When I’ve had discussions about religion and the bad parts of religion with some of my liberal religious friends, I point out that I don’t hear their leaders speaking out against the bad actions made in their religion’s name. If they fail to speak out against the extremism, it gives their religions a black eye. Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka seems to agree with me.
In a video address to the World Humanist Congress, at which he will be presented with its main award today, Soyinka will argue that even moderate religious leaders may be “vicariously liable” for sectarian hatred if they have failed to argue against it.
“The conflict between humanists and religionists has always been one between the torch of enlightenment and the chains of enslavement,” said Soyinka. “Those chains are not merely visible, but cruelly palpable. All too often they lead directly to the gallows, beheadings, to death under a hail of stones. In parts of the world today, the scroll of faith is indistinguishable from the roll call of death.”
He added that Boko Haram’s members considered abducting 200 girls to be “virtuous” and moderate Muslims could not simply disavow their actions with “pious incantations” that “these are not the true followers of the faith”. “We have to ask such leadership penitents: ‘Were there times when you kept silent while such states of mind, overt or disguised, were seeding fanaticism around you? Are you vicariously liable?'” said Soyinka. “The lesson of Boko Haram is not for any one nation. It is not for the African continent alone. The whole world should wake up to the fact that the menace is borderless, aggressive and unconscionable.”
If you are a Christian, Muslim, or even a Humanist, you must speak out against bad actions done in your name. The leaders of these belief groups also need to speak out or we all risk getting a black eye.
If you hear a member of your group making fun of a disabled person or trying to harass a woman, or who seems to be dismissive about a tragedy like the missing Nigerian girls, speak up and let that person know that isn’t appropriate behavior.
Silence = acquiescence