• ‘Our Pastors And Imams Must Set Examples With Their Own Lives’
The fundamental purpose of any religion is to make the believer as pious, upright and proper as possible. But this is not the case in Nigeria, which can be rightly said to be the most religious country on the face of planet Earth. Every nook and cranny of the country boasts of one worship place or another. With this, one would have thought the citizens would be among the most God-fearing, just and caring people in the world. The contrary is, however, the case. So, why, in spite of these innumerable religious institutions, are such heinous crimes as corruption, kidnapping, ritual killings, human trafficking, prostitution, armed robbery and fraud among others so rampant in the society? Is it that religious bodies in Nigeria cannot positively affect the lives of their adherents? Or that the people simply don’t understand there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘Most Nigerians Are Religious In Appearance’
(Alhaji Sheriff Yussuf, immediate past National President of Nasrul-Lahi-Fatih Society of Nigeria, NASFAT, Worldwide
For majority of Nigerians worship God with their lips and that is why there’s a lot of hypocrisy here. People openly display their allegiance to one religion or the other, during festivities and when they go to church or mosque. They want to be seen as being faithful, but when it comes to putting the injunctions of Allah or God into practice, you will be disappointed.
In their deeds, you don’t see any sign of religion whatsoever. So, because of the preponderance of many vices in our society, you can say Nigerians are not truly religious. We are religious only in appearance, but deep in our hearts, religion has not taken root. That is why you see people flooding places of worship, but immediately after leaving there, they embark on so many vices, including bribery, corruption and all kinds of immorality, which all religions frown at. There is no religion, especially Islam, which will tell you to indulge in evil. Yet all the people indulging in these vices belong to one religion or the other. Such people are not true adherents of their faith.
If religious leaders know that the source of a donation is dubious or dishonest, and they still accept it, then they are equally guilty of the sin. But if they don’t know, and members bring money for donation in the church or mosque, church leaders or mosque leaders will be happy to receive such. It is not all the time that religious leaders are able to know the sources of members’ wealth. So, when they accept donations you won’t blame them for accepting such offerings. However, if they know and can prove that the source of a donation is from ill-gotten wealth, then those religious leaders are not only guilty of collaborating with the person that perpetrated the crime, but they also have bigger question to answer from our Creator, Who they claim to be representing.
The whole essence of religion is to ensure morality, mutual and harmonious cohabitation amongst the people of the world. Religion is supposed to ensure that there is morality within the faithful, but where this is not the case as seen in Nigeria, it’s because the whole fabric of the society has become corrupted. It’s even bigger than the religious leaders themselves. So, we have to mend it from the root and that is the value system of the entire society, where people will value the decency of hard work, patience, perseverance and tolerance. These values have to be inculcated into the people generally. Then the impact of religion will be higher. I think this is the way forward.
Nearly the whole society has accepted corruption and immorality as a way of life. That has to fundamentally change. If the value system of a society is such that you cannot exhibit wealth unless you can explain where you got it from, you cannot trample on the rights of your neighbor or inconvenience him, without being apprehended, and you cannot pick what does not belong to you without people asking questions, religious instructions will now reinforce that. We must go back to the root and mend our value system as a nation. It is a collective action and something that everybody must come together and pledge allegiance. The leadership has a very pivotal role to play here, because you need to direct everybody and say, ‘this is the road we need to go’ and then ensure that everybody is carried along. Once we’ve taken that vow, there are so many apostles that will go into every corner to enforce it.
‘Proliferation Of Churches Is Caused By Unemployment’
((Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of Enugu/Bishop of Enugu, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
UNEMPLOYMENT has made so many of these boys to open churches mostly Pentecostal. What we see today are churches that have no link with any sort of apostolic succession. Some of these boys have turned the churches into commericalised unlimited liabilities. First, they begin with a fellowship and from there, they form a church and before you know it, they are pastors, bishops, apostles and archbishops in a Pentecostal church, which never was existing with these titles before. Those in the established churches are stable, but the Pentecostal churches are the ones messing up the churches.
