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RIGHTSView: Legitimacy and necessity of self-defence

By Emmanuel Onwubiko on 15/10/2014

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Never known for intellectual cowardice or duplicitous diplomacy, the Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, said recently that it was a religious obligation binding on Christians to use, “moderate and proportionate force” to defend themselves against the onslaught on them by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, arguing that it was a biblical teaching.

He also said that Christian communities that observe absolute pacifism have all ceased to exist.

Writing in the Vanguard of Monday October 6, 2014, Luka Biniyat of the Kaduna State Bureau reported the former chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, as also coming down heavily on retired generals from Southern Kaduna, where he alleged Fulani gunmen have killed several hundreds of persons since 2011. He described the act of reticence by Christians as, “gross act of irresponsibility.”

Bagobiri said this in his homily at a reception organised for the immediate past Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Engr Andy La’ah Yakubu, in Unguwan Wakili, Zangon Kataf Local Governenmt Area, in Southern part of Kaduna State.

The Bishop quoted extensively from the official magisterium on legitimacy of self-defence. The magisterium is the official teachings of the Catholic Church that have universal application. He said: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as an act of love towards oneself; and carried out in defence of God’s gift to life, which we are merely custodians. The theological authorities of the Church are emphatic: Love towards oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.
“Therefore, it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder, even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defence, to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”

The Catholic Bishop, vast in theology and philosophy, went deeper into his rich collection of theological researched materials, to cite several authorities grounded in the universal teachings of the Catholic Church to support his affirmation that it is incumbent on man to do everything legitimate to defend his right to life.

His words: “The magisterium is further explicit on this subject matter when it teaches that ‘legitimate defence’ can not only be a right, but grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defence of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. It must be stated clearly here that in light of the above official church statement, that  the exercise of self-defence does not amount to unforgiveness; nor is it to be seen as an act of vengeance or vendetta.

“Christians must do everything within their powers to protect their lives from being snuffed off by Satanist-driven Islamic organisations. Christian communities that observe absolute pacifism have all ceased to exist, according to researchers into Christian persecution.”

This man of God who enjoys widespread national and international reputation as a fearless advocate of social justice and an egalitarian and liberal Nigerian society that upgrades the respect for right to life as sacrosanct did not, however, treat the topic of why the authority of the Vatican City, which is a sovereign entity recognised by the United Nations; and with diplomatic presence in over 100 countries, does not have military facilities to defend the right to life of Christians. The Vatican City must go beyond the mere funding of a formidably well-trained Swiss Guards: made up of only very few troops that solely protect the Holy Father, to the arena of amassing military force to defend not only her territorial integrity but to defend the right to life of Christians working through the United Nations Security Council framework in partnership with the five permanent members. If the Vatican City cannot embark on this military adventure, then it has to more seriously play active diplomatic role of mounting global pressure on the international community to use all means necessary to protect threatened minority groups and religious communities across the globe, especially in those territories that armed Islamists have declared total war against the existence of such human persons. 

In my over two decades of human rights activism, I also think that the Universal Declarations of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Nigerian Constitution (chapter four): all of which support RIGHT TO LIFE of human persons, will definitely not be in support of a stupid fallacy of not allowing citizens bear arms legally to defend this sacred right to life, only for some irrational arms-bearing beasts to roam around freely in all corners of the country, using all violent means to eliminate them (innocent citizens) from the physical world.
Incidentally, this powerful teaching of Bishop Joseph Bagobiri whom I have personal knowledge of, came about the same time that the newspapers were also awash with the admonition of President Goodluck Jonathan, who defended the Islamic Religion against the popular charge that majority of the adherents who are of the radical school of thought supports nihilism and terrorism. Goodluck Jonathan's acclaimed defence of the Islamic religion is clearly an attempt by the President to play to the gallery of diplomacy. I, too, in my moment of sober diplomacy, have also played to the same duplicitous diplomatic fallacious gallery, which over time has come under unprecedented attacks by the adherents who themselves have done just the opposite and have continued to paint their religion in notorious light.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the most dangerous terror organisation globally, as well as the terrorists in Somalia and Northern Nigeria, have all but painted graphic pictures of irrational animals who have killed thousands of human beings of other religions, just for not accepting the bloody and radical dimension of their religion. President Jonathan is, therefore, not alone in this innocuous attempt at pacifism because, yours truly, has in the past written a widely circulated and published piece stating that Islam is not the same as terrorism, in an article I then titled “Islam and Terrorism: Any Nexus?” I had based my judgment from my close observations of the lifestyles of some of my Moslem friends with whom we grew up in Northern Nigeria. But current trends in internal and global terrorism, in which many radical Moslems have clearly read out their manifestos for committing varying degrees of despicable and gruesome criminal acts of brutality and anarchy as their own way of spreading their brand of Islam, have all but contradicted this humble perception I had shared just like what President Jonathan just did while celebrating the Sallah of 2014, in which his government declared two days holiday outside the weekend religious event.

How do we justify our acclaimed belief that the religion of Islam abhors violence and terrorism, given that the preponderant percentage of violent terrorists around the world, including Nigeria, have appeared severally in the online media and television that operate in the Western world to interrogate our perception that Islam is not a religion of violence.

While I have no intention of changing my perception that Islam preaches peace, I also think that Bishop Bagobiri’s well-articulated and clearly written defence of the right to life and the need to defend it by all means legitimate is germane. This, again, brings us to an article I wrote earlier, asking that the right to own firearms by all and sundry, especially persons that have passed the medical test of sanity and are of unquestionable character, must be revisited and supported. This is important, because it is primitive to continue to insist that people should not be tolerated to bear arms legally while hoodlums, wielding sophisticated arms and ammunition are busy killing, maiming and destroying lives and property of citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ironically, both the Federal and state governments look on, without taking constitutional and legal means to bring to an end these episodes of violence and bloody terrorism. It is indeed a Universal Human Right for Nigerians to Individually Defend Their Right to Life.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 15/10/2014 4:18:01 PM


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