Last Saturday (02/04/2017), The Spectator (UK) carried an article by Douglas Murray who asked, ‘Who Will Protect Nigeria’s Northern Christians?’ Murray pointed out that the Fulani (militia) are watching everything closely from the surrounding mountains. Every week, their progress across the northern states of Plateau and Kaduna continues. Every week, more massacres – another village burned, its church razed, its inhabitants slaughtered, raped or chased away…
For the outside world, what is happening to the Christians of northern Nigeria is both beyond our imagination and beneath our interest… Villages have been persuaded to keep records of the attacks to show anyone who cares. One of the very few from outside who does – Britain’s own Baroness Cox – came here recently. Her vehicle was spotted by the Fulani, who came out hunting for her and only just missed their target. Because of attacks like this, almost nobody comes. Just one more reason why these atrocities do not attract the West’s attentions…
Murray writes of the region where three years ago the Boko Haran abducted three hundred school girls. While some have been rescued most are still captive. Murray commented, If the international community meant anything by its promises such as the UN’s ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, then what is happening could not go on. But the international community is uninterested…
HOW LONG, O LORD?
And, as we learn of these atrocities directed specifically against God’s people, our hearts cry out with the words of Psalm 13, How long, O Lord…?
In the course of talks and conversations I had over the last two weeks, in Orlando, FL and New York, one of the questions that arose was how to respond to the carping criticism about suffering in the world. It is an important question and also one of the toughest to answer for anyone who believes God not only exists, but is all-powerful and all-compassionate.
Our cry for justice…! All of us have within us a sense of right and wrong.
This suggests that we live in a moral universe. If we lived in a world that had come into existence simply through a process of spontaneous change, logically we would be nothing but particles, bumping around in some sort of meaningful connection. Our conscious state would be nothing more than electrical discharges in the human brain.
However, when we think about it, it’s difficult to be morally indignant about behavior that results from quarks smashing together. Consequently, the issues of evil and suffering and the cry for justice are irrelevant if our existence is simply the product of an evolutionary framework.
Is this a reason for the international and media silence about the plight of Christians in Northern Nigeria? But the reality is all men and women have a sense of justice – often ill-defined, but it is there.
Difficult though the subject of suffering is for anyone who believes in God, the Bible assures us that our cry for justice is right. It is right to condemn all wicked violence, all taking of innocent life. The Bible condemns the perpetrators of such deeds. Indeed, the Bible helps us to know evil when we see it.
SO WILL JUSTICE EVER OCCUR?
If we agree that we live in a moral universe, the picture the Bible paints makes a lot of sense and is very satisfying. Winston Churchill once observed that there had to be a hell, to bring the likes of Lenin and Trotsky and Hitler to justice. The good news is that one day God will call everyone to account.
But there is a sting in the tail. If we want justice to be done to others, we must agree that we too need to be brought to account. Yes, we long for justice and vindication, but we too are guilty before a good God.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote: ‘If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’
So, why doesn’t God step in now? The Bible’s answer is that God stays his hand for the present because he wants to give all men and women, like the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable, the opportunity to turn to him in repentance. The good news is that God will pardon and deliver us when we turn to Jesus Christ. His judgment may be slow as we count time, but it is very sure (2 Peter 3:9-13).
Here we see the passion of God’s love and our ultimate hope because of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus comes between God’s good creation, ruined by human sin with which the Bible begins, and the promise of a restored creation with which the Bible ends. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes… there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).
Does this mean we do nothing about the atrocities perpetrated against God’s people now? We have this responsibility – to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters, to find ways of letting them know of our awareness and even to find ways of providing support. And, as we are able, to let others, including leaders, know of the plight of the persecuted peoples. As Edmund Burke, 18th century philosopher and statesman remarked: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
© John G. Mason