Religious leaders, imams and pastors, are humans and therefore fallible. But they have been ascribed, and some more than gladly have taken on a responsibility of being guardians of moral values. When allegations of moral infringements, such as the rape allegations against the likes of Biodun Fatoyinbo come up, we must realize several things:
1) It is an allegation until otherwise proven
2.) There is a need for these allegations to be investigated impartially, and that people are within their rights to demand an investigation into them.
3.) If found guilty, the perpetrator must be made to face the law.
Our rush to stifle investigations by branding the allegations as “an attack on the body of Christ”, or an attempt to “pull him down” is ludicrous, to say the least. All this is a counter attack on a man alleged to have viciously attacked the chastity of a child. The issue here is that for long, the cloaks of the religious order have been used to hoodwink the world from the atrocities men in the garbs and turbans have been committing.
Some months ago, 40-year-old Aminu Musa, who taught Qur’an memorization in Kano was caught, to borrow a recently remodeled expression, crimson-handed in the act of defiling his eight-year-old pupil. In his defense, and this was in a confessional video, the father of two blamed the devil for using him, blamed God because He decreed that such a thing would happen. Then he blamed the girl, because every time she didn’t understand her lessons, he would go over to explain and she would lean into him. He did not blame himself.
It is unnecessary to discuss my urge to do grievous violence to this man, who at that time was already in police custody.
Some months back in Lagos, Alfa Abdulsalam Salaudeen, 43, was caught on tape raping his five year-old pupil. He too has been arrested and is facing prosecution. In his confession, he admitted there was a prior allegation against him for raping another pupil in a place he used to live in. He blamed his enemies for casting spells on him. He too, like his colleague in Kano, did not take responsibility for his crime.
Because religion and religious institutions demand a higher moral standard from us, it is natural to expect more from them in return. And because people have always trusted these institutions and the individuals representing them, often without supervision over their children, the likelihood of such cases happening are very high. Get the scale off your eyes. This is a social problem, not an attack on the body of Christ or the sanctity of a mosque. This is not something to be hushed, not in this age.
Recently, I visited Germany and learnt how the Lutheran church in Berlin has taken measures to regulate conduct of its clergy and to provide a safe space for its members, especially the children. They investigate allegations of abuse, put measures in place to prevent such cases and created a channel where people who have been abused can safely and quietly report these cases to the committee. The pastor heading this committee is married to a woman who had been abused by a priest and is very passionate about this fight.
Our belief in religion, is principally driven by emotion and then logic, which is why the initial reaction to allegations of “men of God” committing such savagery is often an emotional, not rational, attempt to defend the faith with comebacks like “attack on the body of Christ or attack on OUR faith by enemies of God.” It is not.
Until religious institutions stop protecting culprits and start siding with victims, until they put in place measures to protect their members, and their clergy too, investigate rationally all allegations of abuse, desist from hushing these cases, suppressing the victims and allow justice to take its cause, we will be at this loggerhead for a while. Eventually, reason will prevail and religious institutions and their representatives will lose all relevance and reverence. Their futures are, as they say, entirely in their hands. Act now or live with the consequences.
Winter is coming, and it is going to be a long and complicated one.