Spirituality of Martyrdom in Roman Catholicism and Contemporary Islam: The Nigerian Experience

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Saint Leo University


Roman Catholicism and Islam are missionary religions in Nigeria. And the histories of both religions place martyrdom as the supreme form of witnessing to the religions hope of the adherents. In Roman Catholicism. the prospect of martyrdom as a way of imitating the passion of Christ is accepted as noble. This moved Ignatius of Antioch to connect fidelity unto death with a proper understanding of Christ as both divine and human. Similarly martyrdom is fundamental to the Islamic faith. The initiation into Islam requires the declaration to bear witness to the oneness of God whose messenger is Muhammad. The Qur'an expresses, therefore, that those who are slain while witnessing in God's way are not dead; they are alive and rejoice in the bliss provided by God (Q. 3:169-172). Thus in bath religions, martyrdom is regarded as the execution of adherents condemned to death by the authorities or witnessing unto death because of one's faith. However, how to contextualize the doctrine of martyrdom in bath religions and apply it in the daily human interactions in Nigerian society remains very challenging. Given to the numerous cases of faith-inspired violence in northern parts of Nigeria, the power of religions conviction like martyrdom calls for serious academic re-evaluation. The critical questions would be: are those who fall victims of Boko Haram bombings in Nigeria martyrs? What are the religions status of the suicide bombers and many others who perish in churches and mosques while engaged in active religions rituals? Could they be regarded as martyrs? Applying historical, comparative and analytical methods. this paper examines the spirituality of martyrdom in the light of Roman Catholicism and Islam in Nigeria. The focus on Nigerian society is informed by the experiences of bombings and agitation for total Islamic system in the Northern parts of the country which has reached a threatening height. The paper concludes with salient suggestions to make the spirituality of martyrdom positively enriching.



Roman Catholic, Islam, Martyrdom, Nigeria, Witnessing