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Caring for our common good

In some traditional communities, some people believe that they could live happily if what belongs to one belongs to all and what affects one affects all. Communism was based on the theory that all property is owned by the community. Each person is expected to contribute and maintain the common good according to their capacity. Each person enjoys the common good according to needs. This theory is the presumption that economic equality is realistic. Communism is an attempt to eliminate private property.   Karl Marx, who proposed this theory opined that inequality and suffering result from capitalism whereby one person has more than enough wealth at the expense of the multitude who are living in poverty. The first president of Tanzania, Julius Kambarage Nyerere introduced the ideology of Ujamaa which is a form of communism in the African communal context (https://www.researchgate.net). In many countries of the world, some people have organized themselves into social union that struggle for the welfare of all in a capitalist system. In Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is charged with the responsibility of demanding for the welfare of workers and the equal distribution of social amenities.

Dialogue of social engagement is a form of dialogue where people of different religions come together to demand for the provision and maintenance of social amenities, religious freedom and the promotion of peaceful co-existence. In Africa, every country is encouraged to have a National Inter-Religious Council that is affiliated to the African Council of Religious leaders (ACRL) and Religions for Peace (RfP). In Nigeria, the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) belongs to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). In as much as NIREC does not take away the uniqueness and independence of CAN and NSCIA, the council would make more impart if in the form of dialogue of social engagements, the Christians and Muslims together pursue a common course when there are issues of individual and national concerns. In pursuing the rights for a particular group, no single Christian or Muslim can make the government do the needful hence the need for common action which NIREC advocates.

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There are a lot of needs that call for common and united action. Among these needs are water and air. These are often taken for granted because they are gifts of nature. For the sustenance of life in good health of mind and body, water and air must not be polluted. Water is life hence water has no enemy. Apart from inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, factories and industries use air for combustion and production of energy. The crisis and conflict in the Niger-Delta of Nigeria is environmental and water pollution. This has led to the agitation for environmental protection and common action for policies that are beneficial not only to a selected people and individuals but to the society. Health is wealth hence every responsible community takes environmental sanitation as a priority.  Health Care is a Public Good that defines an ideal society.

The “family” implies the need to live as a community with common interest that could give strength to the biological family, society, association and the nation. In as much as everybody expects the government to provide, water, light, road, health, education, job opportunities and a clean environment, every person has a role to play to sustain and maintain these social amenities and infrastructure. The health and well-being of individuals, families and communities include food, clothing, housing, medical care, social services and security. For those who are unemployed because of sickness and disability, government should provide a social scheme that must take care of their welfare. The common good is an important aspect of social life hence every individual should cultivate the virtue of honesty, humility, perseverance, courage, patience, compassion and whatever it may take to promote our wellbeing.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) deduced from the political anarchy of his time that “man is a wolf to man” (L’homme est un loup pour l’homme). He believed that from anarchy people would be driven by self-preservation and the fear of death to band together to form a state (Hobbes, De Cive, 9). If we care for our common good and wellbeing, the anarchy that is destroying humanity will cease to exist. We must learn to respect government and government institutions. Hobbes believed that without government, we would end in a conflict of “war of all against all” (Hobbes, De Cive, 9). People who do not believe in leadership and government are uncivilized and lawless but every government must strive to be relevant for the citizens by enhancing the welfare of the people. Like, David, every political leader should be ready to die for the citizens (2 Samuel 24:15).  David said to the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, it is I who have sinned, but these other people, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house instead of the innocent people (2 Samuel 24:17). Many political leaders declare a holiday to mourn a victim of violence because each life that contributes to a community is important.

What is the response of the individuals in the sustenance of health and maintenance of government or common infrastructures? Cleanliness is next to Godliness.  If you want to know a clean person, visit his or her toilets. If you visit the toilets in some government institutions, you may lose your appetite for a whole day. This happens when those who are responsible for water supply neglect their duties. Those in charge of water board should feel some sense of shame for not being able to carry out their legitimate duties. If they provide water and those who use the restrooms still keep them dirty, then we can conclude that the attitude of those who use the public facilities is that of a goat owned by the public but belongs to no one. It dies of hunger because no one pays particular attention to it. There used to be sanitary inspection even in villages to ensure that the dirty environment does not cause epidemic disease. I think this type of inspection should continue in public offices and institutions.

In religion, worshippers are enjoined to appear clean before God. In the Levitical law, there are regulations concerning bathing and washing (Leviticus 15:11). Before the priests approached the altar of God, they are required, on pain of death, to wash their hands and their feet to cleanse them from the soil of common life (Exodus 30:17-21). Pilate declared himself innocent of the blood of Jesus by washing his hands with water (Matthew 27:24). Ablution (wuū) is an important part of ritual purity in Islam (https://www.google.com/search). The external ablution signifies the purity of heart and mind. In Christian theology, baptismal water is an outward sign of the inner cleansing of the soul from original and actual sins. Our external purity should be a reflection of our interior life. The Catholic Catechism defines Sacrament as an outward sign of inward grace ordained by Christ by which grace is given to our souls. In Islam, al Niyyah is the intention in one’s heart to do an act for the sake of Allah (https://www.google.com/search). To demonstrate that we are creatures of God who is all perfect, human beings must make the environment clean just as they would want their physical being clean enough to encounter God. If we care for our common good, we shall be healthy and happy here and hereafter.

 

Rev. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) (nirec.ng@gmail.com)

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