The First Step Towards Your Freedom Is to Know Your Rights
It is said, “knowledge is power,” and biblically, “ my people perish for lack of knowledge.” However, there are situations that may arise and we may have the knowledge but we will not know how / when to apply it or we may be afraid to apply it. That is the problem with many people in the world. Many people have been so intimidated that they are afraid to stand for their rights even in a democratic country.
There are conflicts around the world because of violations of fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, it seems nobody is ready to help the weak among us, even the world powers are after their own personal interest before our global interest. Consequently, many people suffer in silence not because of ignorance but of fear. Lo! How long must we live in fear?
My younger brother narrated his ordeal during his Nation Youth Service Corp (NYSC) while serving in Zamfara state, northern part of Nigeria. One of the aims of NYSC is to give Nigerian youths the opportunity to mingle with others of different ethnicity and religious background. The idea is to foster peaceful coexistence and tolerance among Nigerians. However, it has failed to achieve such enviable objective.
Zamfara State is a Muslim state and my brother has a Christian background. It then follows that a Christian from the Southeastern part of Nigeria was assigned to the Northern part of Nigeria. My brother was not the only Christian posted to the state. He said , after the usual NYSC clearance, he was posted to a local government in the state to serve his country.
There was no church nearby for Christian Corp members to worship. Consequently, on Sundays the Christians in the area would gather in a building to sing praises and worship as Christians. However, some Muslims in the area were not okay with Christians being in their midst and worshipping. Therefore, whenever the Christian Corp members gather to worship, the Muslim youths would throw stones at them and the building. The Corp members became afraid to worship in the open. They reported the matter to the authorities and security agents.
My brother said that the authorities which included a police officer and the person in charge of NYSC in the area called for a meeting. Luckily, my brother was among the two Christians who were invited for the meeting. The other represented the Catholic faith. After serious deliberations by those in authority who were all Muslim and the claim that Christians will try to convert their children. They came up with two options for the Corp members.
1) The Corp members can decide to avoid gathering and stay in their rooms and pray quietly
2) The Corp members can go to another local government nearby that has a church and worship there.
The Corp member who represented the Catholic faith agreed to accept the options. But when my brother, who is a Pentecostal, was asked of his stand in the matter. He stood up asked, “ What is the name of this country?” they said Nigeria. He continued, “ I am also a Nigerian and I have the right to worship in any part of Nigeria, freely because it is my country. In my village, we have a big mosque. Muslims pray freely in it and they ring their bell very early in the morning when we are still asleep. The bell disturbs our sleep but we do not bother because it is their right as Nigerians. We have never stopped them from worshipping in my village. Therefore, we shall continue to gather and worship as usual but I can assure you that we shall not try to convert your children or preach to them. Secondly, if your youths throw stones at us again or attack us in any way. Then I shall make a phone call to my people in the village so that they can start destroying the mosque.”
Everyone was surprised and they asked him to repeat his last statement and he boldly did with sound of warning. Those in charge deliberated again and agreed that the Corps are free to worship as usual. My brother said that since that day nobody threw stones at them or disturbed them in any form. Even other Christian sects that were afraid to come out and worship benefited from the decision.
The truth is that those in authority knew he was right. They know the right thing to do but they would want to protect their own interest first rather than our collective interest despite that they are there to serve the citizens. Most of them would want to serve themselves first. Therefore, if you want your right you may have to insist, persist, and fight for it.
My brother said that when he was close to the end of his NYSC a wealthy Emir in the local Government invited him over. The Emir told my brother that a Muslim girl admires my brother and would want to marry him. The girl was also present so the Emir asked my brother if he likes the girl. My brother said the girl was so beautiful that he did not hesitate to say yes. The Emir agreed that they can get married but under the condition that my brother would have to convert to Islam.
My brother expressed the need to think about the offer and the condition before making a decision. He also told the Emir of the importance of talking to his family about it so the Emir gave him time to think about it. However, upon completion of the service, my brother quietly left Zamfara State. If the Emir has agreed to let his relative get married to my brother then it means he also likes him. There is no doubt that the courage my brother showed by standing for his right would make those in authority want to win him over and have him in their team.
Obviously, when people try to use you and fail they may want to win you over or make you their friend. If you know your right and insist on it then you will definitely get it even though at times it may be in agony. We should learn never to allow others determine our fate in life. The world belongs to all of us and most times people will not give you what is yours unless you insist and fight for it.