THE recent murder of a Christian preacher, Mrs. Eunice Olawale, in Abuja, has again brought to the fore the vexed issues of religious intolerance and insecurity in the country. The 42-year-old mother of seven and an assistant pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) was killed in the early hours of Saturday while on evangelism around Gbazango-West area of Kubwa in the Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The evangelist was waylaid and reportedly stabbed to death by suspected religious fanatics who had probably been irked by her evangelistic activities. The victim, an indigene of Ekiti State, was a Deaconess at the Divine Touch Parish of RCCG, Kubwa, Abuja.
Olawale’s tragic end came on the heels of the recent killing of Mrs. Bridget Agbahime over allegations of religious “blasphemy” in Kano. Gideon Akaluka was also similarly murdered in Kano some years ago over alleged religious “blasphemy.” There are other instances of such brutal murders by religious fanatics.
We condemn the willful murder of Olawale. The increasing resort to killing in the name of religion must be checked by bringing the perpetrators of this criminal act to justice. The occasional tepid official reprimand of the perpetrators of these acts, and the lame promises to bring them to justice, have not, and cannot, deter their recurrence.
The killing of Mrs. Olawale is barbaric, inhuman and against all norms of civility. The dastardly act is against freedom of expression and religion as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 38 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) clearly states that: “every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private), to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Besides committing murder, the killers of Olawale infringed on her inalienable rights to freedom of speech, thought and religion. It is unacceptable for anyone or a group of people in the country to take the law into their hands, no matter the circumstances.
There are enough laws for anyone to seek redress for any wrongdoing by anybody, including religious “blasphemy.” The increasing resort to jungle justice to redress perceived grievances, as the instant case illustrates, is illegal, unjust and unacceptable. If the current wave of sectarian attacks by religious mobs is not stopped, it will surely lead to retaliation. Such a scenario will likely breed anarchy.
Killings that tend to suggest religious hatred and intolerance have repeatedly occurred in the northern part of the country. For instance, such bestiality has been reported in Kano, Niger, Kaduna and Borno states, just to name a few. These cases portend great danger for the country. The government’s silence on this latest murder is not helpful.
It is unfortunate that the Nigerian government does not take a strong exception to the unjust killings of citizens as we see it demonstrated in countries such as the United States and Britain. The government should speak up on the growing intolerance and religious killings in northern Nigeria.
The Olawale murder is also a big challenge to the Nigeria Police Force. Sadly enough, our security agencies have not demonstrated enough capacity in resolving murders in the country. This should not be the case in this instance.
Let them fish out those behind this criminality and prosecute them. The murder of this female evangelist should not go into the records as one of the unresolved murders in the country. It is time we respect the secularity of this country and insulate our public life from religion.
We say this because Nigeria cannot afford a sectarian war. We are fighting so many “wars” already. It will be tragic to add a religious one to the number. Above all, let us respect the sanctity of human life.