Not to be a saint is a tragedy! Sainthood is the goal of human existence! God made us to love him, serve him to be happy on earth and to be with him forever in heaven. Not to be a saint is to be separated from God.
Those who are separated from God are in hell. A saint is a person who keeps trying to reach this goal of final union with God. A saint is willing to suffer and die for the truth out of heroic love to give joy to humanity. The Prophet of Islam calls on all believers to do acts of charity not only to be seen by people but because they believe in Allah and the Last Day (Qur’an 2:262-264). Muslims are reminded that the needy deserve help even when they do not go about begging those with opportunity. According to the Qur’an, Allah knows of whatever wealth you will spend on helping those in need (Qur’an 2:273). In Islam, life on earth must be lived with total submission and surrender to Allah because of the Day of Judgment. For Christians, saints are people who are clothed in white robes because they have come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them (Revelation 7: 12-15).
A saint is a conqueror who conquers the world by first conquering himself through the application of emotional intelligence. He is in control of his temperaments and emotions. This type of person could be described in Islam as a successful jihadist who understands that true jihad means restraint (self control). A saint prefers to die instead of letting a whole nation be annihilated for a personal ambition. A saint is aware of his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Here is how Saint Paul expresses this: “I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live in abundance” (Philippians 4:11-12).
A saint is an enemy of the world, the flesh and the devil because he is completely dependent on God and independent of all forms of idols, principalities and secret cults of Satan. Peter Kreeft described a saint in paradox: “A saint’s heart is broken by every little sorrow and sin. A saint’s heart is also so strong that not even death can break it. It is indestructible because it’s so breakable. A saint takes his hands off the steering wheel of his life and lets God steer. A saint also has hands that move the world. He has feet that move through the world with a sure step.” A saint, like Christ gives light to the world. Being salt of the earth, his actions gives the world a good taste.
A Politician is a human being who is called to holiness. He strives to be a saint in his or her political vocation. He responds to this call by making heaven his vision (target). His mission is human relations through culture, society and religion. Most politicians identify with a particular religious community through which they hope to be saints hereafter having lived a fulfilled life on earth. Aristotle defines the human person as a political animal. According to him, the city-state is a natural growth, and that man is by nature a political animal. A man that is by nature and not merely by fortune does not belong to a city is low in the scale of humanity (Aristotle Politics: 1253a). A person who does not belong to any community or society or clan is reviled by Homer as lawless and heartless. This person by nature is unsocial and ‘a lover of war’ as long as he is solitary, like an isolated piece (Homer II. 9.63).
From Classical Greek πόλις (polis), a Politician is a person who has the capacity and wisdom to influence public policy in decision making. In governance, some people are called and chosen by the people to lead the affairs of the society. Given that the voice of the people is the voice of God, a politician is called and chosen by God to govern the affairs of the people. If the politician believes in this divine call, then, he or she has a divine obligation to strive for perfection to the glory of God and for the happiness of the people. Politics is not limited to governance through public office. Every human person has a stake in the affairs of the society through a positive attitude to life and collective welfare.
Since in today’s political climate, a politician is viewed as a person who is active in partisan politics to hold political positions whether elected or appointed, it is necessary to distinguish between people with realistic ideologies (saintly politicians) who are leaders and servants from those who are mere office seekers and office holders who are covertly or overtly egoistic and self centred (greedy politicians). In modern politics, the expression “political prostitutes” has been introduced to apply to those who decamp from one political party to the other until they get a platform for their political selfish ambition. Thesaurus defines a politician as, “a leader engaged in civil administration and a person who rules or guides or inspires others. In this sense, a politician is a model worthy of emulation.
One of my readers seeing the draft of this conversation at first glance reacted negatively: “How can a politician be a saint?” He alleged that many people believe that saintly politicians are not yet born because politicians are perceived by many to be cultists, corrupt, killers, and oppressors. But not all politicians carry these labels. I still believe that politicians can be saints. Politics had been shunned by men and women of good character because they perceived politics as a dirty game. Nevertheless, some politicians have positively influenced the world and turn around the life of many people. They have proven that politicians can be credible. The influence of saintly politicians could be more if they can correct the ugly impression that some “fake” politicians have created in the world. Saintly political leaders have existed in history. Many still live among us today but they are silently hidden because politics have been made so lucrative that the game has become a route to wealth without sweat in some countries. From the bad fruits of some people who have claimed to be politicians, it is obvious that they did not deserve to be called politicians in the first place. To be frank, they do not qualify for the vocation to leadership in an ideal political space.
For a politician to be a saint, he or she must recognise that his or her mandate comes from God to whom he or she must give account given that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). A political leader should seek the welfare of the nation and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare he will find his own welfare (Jeremiah 29:7). The citizens need to consistently seek the face of God for good and God fearing leaders. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
In the words of Paul to Timothy, “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-3). I exhort all political leaders to respond to the prayers of the people through self discipline. Politicians can become saints if they set realistic goals, have the good of the people at heart, think of others instead of only themselves and be close to God in prayers. A political leader must never forget that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). A saintly politician must seek wisdom from God who changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him (Daniel 2:21-22). May God guide our politicians!
Fr. Prof. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja and Consultor of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (C.R.R.M), Vatican City ( firstname.lastname@example.org).