Treachery is an appalling word. It describes an act of betrayal and violation of allegiance, faith or confidence among individuals, institutions or between individuals and institutions or even nations. Treachery could be committed within family, between friends, neighbours and nations. In one of the earliest recorded accounts of treachery, Cain kills his brother Abel in a moment of jealousy. From this event rises a fundamental question: “Cain where is Abel your brother?” The rebel replies without conscience: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and God replies: “what have you done? The voice of your brother cries to me from the ground”. Thousands of years later this statement still haunts humanity. The cries of bloodshed by mothers against their own children, brother against brother, neighbours against neighbour, leaders against country men and women; the earth protests and goes awry, refusing to yield its strength. We call it climatic change, but death is the true cause, human greed kills by every means; by terrorism, capitalism, communism, dictatorship, corruption, war, etc. We have become a specie that inadvertently accommodates treachery.
When Maddie, a child of the United Kingdom went missing in 2007, a young child betrayed by her own parents’ carelessness, the judicial systems of Portugal and the United Kingdom together could not bring her justice. Her parents insisted that she had been kidnapped. After traumatising most of the world through sophisticated public relations, and a worldwide hunt, Maddie was still not found. All that is left behind are sad memories and the swelling coffers of a foundation formed in her name. This of course set the stage for another mother to kidnap her own child in 2008 for reward money. 3.2 million pounds of tax payers’ money later, after deploying hundreds of British policemen and three quarters of all UK specially trained police dogs, Shanon Matthews was found alive, a victim of her own mother’s greed. The current story is of Kaylee a missing three year old in the United States of America whose mother reported her missing a full month after her disappearance. Insisting her child was kidnapped, the stage was set for another wild goose chase. This time the police are not convinced that the mother is innocent. The body of a small child has been found less than half a mile from the grandparents,’ home 6 months later, giving some hope of closure to the case. Treachery comes in different shades and sizes; it cuts across all boundaries and reveals itself in the most despicable and unpredictable ways.
In India beginning 26th November 2008, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks took place in several Mumbai locations, killing over 160 people including an estimated 30 foreigners. The lone terrorist-survivor is a young man called Ajmal who is said to have left home as a frustrated teenager a few years ago, in search of a job in Lahore, capital of Pakistan. He ended up joining a terrorist group. He has since written to the Pakistani embassy in India pleading for legal aid and asking for Pakistan to take the 9 bodies of his terrorist-colleagues to Pakistan for proper burial. This show of compassion for his dead colleagues, against a senseless unleashing of barbaric violence shows a conflicting strand: an appreciation of, and yet denial of our common humanity. What is yet to be well understood is the motive of these acts of treachery, performed by 10 young men from Pakistan on India and the world. Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2008 Martti Ahtisaari, recently provided an insight to the core problem when he said that providing good education, jobs and opportunity for the world’s disadvantaged youth (mostly found in the third world), is the best fight against terrorism. This statement about over one billion unemployed youth can only be ignored to the detriment of all world governments.
Nearer home, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe comes a recent denial of a despot against the anguish of his own people. The situation in Zimbabwe can be clearly described as an African nightmare and, Robert Mugabe has become a ruler who commits treachery against his own people. He has refused to relinquish power, despite questionable elections, gross mismanagement of resources, a crumbling economy and worsening food shortages. Only recently, Zimbabwe released a 500 million dollar note which is worth about $10 US dollars. Zimbabwean banks are said to allow individuals only once-a-week withdrawals of 500 million Zimbabwean dollars ($10). The immense suffering and lack of portable water has also resulted in cholera outbreak which has killed about 800 people. Yet Mugabe is unapologetic and unashamedly tells the world that there is no more cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The silence of many African leaders stinks of treachery against Africa.
The African Union has not been able to succour Zimbabweans or to rid them of their despot. Perhaps each nation thinks that it’s not their problem since their own people appear unaffected. Nevertheless, treachery is also committed, when good men keep silent for “evil triumphs when good men do nothing” (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797). A poem by Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) during World War II tells us about the dire consequences of our silence.
When the Nazis came for the communists
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
This poem springs from the experience of a repentant supporter of Hitler who became a victim of Hitler’s pogrom. After facing imprisonment in the hands of Hitler, he spent the rest of his life preaching reconciliation. From his experience, we can consider that we are not exempt by our silence. Martin Luther King Jr. warns us that “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”.
In Nigeria, the recent Jos riots woke us up to an old problem, the use of religion in Nigeria to settle all scores. The issues were more political than religious. It was evidently a quest for power and supremacy between two political parties and as some say between settlers and landowners. Despite the intervention of the police and army, hundreds lay dead in a matter of days; churches, mosques, houses, cares etc had been burnt beyond recognition. Still it is not too late to say that “when evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.”(Martin Luther King Jr.). The carnage made child’s play of the Mumbai attacks as neighbours disregarded mercy and compassion and slew one another in the name of God.
In fact, God was innocent of the deed, but as has been the case for thousands of years the blame was laid at his feet. The interesting thing is that in all other matters in Nigeria, be it theft, adultery or murder, the common excuse is: “the devil made me do it”. But when it comes to religious violence, God is always held responsible. Since God has no fixed address (as an American court declared recently), He cannot be tried or asked to give account, and like Jesus Christ before Pilate, he refuses a self-plea for mercy. He prefers to be guilty as charged for our sakes. Nevertheless, justice must be served in our courts and men and women who kill in God’s name should be held to account.
This season has witnessed all types of treachery, demonstrated by the Policeman in Greece who chooses to step out of his car to kill a 15 year old boy, instead of driving away in the face of provocation; the self acclaimed killer of children and witches in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria who boasts of his deeds in the name of God; the Illinois governor, under investigation for attempting to sell a US senate seat- a betrayal of public trust; the persecution of Nigeria’s former anti-corruption czar and the tolerance of the Nigerian Supreme court to a failed election.
The old question echoes through time: “Where is your brother?” and the answer still is: “am I my brother’s keeper?” The continued shirking of fundamental responsibility to be our brother or sister’s keeper moves us deeper still into the way of treachery. We urgently need to take the love and sympathy we feel for ourselves and perhaps our own, beyond our immediate vicinity, to where it is more needed. Scripture demands that we love not only our neighbours but our enemies also. However, to love our enemies effectively, we desperately need to know who our real enemies are. For scripture tells us that a man’s enemies “are those of his own household.” As to the interpretation of this, let everyone search out what this means, in a season of treachery.
Re: A Season Of Treachery
Nzeifedigbo posted on 12-15-2008, 06:34:54 AM
Do unto others,
what you want others
to do unto you.
The golden law they call it. Guess it holds the solution to humanities many woes.
Great piece as always