Friday, June 14, 2019

Where are the churches and Christians of Nigeria?

Where are the churches and Christians of Nigeria?
June 10
20:47 2019
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BY FRANCIS ANEKWE OBORJI

We would like to begin our present article with the following passages from Prophet Hosea:

“My people perish for want of knowledge. Since you yourself have rejected knowledge, so I shall reject you … Since you have forgotten the teaching of your God, I in my turn shall forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6).

Our present article is inspired by our last article titled, “Buhari’s Inauguration Day ‘Sharia law bag’ and OIC Islamization Agenda in Nigeria.” I cited from Prophet Hosea above, because the question of ‘lack of information or knowledge’, on the part of many of our people these days, on the state of our nation, practically, dominated almost all the comments sent in by many of our readers who went through our last article on ‘Sharia law bag and Islamization agenda in Nigeria.’

Our last article discussed at length, the implications of the allegation that the present administration is aiding Islamization and Fulanization agenda in Nigeria. Readers’ comments noted the obvious fact that majority of our people are still ignorant of those historical facts we exposed in our last article. Apart from one individual who suggested that, I should be ‘shot’ for writing the article, the rest of the myriad of comments on the article, were positive and amazingly appreciative of the issue discussed.

I want to use this opportunity to express a profound gratitude to all those who commented positively on our last article. I couldn’t believe it. It all goes to show how the issue we discussed in that article is disturbing many conscientious individuals today in Nigeria, just like me. In a question of few minutes after its publication online, the article went viral, and immediately, comments started pouring in from every side. More comments are still coming in even as we write today.

In the present article, our primary objective is to widen the argument we advanced in the last article, by challenging the churches, Christians and moderate Muslims of Nigeria to rise up to their responsibility and save the fatherland before it becomes too late. Our exposition in our last article of the long term implications of the President taking oath of office on May 29, 2019, carrying a Sharia Islamic law bag, and travelling to Saudi Arabia immediately after, to attend the meeting of Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), is enough to convince us all, that Nigeria is already in deep trouble.

Under the present dispensation, Nigeria’s descent into unimaginable depths of hopelessness, has, no doubt reached ‘a point of no return.’ Something urgent needs to be done before it is too late. ‘Better late than never’, so says an adage.

The present administration’s romance with the OIC, Islamists’ organizations of Arab countries, is suspicious. This is something that must worry every Nigerian of good conscience, not only Christians, but moderate Muslims and followers of African Traditional Religion (ATR), as well. In fact, every relatively conscious citizen and friends of Nigeria should be worried about what is happening in our dear country presently.

This is because what the present administration is doing, their Islamization and Fulanization project in Nigeria, does not have the support or rather approval of all Fulanis. Nor does it have the approval and support of all Nigerian Muslims. Rather it is the lust for power of few individuals, religious bigots and ethnic irredentists, who have decided to hold the spirit captive in the political, religious and socio-cultural spheres and governance structure of Nigeria.

As Cornelius Tacitus once said, “The lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion.” In the same vein, Herbert Spencer reminds us that, “The wise man must remember that while he is a descendant of the past, he is a parent of the future.” And as one Nigerian online freelance journalist, once reminded us, ‘It is the Islamic agenda being pursued by the North and Fulani herdsmen Terrorism, and not the agitation for Biafra that put the death nail on Nigeria.”

However, it is uncharitable to label all Fulanis of Nigeria as part and parcel of what this administration is doing, that is, in the area of the alleged Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria. The present administration and its Cabal are on their own. It is not a pan-Fulani affair.

Therefore, in our present article, we intend to highlight the privileged role churches and Christians of Nigeria have today to salvage the situation, and to avert anybody or groups of people, from the temptation of resorting to use of arms or violence. In other words, the wider implications of the present administration’s leadership ineptitude, insensitivity to Nigeria’s multi-cultural and multi-religious reality, constitutes a very big threat to the future of Christianity in the country as well as to the continued cooperate existence of Nigeria as one entity and united, nation state.

in discussing this topic, we shall draw our examples from experiences of other countries and how churches and Christians of those countries, became the catalysts of change, the socio-political transition that ushered in a new society founded on freedom, peace, justice, fair-paly, religious liberty and respect to life and human dignity. Those human values and sense of being, Nigerian state is yet to confer on its citizens without discrimination, impunity and intimidation.

