This weekend Nigerians will be voting for a new president despite pre-election violence that as of this writing has claimed the lives of more than 21 people. "I would like to see that I have a government that's trusted and credible," says front-runner Habiba Yar'Adua. "And that can be so, if we have proper respect for law and order" (Monitor, April 16).
Whether or not Yar'Adua becomes the next president, that aspiration for a government based on the rule of law is a worthy desire, and one that everyone's prayers can support.
Each one has the right to be free of the violence, political corruption, and cronyism that have marred previous elections and were evident in the statewide elections held recently.
What I find very helpful is this passage on human rights by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she wrote: "Discerning the rights of man, we cannot fail to foresee the doom of all oppression. Slavery is not the legitimate state of man. God made man free.... 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'" (p. 227).
This "Spirit of the Lord" is the Christ, Truth, that Jesus gave to humanity through his teachings and his life-example. It is Christ that enables us to speak boldly in the face of corruption and also helps us to lead someone toward healing, not condemnation. It brings people into the larger picture instead of freezing them out.
To be free of violence
The Apostle Paul is a wonderful example of the transforming power of Christ. Here was a man who had indulged in violence against the early Christians. Saul – as he was named then – was on his way to Damascus to hunt down more Christians, when a huge mental breakthrough occurred. He suddenly realized that Jesus' ministry was actually true and empowered by God. This insight turned him into a powerful and fearless advocate for the love and truth that Jesus had taught.
The same Christ that spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus can speak in the hearts of those who would disrupt or overthrow the election. Instead of feeling a desire to attack the government, hearts can be opened by Christ to a higher goal of blessing their country and being part of its journey into the future. Prayer can include the new president and his staff and affirm that divine Love can give them the will to bring all parties together in a united way that will strengthen the government.
To be free of corruption
To make progress, all parties need to work together toward a common (hopefully good and productive) goal. Greed and fear have no place in the man God created.
One example from Jesus' ministry is an encounter he had with Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector. Some said he'd gotten his wealth dishonestly. Still, he was eager to see Jesus, and because he was short, he climbed a tree for a better view. Imagine his surprise when Jesus stopped by his tree and said, "Make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house" (Luke 19:5).
This simple encounter touched Zacchaeus to such a degree that he declared, "If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." Now that's a change of character! And Jesus responded, saying, "This day is salvation come to this house."
This day and the days ahead there can be moments of salvation for Nigerians and their elections. May the transforming power of Christ rest on all who are involved, perhaps especially the officials responsible for overseeing the balloting. As Christ permeates the thoughts and hearts of people throughout that great and populous nation, something genuine and wonderful will result.