“12 Days of Christmas”: Day 10/12 – What would you do?
December 22, 2023.
WhatsApp serves both as a great tool for connectivity and, at times, a complete nuisance.
You can almost tell what happened.
I tend to be slow to speak in WhatsApp groups, reserving my contributions for discussions on matters of state, politics, or civic responsibilities rather than religious topics. My aversion to blending state matters with religion stems from a belief that such mixtures can lead to gullibility and hatred and I want to emphasize that I, OLUWATOYOSI, am not a hateful person and never will be.
So, this group, initially created for Catholics of all nationalities to pray for our troubled world, took an unfortunate turn. P.S.: I enjoy praying in groups because you get the opportunity to pray for things you might never have imagined, plus you get to know the thoughts of people who aren’t culturally yours. When did things go south? At least from my perspective, when did it go south?
On Tuesday, someone posted a Twitter link to a grand Hanuman statue to be unveiled in Brampton next year and said, “We don’t even have a crucifix or a nativity scene that meets this gigantic structure.” I didn’t know what he expected from commenters, but I had come to notice that this person engages in subtle nonsense in the group, and that night, I was in a bit of a mood to get rid of nonsense, particularly when a group deviates from its intended purpose or when negativity is spreading.
Responding with clarity of purpose, I sided with the law, asserting, “Well, this is one of the many reasons I always love the law. Freedom of religion is open to all. What is good for the goose – is good for the gander. Everyone else can as well put up theirs. If the church in this area wants to erect a statue that competes with Christo Rei, then now, we know nothing is stopping them in Brampton.”
And, to be honest with you all, that’s how I saw it.
This prompted the person to share experiences from the Middle East, expressing concern about excessive displays of religious symbols in North America, saying, “I agree with your point of view. I am speaking from the point of excessiveness. When I lived in the Middle East, mind you, a predominantly Muslim country, most Catholics respected the law of the land, which is Sharia Law, and didn’t outlandishly erect anything on the locals’ land, who are the Arabs. Our Christian communities are being dissolved in North America. Again, this is from a Canadian’s perspective!”
Pele o, Canadian! While I considered letting the discussion end there, further comments, including one about restrictions during Ramadan, left me uneasy. It goes: “I lived in the Middle East as well, and it is exactly how you say. As foreigners, you have to respect their rules and live according to them. When they had their Ramadan, we were not allowed to eat or drink water in front of them.”
The dialogue became sensitive, with issues of law, morals, culture, and religion intertwined. This was especially problematic for me in a group of diverse nationalities, where I thought respect for other individual faiths should also be sacrosanct. Or should I ask, if it were you what would you have done better?
I mean, why are we even talking about this? Are we now talking about law, morals, culture, or religion? Is this a matter of state? Are you trying to shame another religion because you are afraid yours is going out of fashion? if that is case, then it is your damn fault. Are you talking politics? I struggled to know where he was directing his thoughts. I mean, ki lon so gan gan na?
In response, I maintained civility, stating, “I totally agree with your perspective. However, where there are no laws, there are no fouls. If Brampton were to have laws on monuments in place today, the presence of that statue would be a clear reflection of its compliance with those regulations. Conversely, if the statue exists despite existing laws, it indicates that exceptions apply, making the city acknowledge its appropriateness as a monument in that location.
My argument is simple: what applies to one should apply to all. Every religious group in Brampton has the right, or an exception granted after meeting specific conditions, to erect substantial structures dedicated to their deities/gods/God. Perhaps, when the city begins to resemble a battleground of faiths, the state will intervene. After all, secularism exists for a reason.
I advocate for practical solutions, even if initially considered unconventional. If others can do it, so can I. If I resided in Brampton and possessed the means to erect a significant statue, I would proudly place one dedicated to our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Given more resources, I would sponsor the construction of structures honoring Saints and angels in various strategic locations. This would prompt a collective decision on what the community is willing to accept, similar to the practices in the Middle East that you rightly mentioned.
Personally, I wouldn’t oppose such a statute because opposition in 2023 only leads to a confirmation. I would just profoundly announce my faith with an equally strong monument, and trust me, it would be grand and so fineee! 😂
The same is true with the LGBTQ+ agenda if I may digress a little bit. Just match their strength with your might and request the same thing; no need to argue. You want it, I want it too. You require it, damn right, me too. Brampton’s acceptance of this reality prompts us to encourage even more acceptance of our own. The unfortunate thing is, I don’t live in Brampton, and I don’t have the means.
But I strongly believe in creating a situation for the State to moderate things or allow everyone to live freely according to how they want it. Trust me, with both sides, it is a win-win.”
Mind you, if I were asked to relive that moment again in another group that discussed matters of State, immigration issues, or indigenous people – I would still say the same thing. Although this time, I might align my views with the technicalities of the group. If you were me, what would you have do?
Then today, the same person’s posts targeted different people, expressing anti-immigrant sentiments and making sweeping statements about criminal origins. I find such views very distressing.
I am firmly rooted in my belief in respecting laws and promoting freedom of religion. Never will I tolerate insensitivity, intertwining issues of law, culture, and religion. As an advocate for a balanced perspective, I will always emphasise that principles should be universally applicable. As the problem-solving Nigerian that I am, I encourage practical solutions, stressing the importance of avoiding unnecessary conflicts and promoting acceptance, even amid differing beliefs.
Now, let me speak like those politicians; ‘Reflecting on this incident, I’ve decided to step back from the prayer group. Recent discussions have deviated from the intended purpose of prayer for the world and spiritual empathy. This decision is made with the hope of finding a community prioritising understanding and respect among diverse individuals even if not members of the group’. I want peace, I don’t want war!
If you were me, what would you do? Tell me truthfully, what would you do?
For other episodes in this 12 Days of Christmas series see:
Day 1/12: Spit-proof Grace at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/day-1-spit-proof-grace-my-desculpe-obrigada-moment/
2/12: My Mum – the unbeatable champion of all time at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/my-mum/
3/12: Were you a truth-teller as a child at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/truth-teller/
4/12: Can you pray? at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/day-4-can-you-pray/
5/12: My ode to fear at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/ode-to-fear/
6/12: Mary’s breakup line to St. Joseph at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/day-6-marys-break-up-line-to-st-joseph/
7/12: Tower of Babel at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/tower-of-babel/
8/12 – The Non-Whisperer at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/the-non-whisperer/
And 9/12 – Balcony People at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/balcony-people/