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Proclaiming the true fast

Proclaiming the true fast

By Bayo Fasunwon
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Sometimes, the old wish they were children again, able to play with sand, bath naked in the rain, swim in shallow waters without a care and have a good laugh with good friends and known foes. These nostalgic feelings overwhelm me whenever I pass by a primary school near my dwelling place. The songs of the innocent souls remind me of my factory settings as a young boy. I know that these children may not feel the impact of songs. Just like me, they would be enraptured with melody and the drums that accompanied the wrongly sung lyrics. We cared less how right or wrong the words were. We just sang with joy, massaging our enthusiasm for the studies of the day. Beautiful and gleeful were those days. By the time we were transformed into teens, we began to understand the deep lessons in the songs, and memorized poems. In addition, what a great effect they had in our thinking, actions, and perception of life. However, the meanings of some of these songs may elude us until certain events of life begin to unfold. Such was my experience last week.

I was passing by when the children began to sing one of their rhymes in the class. Their voices were high, and I could hear them clearly. However, my mind veered off their songs for a while to think upon what the future holds for these innocent enthusiasts in Nigeria. I could not but look into a decade ahead, and an involuntary tear travelled down my cheeks. Government has a plan to feed their bellies with a lunch per day, but I wondered what their minds are being fed with outside the school and government policies on their parents. I had to bring myself to listen to their rhymes once again. They were singing or chanting “I see the Moon, the Moon sees me; God bless the Moon, and God bless me”. Then it hit me. Our muslim nationals have seen the Moon. The Ramadan fast began on Monday. All over the world, the Muslims are involved a month long period of ascetic living and chastity. A long period to avoid food, sin, and seek a closer relationship with God. A month before, the christians have also engaged in the forty days Lenten period, fasting and praying to God with a heart of penitence. Fast succeeds fast, and that got me worried.

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Statistics reveal that about ninety-five percent of Nigerians are either christians or muslims. In other words, this nation is made up of nationals who profess their total allegiance to the Almighty God, who demand righteousness, peace, and justice from the adherents of faith. The biggest churches in the world, the proficient Quran scholars and teachers are found in Nigeria. What a blessed country. Statistics also show that by the behaviours of these religious nationals, Nigeria still ranks among countries where a great caution is needed to live the good life.  Many bottles of alcohol are consumed, and high levels of carbon II oxide are inhaled via smoking in a country where ninety five percent of the population is adherents of religions that prohibit such acts. The question arises: Who consumes the beers, smoke the cigarettes, and commit the heinous crimes in this ‘God-fearing” nation? The five percent non-adherents?

Fasting is a period of self-denial, deliberate abstinence from pleasures for spiritual and health purposes. The spiritual purposes are usually given prominence over the health desires. It is also a time of sober reflections, over one’s life, living, attitudes, perceptions, actions, and inactions. For many, it is a period to demand for the provision of their lack and wants from the unseen but Omnipotent God; a period of seeking divine intervention in the vicissitudes of life, and a time to make peace with the maker of men as judgment day approaches. These are the personal interests in a fast. However, the Bible and the Quran make explicit the intentions of the Creator about fasting. From the perspective of the holy creeds, God wants mortals use the fasting period for the benefit of their fellow human beings. To Him, fasting should be used to deliver the oppressed from their oppressions and oppressors. It ought to be a period of setting captives free, giving food, clothing, and shelter to the needy. It is a period to abstain from the filthiness of the body, soul, and spirit, a period to think of the liberation of fellow mortals, rather than seeking personal pleasures. In other words, the period of fasting should be the time of joy to all men. It should be the period when crime and oppression should be at the lowest ebb. In Nigeria, it implies that the nation, given the percentage of adherents to both faiths, should at least enjoy seventy days of peace, tranquility, and considerations for the poor of the land. However, is that the case?

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The political leaders in Nigeria often claim to be staunch adherents to at least one of these faiths. They are sworn into power with an oath predicated on the infallibility of either the Bible or the Quran. It is therefore expected of them to use the period of the conventional fasts to reflect on their services to the masses. The fasting period should avail them the opportunity of shelving their primitive desires and focus on the needs of the masses, for once. Fasting periods should be the period of visitation of their constituencies to investigate their needs, and take proactive steps to alleviate such. Often times, politicians use this opportunity to open their big halls for all those who would love to break their fasts. The Amala politics takes the centre stage, of providing just a meal to a year-famished soul. These provisions are not what fasting prescribes. It is not a period to show piety by giving fish to the hungry. It ought to be a period of empowering the hungry to fish. The fasting period should open the doors to employment, scholarships, and inauguration of infrastructures. It should be a period, when the corrupt would open his vaults and make his communities benefit from the wealth stolen from them. True fasting, should ginger religious ‘authoritarian thieves’ into being penitent enough, as to giving at least half of the stolen wealth for the construction of roads, sinking of boreholes, clearing of drainages, installation of solar powered street lights, grading of street roads, filling of potholes, reaching out to the destitute, giving scholarships to the indigents, and making great contributions to their communities’ development. True fasting is a period of giving.

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Religious leaders should use the period of fasting in telling their congregations the truth. Fasting periods should be used to call a spade a spade. It is not a period to call corruption, mere stealing. It is a period when they should shun ‘the leaven of the Pharisees’. They should use the period to teach on the virtues of love, peace, and good neighbourliness. The fasting period should not be used by them to preach hate or demonise other religions. Our religious leaders ought to point the attention of the congregants to the needs of the people around them, and encourage them to give their widow’s mite to alleviate such needs. The fasting period should also be used to intercede for the nation before the God that is magnificent, merciful, and compassionate for a good turn around in our politics, economy, and social lives. This is the best period to intervene and reconcile warring factions in the family, community, and nation. Religious organisations can also use this period to organize free health services to many who are sick but could not afford medications. Religious bodies should therefore engage in humanitarian services in order to show the love of God too many whom in their depravity, choose to believe in the non-existence of the Supreme Deity. Therefore, religious leaders ought to use the period of fasting to distribute, rather than amassing wealth.

To the common man, who adheres to any of the fasting faiths, this period should be used to get acquainted with the expectations of God from mortal souls. It should be a period of studying the Holy Books, with an intention of doing its dictates, showing love to all, and contributing to the comfort of another. May God honour our fasts, and answer our good prayers. With a joyful heart, I join the children to sing: “I see the Moon, and the Moon sees me. God bless the Moon, and God bless me”

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Proclaiming the true fast

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Proclaiming the true fast

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