Sometimes, little details matter. Well, most times they do- but we love the big details that we push the little details aside. Those little stories, little histories- now meaningless to us because everyone is grown up; actually they matter.  Little details have been used to dispossess, to prove a point, to malign. To humanise and sadly to dehumanise. Aha! Didn’t the lion, the great king of the forest cry to the little rat for help when he was caught in the net-trap of the hunter? Remember that story from the children’s book? Although the witty tortoise was my favourite character, I remember that lion-rat story because of the strength of the little. Try bumping your little toe against a stone, if the excruciating pain doesn’t remind you that the little toe is as important as the big head.

Little stories can break the dignity of a people. They can repair that same broken dignity. They can form an opinion, that lasts, at least the basic fragments of it still stays alive once the wear and tear of life kicks in. Sometimes, one remembers those little stories, experiences that formed my own version of religious consciousness. Shaped by experiences, now little stories. No, we do not need Ogbeni’s new law of religious dressing in public schools to value, respect and understand the religious- and yet not to take it seriously. Or the over zealous law enacted by someone wearing trousers, banning ladies from doing so; there were other forms of religious consciousness. I remember always looking forward to Sallah meat during the Muslim holiday. A stream of it would come throughout the two days- fried, cooked, roasted, toasted- each neighbour and friend in a silent battle to outdo themselves in the amount of food they will bring. Of course we would ‘retaliate back’, during Easter and Christmas, but that was not the point. The point was sharing, was friendship, was giving- that was religious consciousness.

Of course, all days weren’t about food and meat. I remember the groups we formed when the ‘owners’ of the State Water Board choose to ‘withhold’ the water supply. And we would go looking for water, like hunters searching for game in the wild forest. Instinctively, our first port of call was the marbled mosque close to the house. Okay, not so close, but close enough. I can’t remember what I liked most- the graciousness of the men that opened the taps for us or the marble architectural design of the mosque exterior or the chatter of football and school work we engaged in- I can’t seem to remember exactly. It was fun for me then, that was my own version of religious consciousness. Of admiration, respect and ideas. You see, it was that way.

Or Mr Friday, whom we had to, in understanding, always reschedule a volunteer meeting from Saturday to Friday evening because of he was of the Seventh Day Adventist. At that time- I remember- I couldn’t fathom why a Christian choose to be odd, while the rest of us, wore the best of clothes available on Sunday. I remember trying to find out why; I was given a long-winded answer that seemed like an extension to the question, than an answer- so I stopped the questions. I remember always coming back home late on Friday evenings from school, because of the loudspeaker from the nearby mosque never wanted to be friends with me on Friday afternoons. I understood and changed my schedule, reading in school till late. Once that started, I settled into a routine and it was perfect. That was religious consciousness.

In the end, like the Igbos say, ‘Ekpere niile bere n’Amen’. All prayers end in Amen. The essence of true religion is righteousness. We all say Amen. Isn’t it said that, better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof? If ‘Amen’ is said at the end- which every religion will agree- doesn’t that mean that, there is space for everyone? The understanding of this- that is religious consciousness. But you see, simple things when given to man, appear to be the most complicated of things. To the fat, chubby, bloated stomach Nigerian politician (okay, not all of them fit this description), religious consciousness isn’t what I have seen, but something else. Like ensuring that the main concern of pupils and students isn’t their books, but their dressing. Like provoking the ‘other side’ to, in a dash, arrange for masquerades to come as ‘teachers’ to the school as if that was what was lacking. Like provoking strong responses and verbal bellicosity from another side. Somalia- it started this way, a brand of religious consciousness, then what it is today. And sadly, one is unfolding before our very eyes.

But, in the end- we all say, Amen. What is held as sacrosanct to us- that very thing- all seem to speak in recognisable languages to themselves. And perhaps offer a laughter- or a smirk of pity- to us, as we choose strange ways of exhibiting religious consciousness. They listen to each other, and agree on some compromise, refusing the violence that come with a show of superiority. But we chose not to listen. The politicians refuse to believe that and covertly or without covert, use those very quotes, ideals, inclination to turn things- to their favour, while we somehow accept them. But my brother, there is space for everyone. The religions agree on that, hence they all say amen- hoping that some day we realise that, we all say amen. Amen. Similarities. Space. That is religious consciousness.

Okechukwu Okorie.

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