Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a hugely religious person; in fact, scratch that, I’m not religious at all. If you asked me to tell you what I believed in, I would tell you that I believe in common sense, good manners and logic. And why shouldn’t I be non-religious? When I look around, all I see are‘people of God’ acting in ways that they should be ashamed of.
I mean, look at BokoHaraam and Al Shaabab. The former are kidnapping girls from their school dormitories and holding them ransom while the latter are sending young men and women on suicide missions in order to kill as many innocent men, women and children as they can. Throw in the recent news that a Sudanese woman will get hanged for converting to Christianity and marrying the man of her choosing and one gets a sense that some of those who subscribe to the Mohammedian faith have a few screws loose.
Mind you, do not for one second think that I’m denigrating the Islamic faith. It works for a billion plus people around the world and only a miniscule minority engage in wild, uncivilized behaviour.
In fact, I used to be a frequent guest at my friend’s Ramadhan dinners and the love his family showed to each one of their guests was extraordinary.
Hajji and his family treated all of us, Christian, Muslim, agnostic and atheist the very same. The dinners I shared with the family remain treasured memories even up to today. So, in my own experience with Muslims, I’ve found them gracious, kind and non-judgemental.
I come from an extended family that is almost wholeheartedly ‘saved’ i.e. Pentecostal and, as anyone who comes from a similar background knows, they can talk your ear off trying to get you to denounce your sins and “take Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and saviour”. Thankfully, they’ve let me be without necessarily washing their hands of me, Pontius Pilate-style.
They stopped trying to evangelize to me and they let me enjoy our family interactions in peace. I am less a person they are trying to convert and more an individual they enjoy spending some of their precious time with. I appreciate their more personal and less belligerent form of Christianity. They, and the many non-aggressive Christians that I socialize with, give their belief system a good name.
Sadly, I cannot say the same about some of those who subscribe to the above-mentioned religious beliefs.
For awhile now I’ve been itching to comment on the media war between the Christian-leaning Amazing Grace radio station and the Islamic-leaning Voice of Africa radio. They’ve been engaging in an unnecessary and tacky religious war of words about whose religion is better. To quote Amazing Grace owner Pastor Gregg Schoof, who was speaking to journalists, all his team is trying to do is “tell the truth”. That, my esteemed readers, is what I have a problem with and please remember that I’m not taking sides here.
Religion and faith is never, and can never, be about ‘truth’ simply because religious ‘truth’ is subjective. Every religious person thinks they are on the ‘correct’ path. It doesn’t matter if they believe in one supernatural being or hundreds of supernatural beings they share one thing, whatever they believe in cannot be definitively proved.
Religious chauvinism (a.k.a ‘I am right and everyone else is wrong’) is an odious cancer that we must resist from infecting our fair land. Remember the Egyptian statue that used to be located at the Kacyiru roundabout? According to rumour it was razed because it depicted some ancient god. More recently, Airtel billboards showing two lovely ladies harmlessly kissing a young man on the cheek were pulled down because, again according to rumour, some religious folks took exception to the image.
While I will not stick my neck out and say that the two stories are definitely accurate (the statue was rather ugly and perhaps Airtel did not get KCC clearance to use the billboard as the law stipulates), the fact that these rumours are out there says something about our society’s relationship with religion.
Please remember that your religious beliefs are YOURS and remain personal choices, don’t thrust them down anyone else’s throats. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. ‘Live and let live’ should be the only mantra we all religiously abide by.
Sunny Ntayombya is a journalist and postgraduate student