I recently read Uwem Akpan's book "Say You're One of Them" and it left a permanent ache in my heart, stomach, mind.
I'm processing it, and as i do, it feels like i hold things up to the light and say "What's this?" and magically it goes from something foreign and strange, to something familiar, something, perhaps even a part of me that i've known forever.
In one story, a boy named Jubril is fleeing the religious tension and murders that are happening in his home city of Khamfi. He's Muslim, most of the passengers on the bus are Christian (or animist). The tension is between Christians and Muslims, and he feels that if he can only keep his identity secret until he gets to his father's village, he will be safe. Problem is, he is missing a hand. The passengers are waiting and waiting for the bus driver to get back with black market fuel for their "Luxurious Bus", and meanwhile they are hot, poor, scared, mourning, completely shell shocked.
It's a tightly written story, whose ending comes too quickly. Someone sees his hand, pegs him as a Muslim, and he is taken off the bus and killed.
I am simplifying way too much - but when i read this i thought "What monsters are these who would kill a man for being a different religion? Especially a young boy, already maimed, without parents to protect him?" Actually, every story in this book raises an indignation that anyone would take advantage of children - and as such, i don't recommend moms with little children read this - we are already so sensitive to injustice.
But today i was thinking over that story, and realized this is us. This isn't Africa. No, we don't kill people we disagree with - but here's the tight little truth. In churches, don't we do the same thing to those who make us uncomfortable. We don't maybe spread outright lies about what they believe/do (or maybe we do. I can't say we don't, because i have seen that happen) - but we might make intimations, or "prayer requests" or share "in confidence" (gossip) about someone else, and effectively kill that person in the fellowship.
It's not Africa, it's not Muslims, it's not Christians, it's humanity. Humanity without Jesus.