Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. This clearly means that everyone has the freedom to choose his own religion and practice it, so long as it does not in any way interfere or obstruct the freedom of others to practice their own faith and religion too. On this note, I wish to state that I am totally against this recurrent practice of Christian fanatics invading shrines and other places of worship which are considered sacred and holy by some traditionalists and pagans. They do this and then tag is “cleansing” or in our local popular parlance “ibu arusi or ngwongwo”. And they do this without the permission of the owners of those shrines who consider them sacred and integral to their own faith.
There is nowhere in the scriptures that Christ forced people to denounce their faith and believe in the Gospel or to follow him. Neither did the early Christians forcefully demand that people denounce their gods. It was always through dialogue and soul-reaching dialectical engagements, just like St. Paul did in Athens, where he saw many altars dedicated to different gods, but never destroyed them. He rather reasoned with the people, arguing from those gods that they know to the Unknown God.
It is therefore wrong for Christians to force people out of their freely chosen religion and pattern of belief and then shove Christianity down the throats by demanding they jettison their pagan way of life. I am writing this, because it has become a common norm for some prayer groups to ransack shrines, oracles and places of pagan worship and set them ablaze, without the permission of the owners, all in the name of evangelization.
In my line of work, I usually go to homes to bless sacred altars belonging to Christians. But on one occasion, I noticed upon entering the compound, a portable mini shrine in one corner of the compound which i was made to know belonged to the Man of the house and some of his sons, who of course were still alive at that time. The woman and some of her children asked me to destroy the shrine, since light and darkness cannot coexist. I told them that I cannot do that, because it’s an infringement on the right of the owners of that shrine. That I will never touch or torch the shrine and whatever is there, unless the real owners denounce and renounce it completely.
I am not in anyway saying Paganism or fetishism is the way to go, neither does this post condemn paganism or seek to project it in a bad light. I am only concerned about upholding justice, equity and fairness in our dealings with peoples of other faith. What is good for the goose the say is good for the gander. We cannot only cry out against injustice in matters that concern us and then pay blind eye to others when the same fate is meted out on them.
I have seen many Christians react with curses and vile words, when Churches or any sacred space by their standards were attacked and desecrated by unbelievers. They quickly rise to condemn the action as sacrilegious and an abomination which of course it is, because I am a Christian too. But these same Christians would go to sacred shrines belonging to people and destroy their oracles and set them ablaze and then think they are doing God’s work. They fail to realize that it is also an abomination and sacrilegious in the eyes of pagans to have their shrines, gods, totems and items of worship desecrated and attacked by the so called Christians.
Christianity by no means is not a religion of violence. On the contrary it is rather characterized by tolerance and recognition of other peoples’ right, including the right to choose their own gods, for everyman is the master of his own fate and captain of his soul. Christianity understands that freedom is what makes us truly human and even more makes our identity as Christians authentic.
A good Christian will always condemn the desecration of Shrines and Mosques, exactly the same way he condemns the desecration and defilement of Churches. He does this not on the basis of faith interest, but on the basis of justice, fairness, equality and fundamental rights and freedom of everyman to choose to live and plot his life the way he chooses. Any other thing apart from this, reeks of hypocrisy. For a wise man once said, “Whatever makes men good Christians, should also make them good citizens”.