By Ralph Madugu
Christians have been charged to see their votes as talents given by God to trade with and must not be wasted.
Former Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and current member representing Tafawa Balewa, Bogoro and Dass Federal Constituency in the National Assembly threw the challenge in a keynote address at a summit tagged ‘Meet the Church Summit’ in Abuja organized by the Nigerian National Christian Coalition (NNCC).
Yakubu Dogara, whose message was on the topic, “The role of the Church in Nation-Building,” stated that every Christian must see his vote as talents given to him by God to trade with and as seeds that must not be wasted.
The lawmaker added that Christians don’t even have the liberty to preserve their votes just like the wicked and lazy servant in the Bible did with the talent given to him, hence they must cast their votes on “a fertile ground.”
Dogara, who admonished Christians to cast their votes in a “fertile ground” which they know can win the election, stated that nothing less is expected of the Church, adding that anything less would amount to waste, which Jesus abhor.
“Just think about the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 hungry people in John 6. Once everyone was fed, it seemed the story would end, but Jesus had one more lesson to teach. He instructed the disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted”. Jesus didn’t even allow crumbs to waste. Is there any farmer out there who would rather sow his seed on hard or thorny ground as against fertile land?”
On the role of the Church in nation-building, the lawmaker cautioned the Church against abdicating its divine responsibility by fighting for justice for both Christians, Muslims and persons of other faiths, including those who choose not to believe at all.
“As Christians, we don’t have to overemphasize the indivisibility of justice because what is justice for the Christian is justice for the Muslim and persons of other faiths.”
According to him, God does not expect others who do not bear His name to secure healing for the country as commanded in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, emphasizing that God “squarely places the responsibility for the healing of our land on us, his people and not on others.”
He pointed out that Nigeria’s problems were not persecution, hate crimes, greed, corruption, nepotism or anarchy but these were “only physical symptoms” of the fact that Christians had abdicated their spiritual responsibility, adding that if the Church fulfills the conditions stipulated the Scriptures, God would have no option but to heal the land.
“I say this with all sense of responsibility as God is too holy to lie or be separated from his word. God cannot violate his word and still remain God.
“The church must be eternally vigilant in order to protect constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
“In order to be vigilant, we must utilize our skills to build networks. In this regard, efforts led for and by Christians will not be effective unless it is borderless and extends beyond ethnicity or particular faith.
He identified inclusivity as key to advancing religious freedom for nation building adding that networking among Christians must include Muslims, people of other faith and even those who repudiate religion.”
Through these networks, Dogara said, the church can deploy its skills in promoting constructive dialogue that targets eliminating prejudice and fear.
“This dialogue must engage allies and known oppressors as well.”
He explained that dialogue may result in getting religious leaders to teach by emphasizing the ethical codes of their beliefs that brings about peaceful co-existence in a plural society.
Through dialogue, Dogara opined, leaders could be encouraged to harness the innate virtues of religion for nation building.
Said he: “The church must support capacity building to promote resilience in communities. These can be done by offering training in conflict resolution to Community leaders and activists with the sole aim of equipping them to detect red flags and respond to signs of incipient violence before they snowball. If the church toils hard in this endeavor, we can help build resilient, inclusive communities, in which equal rights of all people are recognized regardless of religion or belief.”
On the way forward, Dogara submitted that though Christians and Muslims would always disagree on some issues, there were however, many things they could agree on and were enough to carry on with the task of nation-building based on those common issues they agree on.
He admitted that, just as Muslims alone cannot build a nation out of Nigeria, Christians alone, cannot hence they need to work together but cautioned that in working together with Muslims, the church must embrace wisdom. “Knowledge is knowing the right things while wisdom is the application of the right things you know. Every Christian knows that our God does not tolerate waste. Is un-Christian for the church to waste anything given to us from above as we own nothing except what is giving to us from above,” he stressed.