Before we proceed, however, it suffices to have a bird’s eye view of what is at stake, from few samples we have selected among the many comments made by readers on our last article, which inspired us to write this one.

Comments on our Last Article: ‘Sharia law bag’ and OIC Islamization Agenda in Nigeria

One major question dominated most of readers’ comments on my last article on the implications of the ‘President’s taking of oath of office, carrying a Sharia Islamic law bag and the OIC Islamization agenda in Nigeria.’ Most of the comments readers sent in on the article, practically, bothered on one question, namely: “What are churches and Christians in Nigeria doing to address this problem of Islamization agenda of the country?”

It is now two days today, since we published that article online in this platform. Some of our readers commented directly on the column of different online newspapers and social media platforms from which they read the article. Some however, sent their comments directly to my personal email. To my surprise, only two days after we published the article, I have in my personal email inbox, not less than twenty comments from our readers on the article. This is independent of those who commented directly on the pages of the online newspapers from where they read the article, and those other individuals who sent their comments via WhatsApp platform.

Another surprising thing is that all the comments are pointing at one things, as we said before. That is, the role of Christians and churches towards confronting the menace of the Islamization agenda of Nigeria, allegedly, being championed by the present administration.

For want of space, it suffices to reproduce here, four extracts from four readers’ comments on our last article. To protect their privacy, I have omitted their names.

One of the readers’ comment reads:

“Good work and an eye opener to those that didn’t see that Christians need prayers and constant actions in one accord. Christian bodies need to wake up to this challenge and come together to resist unexpected actions as more of such actions may be displayed. God bless Nigeria.”

Another reader’s comment reads as follows:

“I must confess that it’s highly expository. How I wish I can do more in creating greater enlightenment to Christians of this dispensation. Instead of Christians to join forces, we’ve become so disintegrated in our selfish pursuits. It is true God helps, but it’s so discouraging we can’t take the courage to help ourselves.”

Another reader in his comment emphasizes the dimension of the ‘inauguration day Sharia Islamic bag palaver.’ It reads:

“Good day Prof. I read with so much awe your write-up, “Buhari’s Inauguration Day ‘Sharia Law Bag’ and OIC Islamization Agenda in Nigeria”, and I’ve come to the conclusion that flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but the spirit. I believe and share the same opinion with you. I am particularly surprised that many Nigerians including myself did not notice the ‘bag’ during the inauguration neither did we try to consider the implications. My worries right now is how much evil “they” have planned against Christians in Nigeria. Please prof., “information, they say is power” … what do you think we can do to create a nationwide and indeed a worldwide awareness on this Islamization and Fulanization agenda to all Christians in Nigeria and beyond … What can we do as Christians to avert all these?”

Finally, another reader comments as follows:

“After reading your write-up on what happened on 29th May, I almost burst into tears as usual any time I see wrong done without any body saying anything about it. But I thank God I saw your article and decided to send you an email. ‘Father please, what must be done to make Christians wake up in Nigeria, at least to make them see what is happening?’ It’s really painful that a senior pastor is among the leaders and he is still denying Islamization of Nigeria till tomorrow. Sir, aside praying, what else can we do in our own little way to avert the dangers ahead? Thanks and God bless you.”

Once more, these are just a tip of the iceberg of comments of our readers on the last article. But as we said already, they all point at one direction, the responsibility awaiting churches and Christians in Nigeria towards addressing the looming danger of Islamization project going on in the country today.

What Are the Churches and Christians Doing?

What is happening in Nigeria today, the gradual supplanting of Christianity in the country’s socio-political landscape, with total Islamization project, and radical Islamists’ governmental structure of Fulani Mujahedeen Arab Muslims Oligarchy, should challenge churches and Christians in Nigeria to a more responsible response. This is because if they remain silent or continue to remain docile and complacence, it won’t be long before everybody will come to the realization of the full magnitude of what is at stake, the deplorable situation, Nigeria has been subjected to already in the present dispensation.