All we now see is religiosity, formalism, commercialisation and extortion by these false prophets, which the Bible predicted in 1John 4:1, “That people should taste all spirits because false prophets are now in the world.” The Bible says that there will be many false prophets towards the end and these prophets are more from the Pentecostal churches. So, the PFN should warn their people, who are commercialising churches and bastardising Christianity. Interestingly, these Pentecostal churches have come up with all sorts of funny names. Witchcraft, babalawos and other deities have entered into the church because people feel they can use the name of Jesus Christ to propagate their trade of witchcraft and people don’t understand. It is unfortunate that this is happening due to the hardship and poverty in the nation.
Again, there is need to sanction these Pentecostal churches without original apostolic succession. Many of them don’t even have any historical genealogy. Pentecostals are the ones bastardising Christianity and seeing unnecessary vision just to get money from unsuspecting Nigerians. They even pray for them and encourage them with prayers to go into armed robbery and such crimes. Have you ever heard of any Anglican Bishop or Roman Catholic priest praying for people and encouraging them to go into robbery? Who are those behind the Otokoto saga of those days?
Religious leaders should find out the type of members who come to give thanksgiving, and even those coming to do it for children, they should find out whether that child was bought or adopted? Somebody who had never gotten pregnant came to give thanksgiving as the chairman of adoption committee in Enugu State. I know what I’m talking about. We need to ask questions and be sure of everything. So, it is not only about money. People now come to church to give thanks with stolen children or children bought and not properly adopted. If I discover that anyone stole or embezzled money and he/she comes to the church to do thanksgiving, I will stop him/her.
There was an occasion when somebody came to the church and donated N200, 000; meanwhile he hadn’t paid his staff some months’ salaries. We returned his money and told him that he should go and pay the salary of his workers first. Personally, I don’t care who the person in question may be; after all, nobody is feeding me. I’m not a prayer contractor. During the election period, somebody came to me for prayers, but I said, ‘take your money away. You will lose the election, don’t come here to bribe God.’ This is why I feel bold and can talk to any politician. I can blast them anywhere.
Some religious leaders collected money from these politicians and prophesied lies that they would win but they lost. These are the problems we are facing in this country because of unnecessary commercialisation of churches. They even claim to see visions; meanwhile God has not sent them. It is just for their stomach. It is a matter of concern and CAN also is becoming ineffective even right from the leadership. Personally, I’m very disgusted with the way things are going. With so many churches, there should be reduction in crime, if we are truly preaching the real gospel. There should be reduction of sin, if we are preaching real gospel of repentance. But the other people are preaching much of materialism.
‘Govt. Recognises The Wealthy And Neglects Honest Ones’
(Archbishop Joseph Imariabe Ojo, General Overseer/Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church, CKC, Badagry Expressway)
THERE are so many reasons why there is increase in crime and other vices in the society. First, we glorify people that have suddenly become wealthy and there is no effort to find out how and where they got their money. The Bible says (a good name is better than riches. Prov. 22:1). When the government recognises people who are wealthy and fails to honour those that are honest, faithful and sincere, people with good home and family, this is the outcome. People who really care about family values and their good names are not reckoned with. When we were growing up in the 50s, those who stole in the village and in the neighborhood were disgraced by decorating them with snail shells. They were mocked all over the entire village. Then all these things were not heard of. Secondly, there is no longer moral instruction in schools. Churches and schools were teaching religious and moral instructions in schools in those days. And in the church, the teachers and the priests were living by examples. Then, there were only a few Pentecostal churches and the population was not much. Today, with the increase in population and illiteracy, coupled with non-availability of jobs, people are doing all sorts of things to survive. There is absolutely nothing a religious leader who does not value the family name or harbour thoughts of the hereafter can do to help in the situation. There is moral decadence and bankruptcy everywhere including the churches that are supposed to be the custodian of these. The definition of success today has also killed the spirit of those that want to remain faithful and honest. God’s word says, “You have a few names in Sardis (Nigeria) that have not defiled their garments” (Rev. 3:4).
