ent, in the Christian Church, is a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides a 40-day period for fasting and abstinence (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. In Eastern churches Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday that is nine days before Easter. This 40-day “Great Lent” includes Saturdays and Sundays as relaxed fast days. In addition, Catholics and other Christians often choose to give up specific pleasures, such as sweets, alcohol, or social media, during Lent as a way to foster simplicity and self-control; many use their cravings or desires for these items as a reminder to pray and to refocus on spiritual matters.
For the past five weeks now, Christians especially Catholics round the world, have been engaged in their annual Lenten observance of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. These ancient practices are rooted in scripture right from the days of Abraham, Moses, Aaron, and David. From 23rd March 2023, our Muslim brothers and sisters began their own annual Ramadan, equally engaging in works of prayers, fasting and almsgiving.
Ramadan, In Islam, a holy month of fasting, the ninth month of the Muslim year, commemorating the revelation of the Qurʾān to Muhammad. As an act of atonement, Muslims are required to fast and abstain from sexual activity during the daylight hours of Ramadan. Determined according to the lunar calendar, Ramadan can fall in any season of the year. The Ramadan fast is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and the end of the fast is celebrated as one of the important religious holidays of Islam.
In this reflection, I have decided to draw inspiration from one of the ancient prophets of Christianity and Islam, in the person of Moses. “Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28).
The story of Moses and the Ten Commandments is a powerful one that offers many lessons for us Nigerians as we continue the discipline of Lent and Ramadan. Here are some possible lessons: Honoring your commitments: Moses made a covenant with God to follow His commandments and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses demonstrated the importance of keeping your word and honoring your commitments. Standing up for what is right: Moses stood up to Pharaoh and demanded the release of his people, even though it was a risky and dangerous thing to do. This teaches us the importance of standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult. Respect for authority: Despite his disagreement with Pharaoh, Moses demonstrated respect for the authority of the position, which is why he approached Pharaoh and asked for the release of his people rather than inciting a rebellion. The power of faith: Moses had faith in God and in the ultimate success of his mission. This faith helped him persevere through many obstacles and ultimately led to the liberation of his people. The value of humility: Although Moses was a great leader; he remained humble and aware of his limitations. This is evident in his willingness to accept advice from his father-in-law, Jethro. The importance of forgiveness: After the Israelites sinned by worshipping the golden calf, Moses interceded on their behalf and pleaded with God to forgive them. This shows the importance of forgiveness and the power of repentance. The dangers of greed and materialism: The Ten Commandments include a prohibition against coveting what belongs to others. This teaches us the dangers of greed and materialism, and the importance of being content with what we have. Overall, the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments teaches us about the importance of faith, integrity, leadership, and moral values. These lessons are relevant not only in religious contexts but also in our everyday lives in these days of Lent and Ramadan.
As we reflect on the importance of the ten commandments and the personality of Moses, we still remind ourselves the need to practice in our lives what we learn from the lips of the prophets, as James will say it, we should be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22-25). The Ten Commandments and the lessons from the life of Moses will continue to be our guide as we reflect on the still existing tension from the fallouts of the 2023 general elections. We know we are in need of healing, we will talk about justice first as we approach the banquet of healing, the two belong to the same coin.
On the 2nd of March, the Dar Al Andalus Centre, an Interfaith Initiative, supported by the Cordoba Peace Institute Geneva, organized a one day round table discussion on reduction of inter-religious tensions and promotion of social cohesion in Nigeria. This roundtable discussion brought together, respectable religious leaders in the country, to reflect on the 2023 general elections, and the lessons we have learnt from the exercise. Imam Jameel Muhamad Jameel and my humble self were the key speakers. We all spoke in honest terms, how these elections have brought out the worst of us, in terms of our attachments to our ethnic and religious sentiments. There were many interesting comments, presentations and exercises. One of such is called decisive moments, it was an exercise meant to bring out the perception of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria against each other. It was interesting what we currently perceive each other to be. The next paragraph summarizes what Christians like about Muslims and what they dislike; and what Muslims like about Christians and what they dislike.
What Christians like about Muslims include, Muslim take their faith seriously and respect their prophets, they are open-minded; they have strong brotherly love among themselves; they are sincere; they take politics seriously. In addition, the Muslims said the things they like about Christians include: Christians are very good at long term planning, unity through diversity despite the sects unlike in Islam; exceptional volunteerism time and resources e.g monthly tight; loyalty to religious leaders, no usual public countering of leaders; welfares (Hospital/ IDP/ orphanage visitation and donation). The next paragraph is about the dislikes:
What Christians say they did not like about Muslims include, Muslims seek leadership all cost; take faith to the extreme: lack of critical thinking among many Muslims; treatment and views towards women not encouraging; violent approach to issues generally. What Muslims say they did not like about Christians include: Christians have the spirit of domination, intolerance to Muslim minorities compared to Christian minorities; open discrimination and denial of access to lands and jobs like in southern region, stereotyping and tagging terrorism to Islam, open attack against Muslim and regard many Muslim Initiatives as Islamization agenda.
Going through these likes and dislikes, simply reminds me of the principle of the golden rule, that is what seems to be lacking in both Christians and Muslims. At this point, I referred the participants to an article I wrote titled, Igbo Muslims and Hausa Christians: The principle of the golden rule. This for me is quite central to the reduction of inter-religious tensions in Nigeria.
One of the key documents used in the round table talk, is the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian Philosopher, who articulates the suffering of the citizens, as a consequences of lack of Education, Objectivity, and Critical Thinking. The last elections humbled us all in that regards. Lent and Ramadan should encourage us to be sober, to be educated spiritually, in civil matters, and to be critical. Because the oppressor, likes the oppressed when they are less critical. Happy Easter in Advance and Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim friends.