Many faces of prejudice

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Chapel of our Lady of the Rosary - St Michael Vanquishing the Devil by Bonifacio de' Pitati. Oil on canvas 1530.

Racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination are mostly the result of conscious and unconscious biases. The season cannot be more urgent for the church to engage more aggressively in spreading the gospel message of love, equality and unity to heal division. It becomes very disconcerting to even entertain the idea that many Christians are guilty of these societal ills.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in America, a new awakening came upon the world regarding the level of inequalities plaguing the globe. It is hard to address social injustices if denial is a continuum and institutions, if even organisations like the Church abnegate the responsibility to take action.

It is more problematic when the systems fail to address the fact that prejudices can become embedded in institutions, whether they are conscious, unconscious, overt or covert.

Christianity is an essential call to be the good Samaritan, whose character transcends race, nationality, gender or disability. We are called to act only with love and empathy. These Godly attributes are challenged in our world today with so much division. The Church cannot have a better time to be more distinguished and relevant.

It is destructive to the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of people when they feel alienated and treated unfairly. It is unconscionable to treat people unequally for reasons such as race, social status, gender, nationality or disability.

Discriminations which are learned lead to the erosion of the moral structures of a society, and this can occur also within the church of Christ. However, love is our natural affinity and embracing it will bring healing to our broken world.

Good moral formation for children in a way that reinforces love and empathy will save the world from so much hate and division. Equality of outcome of a society is reflected in the proportionality of diversity in institutions. The Church should be exemplary in this regard, given that the Church is a microcosm of the larger society.

When the church allows institutional segregation, agitations against injustices by the marginalised become inevitable. Africans begin to ask when a Pope can come from their continent.  There have been many calls for beatification and canonisation of adherents from this continent that many feel have not been followed up, and people feel a real sense of isolation from the Vatican. One example of this in Nigeria, is the case for canonisation of Fr. Cyprian Iwene Tansi.

There are grievances where cases of Marian apparitions in Africa are felt not to have been properly investigated and validated as holy sites for pilgrimage. Two famous cases in Anambra and Benue states of Nigeria were treated as little more than hoaxes and locals feel aggrieved by this.

Many pagans taunt and ridicule African Christians for being brainwashed by the white man’s Christianity which paints pictures of only white angels and saints, while having Lucifer painted as black.

The Church should be the quintessential light for global illumination. This does not mean tearing down statues or ripping up classical art, but bringing up to date how its modern day practices.

Until citizens of every nation are no longer explicitly or implicitly classed as first or second, civil unrests, belligerence, dissidence, and wars will persist as resentment builds up. The Church can take a leading role in establishing justice on earth through its own example, which is resonant with Christian values of love, equality and empathy.