It is Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to you. It is so amazing how great this celebration is, how the world literarily goes on overdrive about it, how even the weather, be it winter or harmattan, shares in the frenzy. Without doubt, the celebration has since gone beyond being just a religious festival. It is the world’s biggest party, the only time when some people take time to rest, reunite with family or spend quality time doing fun stuff. For many, especially in this clime, it is the only time they get to wear new cloths or even eat generous chunks of meat in their rice. It is generally a happy time for all; but really are we all happy?
There are a mass of people, a significant population of this world, who do not know it’s Christmas, for whom such indulgences as decorating trees, lighting fireworks or seeing Santa is luxury. There are people for whom it is just another day, another nightmare, just another twenty four hours of fighting for survival.
I write about the people in the middle of ragging wars the cause of which they know nothing about, caught in-between sometime; multiple armies that cannot even remember what they are fighting about; people living on hand outs in countless refugee camps across the world waiting for food and death. In Syria, in Afghanistan, in the Central Africa Republic, in Somalia, in South Sudan.
I write about people, some even our next door neighbours, our domestic staff or persons we pass by everyday who are constantly ridiculed, unjustly criticised, inhumanly treated, and enslaved financially and otherwise. People enduring the gravest forms of human labour, children abused and exploited, teenage girls auctioned by parents so the other mouths can have the next meal; people imprisoned or persecuted on account of their belief or by what name they call God; babies born into this world by parents who are ill prepared for them or simply uninterested in keeping them.
For these people, there is certainly nothing special about today.
Even closer home, the North Eastern axis of our country remains a war zone; thousands if not millions trapped and constantly being threatened by forces who claim to kill in the name of God but who have, as Wole Soyinka would say, literarily left God without a name. The rest of us living beyond that axis live in the constant threat of their actions even on this day with the police working over time, traditional Christmas eve activities canceled or poorly attended, worshippers frisked at church gates, hearts that skip at the sound of otherwise harmless fireworks.
Perhaps the brightest gift this Christmas, especially for families whose lives changed on a day like this through the activities of these negative forces, is the sentencing last week of Kabiru Sokoto, the mastermind of the 2011 Madalla Church Christmas day bombing. It was a long time coming with all the drama that attended it but it is some relief that he is now hopefully out of circulation until he dies. But he is just one person, we certainly do not feel safer yet.
I intend not to spoil your excitement today with such rather unhappy talk but it is important to put our celebrations into perspective and reassess what meaning this season has for us vis-à-vis the state the world has currently been put in through the actions (and inactions) of us humans. The joy the birth of Jesus brings or ought to bring the world has since been diffused by our inhumanity to one another, our egos which stops us from pursuing peace instead of war, our greed and daily desire to have more than everyone around us, our manipulation of systems, religion especially, for selfish ends, our refusal to speak against evil when we are not the victims.
Perhaps it is a good day to reflect once more on what really matters, what makes us human and how we can, through our change of attitude in our daily activities, contribute in shaping a better world right from our little areas of influence, the home, the class rooms, the work place, on social media, in our communities etc. It will be great to know that when we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come”, there is a resounding of it across the globe, as a truth.