In fact, if anything happens today, the greater blame must go to us, churches and Christians of the country. This is because we allowed it to happen. I can assure you that even today, in spite of the seemingly worst situation, the country has found itself, churches and Christians of Nigeria, if they want, can still arrest the situation, liberate our suffering masses and save the fatherland. But because of greed, lust for vain glory, wealth and earthly power, churches and Christians in Nigeria behave like people who have sold their birthright, abrogated their God-given mission and made themselves, a spawn at the hands of corrupt politicians and the enemies of our people and the living God.

Lack of self-discipline and personal sacrifice on the part of many church leaders, Christian politicians and elites have turned most of them into ‘apostles of prosperity gospel”, ritualists, occult members, ‘General Overseers’ of money-making entrepreneurs, and directors of assemblies of healing centers. Most of them, who claim to be pastors or General Overseers nowadays, are anything but proprietors of different money-making personal factories, hotels, industries and companies scattered all over Nigeria, in collaboration with corrupt politicians who serve as share-holders.

Instead of being witnesses of the Crucified and Risen Christ in our society, our Christian religious leaders, especially, the new generation pastors, self-acclaimed ‘General Overseers’ of the born-again Christians, and some of the powerful priest-healers, have sold their souls to the Devil. For what is happening in Nigeria today, this class of pastors, priest-healers, and sellout Christian politicians, are the groups of people in our own constituency as Christians, we must blame first before castigating politicians serving radical Islamists that have taken over the entire political leadership structure of our country.

In other words, as we blame the radical Islamist politicians in our midst, the Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers as the problem of the country, let us not lose sight of the unsavory activities of our own Christian religious leaders and politicians. Unless we Christians return to our God-given mission, amend our way of living and relating with one another and our society, it will be hard for us to reclaim the country for Christ and save our people from the ravaging hands of radical Islamists that have taken over the leadership of Nigeria at Abuja.

Things are the way they are today in Nigeria, because most of our church leaders and Christian politicians, made themselves willing tools at the hands of the enemy of our people. Those, who because of their inordinate desires, political ambition and shortsightedness, have surrendered themselves to the whims and caprices of the radical Islamists and Cabal ruling Nigeria today. This class of politicians and church leaders spread all over the churches, but especially, are found among our today’s self-acclaimed pastors and ‘General Overseers’ of the born-again Christians, priest-healers and their godfather-politicians.

If church leaders, Christian politicians and elites decide today, to wake up and reclaim Nigeria for Nigerians, save our people from the hands of all the blood-sucking individuals, it will surprise us all how things will begin immediately to take a different shape.

Unfortunately, today, most of our church leaders, prominent Christian politicians and elites have sold their birthright. Most of our church leaders, priest-healers, pastors and popular ‘General Overseers’ are pursuing shadows, living in vain glory, self-congratulations, building unnecessary mansions, competing for the most expensive newest cars and Jets in the town, with money received from corrupt politicians or extorted from distressed poor Nigerians who frequent their churches and healing centers.

In other words, some of our Christian religious leaders and politicians, unfortunately, have abandoned their God-given mission, leaving their sheep at the mercy of wolves. How can such Christian leaders and politicians inspire leadership, speak out against evil in a time like ours today, stand on the side of God, be instrument of God’s liberating mission for His people?

Among the reasons given for the disappearance of the buoyant Churches of North Africa between 6th and 11th centuries AD, was the similar things happening in Nigeria today. Singled out was the docility, complacence and shortsightedness of many Christians, especially church leaders, scholars, theologians, and Christian politicians. While most of the church leaders ran away, took refuge in Constantinople (Istanbul) and Rome, scholars, theologians and politicians were busy on self-hate, quarrelling among themselves on doctrinal issues and blaming Rome and Constantinople for the Muslim invasion and conquest.

If not for the determination and sacrifices of natives, ‘unlettered’ Egyptian monks and Christian peasants living in remote areas, villages, valleys and mountains, Christianity could not have survived in Egypt till our day. Those Christian peasants living on the margin of the society, were the ones that rose up against the Arab Muslim invaders in Egypt. They had nothing but their faith and absolute trust in the power of the Risen Christ.

