Week 4: Human Beings—Not for Sale1
Week 4, Day 2
A prayer based on the The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Augustine of Hippo
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest in you;
so lead us by your Spirit
that in this life we may live to your glory
and in the life to come enjoy you for ever;
through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Humans and the Likeness of God (Genesis 1:26–27)
Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Anglican, Nigeria
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
On the eve of 1517, the diverse peoples of Europe were united in a common faith, and overwhelmingly belonged to the Western Catholic Church. Christians in late medieval Europe also shared a common fear of Islam, especially as the Ottoman Empire expanded into Eastern Europe from the mid-fifteenth century. One of the deep anxieties in Europe that arose following the rapid divisions within the Western Church was a practical one: the weakening of a united Christian Europe in the face of Islam. We see and hear many of these same fears today in the USA, Europe and Africa. In my own country, Nigeria, such tensions between Islam and Christianity are a daily reality.
One of the major differences between 1517 and 2017 is the recent history of fruitful interreligious dialogue between Christianity and the other great world religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Indigenous Traditions, and of course, Islam. The impetus for such conversations is mutual understanding, cooperation, finding common holy ground and peacemaking. The theological basis is the book of Genesis, when God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26). I am an Anglican Christian committed to interreligious dialogue. In my own encounter with Islam, I have discovered that the Qur’an comes very close to the Bible on this point, and that Muslims and Christians can together affirm our common humanity, created in the likeness of God. The Qur’an affirms the oneness of humanity, while, at the same time, affirming the diversity within the human community as a gift from God, who has created us with a common humanity, within different nationalities, languages, ethnicities—and even religions—so that we may understand one another:
O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know (understand) each other... ( Q 49:13).
Since all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, the Bible insists that no human being is for sale; no human being may be trafficked; every refugee deserves dignity, care and welcome; racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance are contrary to God’s design for humanity. As people of their own particular time, most sixteenth-century Western Christians would probably have found such an attitude difficult, whereas it lies at the very heart of what all reform and renewal in the life of the church affirms.