Nigeria is a deeply religious country. No matter how we try to sound objective about our religious issues, we cannot deny the fact that there is always a silent war between the Nigerian Christians and the Nigerian muslims communities. We never truly agree on all fronts, although we have managed to coexist amidst myriads of differences for years.
Like our internal feuds, whenever the issues of the Israeli – Palestinian fights erupt, we take sides according to our religious beliefs. A Nigerian Christian would quickly side with the state of Israel while a Nigerian Muslim does same with the state of Palestine. We do this most times without taking into consideration the immediate causes of their feuds.
For us Christians in Nigeria, Israel is a Christian state named in the bible as God’s people and Palestinians are uncircumcised Philistines and Muslims.Nigerian muslims feel the same about Israel. They believe Israelis are infidels who have forcefully taken the holy land from its original owners and followers of Allah, the Palestinians . Added to all these, Christians in Nigeria also consider the Israeli military might over Palestine and other Muslim middle eastern countries as an evidence of the superiority of the Christian God over over gods.
The Bible has several historical records of how the children of Israel often won their wars against their opponents with divine help of their God, Jehovah, also known as Yahweh.
But are these Christian-Muslim divisions and beliefs about the present state of Israel and the state of Palestine actually true? Here are the facts:
𝐈𝐬𝐫𝐚𝐞𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞
The state of Israel is presently defined as a Jewish and democratic state and not as a Christian state.
𝐎𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐭𝐰𝐨 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭 o𝐟 𝐈𝐬𝐫𝐚𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬
Out of the 9 million population of Israel, only 2% are Christians. That is about 250,000 only are followers of Yeshua (Jesus Christ).
𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐌𝐮𝐬𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐬 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐈𝐬𝐫𝐚𝐞𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬
As shocking as this may seem to many Nigerian Christians, there are actually more Muslims in Israel than there are Christians. Out of the 9 million population of Israel, native Muslims makeup 14% of that population. Hence, about 1.26m Israelis are Muslims compared to only about 250,000 Christian population in the country. There are even communities which practice the Islamic sharia law in Israel with well established Shaira courts.
𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐩𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐈𝐬𝐫𝐚𝐞𝐥
Yes! This may also come as a shocker to Christians in Nigeria. There are actually more Christians population in Palestine than there are in Israel. Out of the over 4.5m population of Palestine, about 9% are Christians. That accounts for over 450,000 Christians of Palestinian origin. I bet we never expected this, right?
The state of Israel comprises over 74% followers of Jewish (Hiloni, Masorti,Darti and Haredi), 17% Muslims, 2% Christians and 1.6% Druze. The remaining 4.4% included faiths such as Samaritanism and Baháʼí as well as “religiously unclassified”, the category for all who do not belong to one of the recognized communities.
However, it is important to note that many Muslims in Israel still identify themselves as Palestinians.
𝐃𝐨 𝐉𝐞𝐰𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐉𝐮𝐝𝐚𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐉𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐬 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭?
Jews believe in individual and collective participation in an eternal dialogue with God through tradition, rituals, prayers and ethical actions. Christianity generally believes in a Triune God, one person of whom became human. Judaism emphasizes the Oneness of God and rejects the Christian concept of God in human form (Jesus).
Jews believe in the God of Moses, Isaac and Abraham. They believe in the 10 commandment but do not believe in Jesus Christ and believe that their messiah is yet to come.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐎𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐬𝐫𝐚𝐞𝐥𝐢-𝐏𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐭inian 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐭
The history of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict began with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.This conflict came from the intercommunal violence in Mandatory Palestine between Israelis and Arabs from 1920 and erupted into full-scale hostilities in the 1947–48 civil war. The conflict continues to the present day on various levels.
This war erupted after David Grün founded the Zionist state of Israel in 1948 following a failed attempt by the Nazi Germans to exterminate the Jews during the 1945 world war II. 6 million Jews were murdered by Hitler led Nazi army and this led to Jews to re-identity themselves in their native land, which was by then occupied and annexed as Palestine.
According to the Hebrew Bible, the various tribes of Israel united in the 10th century BCE and formed the Kingdom of Israel and Judah, under the leadership of Saul, who was later overthrown by David; after the death of David, his son Solomon ascended to the throne and reigned until his death, after which the Kingdom was invaded, conquered and ruled by the Babylonians. For several centuries Israel was conquered and ruled by various groups, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists and others. From 1517 to 1917, Israel, along with much of the Middle East, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
However, following the events of World War I, there was a dramatically alteration to the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. In 1917, at the height of the war, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour submitted a letter of intent supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine ((modern-day Israel, Palestine and Jordan) —known thereafter as the Balfour Declaration.
Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour Declaration, concerned that a Jewish homeland would mean the subjugation of Arab Palestinians. The British controlled Palestine until Israel, in the years following the end of World War II, became an independent state in 1947 – 1948.So clearly, the conflict between Israel and Palestine may have a religious undertone but it was primarily a a war between two tribes – the native Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Palestine.
𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐆𝐨𝐭 𝐈𝐧𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐝
The main land is dispute is Jerusalem. A holy land mentioned in both the Quoran and the Holy Bible. Jerusalem hosts both Christians and Muslims holy sites like the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of Rock and The Walled Plateau. The mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and sits on a sprawling plateau that is also home to the iconic golden Dome of the Rock. Muslims refer to the compound as the Noble Sanctuary. The walled plateau is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount, because it was the location of biblical temples. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D., with only the Western Wall remaining. The mosques were built centuries later.
Neighboring Jordan serves as the custodian of the site, which is operated by an Islamic endowment known as the Waqf. The site is open to tourists during certain times but only Muslims are allowed to pray there. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the holiest site where Jews can pray. The contention of ownership of the land of Jerusalem, considered a holy land for both the Jews and the Arabs, fuels the religious aspects of the conflict. This has led to Muslim extremist like Hamas and Hezbollah declaring Israel an arc enemy and promising to exterminate the Jews and Israel fortifying their military to ensure superior dominance in any armed conflict against them.
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐭
On 6 May 2021, Palestinians began protesting in Jerusalem over a forthcoming decision of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the eviction of four Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The area is informally annexed to Israel but under international law remains part of the Palestinian territories which Israel administers under belligerent occupation. The protests quickly escalated into violent confrontations between Jewish and Palestinian protesters. The following day, the major Islamic holy site and the holiest to Judaism, known as al-Aqsa Mosque compound or Temple Mount, was stormed by the Israeli police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against firecrackers and stone-throwing Palestinians.
This was quickly followed by Hamas, an Islamic extremist organization that controls parts of Gaza Strips launching myriads of rockets into Israeli cities killing about 5 civilians and one military personal, though 99% were neutralized by the Iron Dome technology, and fueling colossal reprisals from Israel that led to the deaths of Palestinian civilians including women and children thereby attracting international attention.
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐝𝐨 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲, 𝐈𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐦 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐉𝐮𝐝𝐚𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞?
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all originated from the middle east and are all monotheistic religions.
𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐉𝐞𝐰𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐍𝐢𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚?
There are certain claims of Jewish ancestry in Nigeria and those who currently practice Judaism.
The Igbo people, a section of the Annang/Efik people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states and a section of the Yoruba people in Ondo state all claim ancestral ties to the Jewish people. A few of these tribes also practice Judaism in Nigeria though the exact population is not known.
The Jewish community among the Yoruba are often referred to as the Bnai Ephraim (Children of Ephraim). Most of them around various communities in Ondo state since the 1930s, about 2000 people in all.The Annang, Efik, and Ibibio people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States of Nigeria have had ancient religious practices that strongly resembled some of the Jewish Torah.
The Igbo Jews of Nigeria are one of the components of the Igbo ethnic group.
Certain Nigerian communities with Judaic practices have been receiving help from individual Israelis and American Jews who work in Nigeria, out-reach organizations like Kulanu, and African-American Jewish communities in America. Jews from outside Nigeria founded two synagogues in Nigeria, which are attended and maintained by Igbos.
𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐍𝐢𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐬 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐧?
I have taken sides before in this Israeli – Palestinian feud, not just as a Nigerian Christian, based on the view that I considered Israel a Christian state and because I have come to the conclusion (I stand corrected) that behaviorally, a devoted Christian would more readily take diplomatic steps to resolving a religious conflict than would a devoted Muslim.
However, the Israeli-Palestine Conflict is more of a land dispute rather than a religious dispute. Like I have clearly shown with facts in this piece, there are both Christians and Muslims in both sides of the divide. Hence, if we must take sides, it should be based on who is right or wrong and not based on who is Christian or Muslim.
What is more important is that we are a world of humans, irrespective of race, religion or tribes, and we need peace for a mutual coexistence, development and progress. I hope this piece helps someone, as it has helped me, understand this conflict better and how best to react when human decisions lead to the wastage of human lives and properties in this region or any region.