With bare hands but firm and strong in their faith and determination, Christian peasants of the early centuries’ Egyptian Church, challenged the invading enemies of their faith, culture and tradition. They defended their faith and land not with arms or military force, but rather with their faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior and liberator of humankind and the world. If not for the determination and tenacity of these village Christians and ‘unlettered’ monks, there will be nothing like any Christian presence in Egypt today. Egypt will be just like Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, among others.

In modern time, radical Islamists have adopted similar tactics of the old in supplanting Christianity in any land they are invading. Since military conquest and coups have become obsolete, radical Islamists nowadays, use the time of political elections to shoot themselves into the heart and center of any nation’s central government and leadership structure they want to capture and take over the leadership. That was what they did in Turkey, and especially in Lebanon in recent years. Today, they are doing a similar thing in our dear country, Nigeria.

Why Christians and Churches in Nigeria Must Act Fast

I think that for us in Nigeria to confront and defeat this evil besetting our land and faith, Christian religious leaders, politicians and ordinary people alike must rise up to the challenge, defeat our lethargy and complacency. There is an urgent need to heed to this clarion call. What we have in Nigeria now everyone knows is an illegitimate regime. Everybody knows that last 2019 Presidential general elections were fraudulently, rigged in their favor. Somebody who rigged himself into a leadership position knows within his heart that his regime is an illegitimate one.

Like all illegitimate regimes, if we just sit down and fold our hands, they will sooner or later, show their true color. Already under them Nigeria has descended into unimaginable depths of hopelessness. Right now, the regime is busy suffocating any dissenting voice, members of the opposition party, media houses, and any ordinary citizen who stand up to them. Nigerians now live under fear and insecurity. There is tyranny in the land.

Yes. There is state of insecurity and hunger in the land. Those of us who still dare to write and publish on the state of the nation, on issues of this kind, know already, that we have paid the ‘death warrant’ in the imagination of the keepers of the illegitimate regime in the land today. This is just to tell you how bad tyrannical regime can be. Freedom of speech and expression are the first victims of suffocation under a tyrannical regime.

Today, our Christians are afraid to attend the traditional morning mass and Christian worship anymore in many places. This is because of fear of the terrorist activities of members of the dreaded Boko Haram, marauding Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers. And of often to avoid harassment and brutality at the hands of uniformed men and women.

Government security agencies no longer appear to be providing the common masses on the streets and villages with protection or security of lives and property. The security of the citizenry appears to be non-existent anymore in Nigeria. Our country has been taken over by Boko Haram terrorists, herdsmen militias, bandits and kidnappers. How can one keep silence under this horrifying situation and pretend as if everything is going on well in Nigeria today?

This is why churches and Christians as well as moderate Muslims in Nigeria should rise up to their responsibility and challenge the ‘monster’ to salvage the land, liberate our people from the man-made servitude, oppression, insecurity, ignorance, underdevelopment, disease and poverty.

We can borrow a leaf and examples from other places who had similar experience like ours in recent history: the Philippines, role played there by Cardinal Jaime Sin in this regard. Oscar Romero of San Salvador in Latin America, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa during the Apartheid era, Cardinal Joseph Malula of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, at the height of the brutal regime of Mobutu. There are countless others.

Note that there was generally no consensus, in each of the above examples, between the individuals concerned and their colleagues, before each of them decided to take up the challenge. You need not wait for the approval of all your colleagues (e.g., Bishops Conference or Synod), since some of them have compromised already and serve as agents of the status quo in your midst.

When Oscar Romero started his journey of liberating the people of San Salvador, he was alone. All other bishops of the country had already given up, some standing on the side of the tyrannical communist regime in power. But the personal experience Romero had with his own flock whom, before his own eye, the government forces bombed their parish church, prevented them from attending masses, and even had many of them gunned down, changed him forever.

