the first Peace Forum, Christian and Muslim University and College students pledged to work together for peace on their campuses. Later the Regional Office convened a top-level Peace Forum of senior Christian leaders and Muslim Sheiks and clerics. The search for peace may be long and ardours, yet, this is the honourable path IFES has chosen, in keeping with Christ’s declaration: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.’ Matt 5:9 (ESV).