Is death becoming a way of life?

SUDAN may be on the verge of being reborn as two nations — north and south. The north is mostly Arabic and Muslim, the south, mostly Christian and animist.

The week-long referendum which began last Sunday was expected to decide in favour of separation of north from south.

There were real fears that if it didn’t, there would, almost certainly, be suspicions of rigging or chicanery.

The southerners have never trusted the north’s Omar al Bashir.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court on allegations of genocide or crimes against humanity, mostly against the southerners.

Before the two sides came to an agreement of some sort to stop the killing in 2005, nearly two million people had perished.

These were Africans killing Africans.

It was fundamentally because of one group seeking to dominate another.

That internecine bloodshed is not peculiar to Africa.

Since creation, humans have engaged in this utterly unconscionable spilling of blood which seemed to end only when The Dark Ages gave way to the Age of Enlightenment.

But death — as a way of life — seems to be gathering momentum in the 21st century.

In Africa, the Ivory Coast seems to be about to blow up into another Sudan or DRC.

But that is not all.

There is the daily carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is the occasional madness in such countries as the US, where someone takes a gun and shoots up a number of unarmed people for no apparent reason — witness the shooting of a Democratic Congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona, among other citizens.

The US is a violent country and the possession of guns has still not been entirely brought under control.

While the world applauds the advancement of medical science which has created drugs which prolong life, there must be worry abroad towards the devaluation of life, whether in terrorist attacks or in random acts of senseless human carnage

Even more worrying must be the trend towards a religious element in some of the killings.

All people who have faith in the existence of a supreme being now seem quite prepared to believe that this same all-powerful being can sanction the killing of other people — only on the basis that they believe in the existence of a supreme being other than their own.

The fact of Christians and Muslims killing each other raises the spectre of a carnage whose intensity could spread before it is halted.

Faith, although it can move mountains, can also plant utterly insane hostility towards what may be perceived as the antithesis of that faith.

For many Christians, John Donne’s Death Be Not Proud must be an appropriate reminder of how indestructible faith can be.

“Death be no proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,

For, those, whom that think’st, thou dost overthrow, 

Die not, poor death, not yet canst thou kill me…..”

Donne, born a Catholic in the Anglican England of the 1500s, ends his poem with the resounding:

“And death shall be no more: death, thou shalt die.”

All faith is anchored on the belief of a life after this earthly one.

Yet do all the prophets, including all those of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism sanction the killing of “infidels”?

Can any “holy war” be justified?

If the trend continues, there must come a time when people will begin to ask: “Has death taken over from life?”

A religion which anchors its existence on death cannot owe its existence to a merciful supreme being.

All religions must face the prospect that their current upheavals are providing grist for the atheist movement.

Once in a while, I have come across an announcement that an internationally acknowledged intellectual, once recognised as an avowed atheist, had decided he would embrace faith in the existence of an all-powerful supreme being.

But the atheists continue to argue that there is very little basis for believing that we are all children of this one supreme being and owe our very existence to its whims.

They support the idea that evolution had nothing to do with God or Allah: it just “happened”.

The prospect of a world without faith must frighten many.

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