Today, in Nigeria, far more terrible things are happening, and we are yet to rise up, use the temerity of our God-given gift of faith, courage, self-discipline and determination to rise up and confront the demon, following the model of Oscar Romero, Desmond Tutu, Jaime Sin, Martin Luther King Jr., Joseph Malula, etc. Only in this way, will God raise a mighty prophet amongst us today in Nigeria, a prophet of moral probity and great faith in the Risen Christ, who can lead the nation to the recovery of our wounded self-worth and dignity as a people.

In Latin America, the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero, for example, inspired ordinary village parish priests, peasants, villagers, traders, workers and even university professors and other intellectuals to work together as a people towards liberating their land and people from the hands of tyrants and dictators. Local theologians began to emerge in Latin America, young Christian scholars, who through their commitment to the cause of liberating their people from the shackles of tyranny and dictatorship, gave the church a new face, a new theological paradigm and language. That is, the famous, ‘theology of liberation and Basic Christian Communities’, through which, they and their flock worked together, in spirituality and pastoral praxis to reclaim their freedom, dignity, faith and land.

Needless to remind ourselves that Pope Francis we all hail toady, is a bona fide beneficiary of that struggle of the local church in Latin America in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It is obvious, that his Latin American experience is what is shaping his pontificate in the Vatican today. In other words, the whole world is now benefiting from the sacrifices of churches and ordinary Christians of Latin America of the yesteryears.

What is significant of the role of Christians and churches in assisting in political reordering of a shattered society such as ours in Nigeria today, is one major fact that emerges from examples of the great Christian and church leaders mentioned above. The mission of the Church to the society stems from its being the bearer of the Truth that saves. To shrink and hide from bearing witness to this Truth in political issues and governance of the society, is for the Church to deny its raison d’être.

This does not mean that the church, its clergy and religious should be involved in partisan politics. No. Because to do so is for them to compromise their neutrality and personal witness to the gospel to everyone in the society. Any clergyman or pastor that engages in partisan politics has compromised his vocation as a priest, both to the church and to the greater society. Such a priest or pastor cannot do the kind of mission we are talking about in this article.

Rather, the area of the society where the role of church leaders and Christians in general, are to be active and alive, is in the area of promoting common good through witness of life as Christians – exemplary life, self-sacrifice, self-discipline, teaching and moral reawakening of the conscience in political leadership of the state, and of the citizens themselves. In this way, the Church reminds all of the necessity to abide by the rule of good governance, justice and fair play as well as respect of the fundamental human rights of all citizens, irrespective of differences in ethnicity, culture, religion or philosophical persuasions. This is one area the Church in Nigeria has the greatest challenge in the present dispensation.

In fact, it is for this reason, that neither the Church, as an institution, nor its bishops, priests, religious, and even pastors, should get involved in partisan politics, as we argued in one of our earlier articles. Partisan politics weakens the moral authority of the Church and its bishops and clergy. As a moral institution and role model of the society, the Church and its clergy should be overboard partisan politics or political manipulations.

All this implies that the Church has a very significant political presence in the society. As the most revered religious and moral authority of the society, the Church remains the most privileged institution to speak truth to political powers and other institutions of the state. On this lies the significance of the Church’s mission and political presence in the society.

Conclusion

Any discernible eye would see that Nigeria is already set-on-the-edge by the present dispensation for a full-blown radical Islamists and herdsmen militia final onslaught. The question is, will this radical Islamists’ inspired regime in Nigeria today, succeed? Certainly, no!

Already, in Nigeria, many have attempted in the past to subjugate the masses and suffocate Christian presence, the same thing the present administration is doing, but failed woefully. I am sure the present effort of this administration and its Cabal to turn Nigeria into ethno- religious Fulani hegemony, Mujahedeen Arab Muslims fiefdom, will end up as an effort in futility.

For this to happen, however, churches and Christians, as well as moderate Muslims and others must live up to their responsibility as custodians of their lives, faith and land. To neutralize and quench the ongoing Islamization agenda in Nigeria, churches and Christians in the country must rise up to their responsibility.

As things are today, the survival of Nigeria and its people, depends to great extent, on how prepared the churches and Christians are to take-up their responsibility and God-given mission in the land.

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