The way out is for those in authority to stop all the awards they give to people that do not merit them. Let religious leaders begin to live by example. Finally, all these are the signs of the last days and judgment is coming (2 Tim. 3:1). This notes that in the last days, perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, be covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents and unholy. They will be without natural affection, truce breakers and so on. So, most of these things we see are in the spirit of the end time.
‘It Is The Failure Of The Law And Security Agencies’…Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo/Chairman, Communications Office of the Catholic Bishops of Africa and Madagascar
THESE days, I must say there is hardly any standard left for determining what is really a church. Apparently, it is just about any gathering of people under any kind of guise or authority, sometimes lacking any rules, direction or even doctrine. They just gather around a banner, signboard or in any building. In itself, this fact poses a huge problem. The proliferation of churches has translated to a proliferation of ‘moralities.’ Some so-called churches even endorse and ‘bless’ corruption because according to them, Jesus “has wiped away all sins,” as long as tithes are paid. This is outrageous, but it happens.
The media and the public must be careful of generalisations, which is both odious and dangerous. No church is perfect, as long as human beings compose it. But you would be wrong to assess all ‘churches’ with the same parameters. You really have no way of knowing how much the church is doing to curb or dissuade looters, liars, cheaters or adulterers. The work of the church is essentially private and personal and can be judged only in the internal forum and by God.
Finally, the church does not have the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting criminals. It is the failure of the law, security agencies and governance, which have abdicated that responsibility to the church and that must be corrected. Let us get the law and security agencies back on their feet and criminals would be more circumspect even in the church, which has to turn to these institutions when defrauded. I repeat, there is the church and there are churches, and that says a lot about what happens where.
‘We Celebrate Mediocrity And Kill Patriotism’
(Pastor Mike Onyeka, Senior Pastor, Victorious People Assembly Int’l Aba, Abia State)
THIS is a worrisome situation. However, it does not reduce the importance of the churches and mosques and the religious beliefs they represent in the society. As a matter of fact, another way of looking at it is to agree that the nation will be worse off without the churches and mosques, if in spite of their number, our society is still this way.
In my opinion, the reasons include: Firstly, the Nigerian political structure, which concentrates too much power and money in the Federal Government resulting in “monkey de work baboon de chop”. Secondly, we celebrate mediocrity in the guise of federal character and balancing inequality. This has killed patriotism, which is the soul of commitment to country and integrity in governance. Even committed Christians and Muslims from different parts of Nigeria no longer see stealing public funds as evil. Rather, it has become “collecting our own share of the national cake.” Secondly, there is a failure of leadership in Nigeria, which, in spite of the enormous wealth of the nation, has left Nigerians to their own vices. Sink your own borehole, if you want water; pay through your nose, if you want to go to school no matter how brilliant; buy your generator, if you want electricity; go to a private hospital or abroad, if you want medical treatment. And after going to school spending your blood as it were, you roam the streets without any means of livelihood.
Consequently, the average Nigerian has developed the mentality that it is not immoral to square up with a system that has betrayed, frustrated, and is insensitive to him, even if it means participating in crime. So, his/her interpretation of the Bible or the Qur’an is coloured by this sentiment. Hence, both the pastors and the Imams are having difficulties penetrating the hearts of their people concerning these vices. Where the situation is obvious, the church ought to bother and do something about their members, who steal public funds or get involved in corruption. But beyond that, the church is not EFCC or ICPC. Again, the church has an obligation to receive people the way they are before trying to change them by the word of God. Ordinarily, the desire to please God should be enough force to stop a man from living immorally. Many are doing so, even in Nigeria. However, members of the church are not from the moon. They also live in this society.
To solve the problem, Nigeria must be restructured to make for equity. Merit should be enthroned over mediocrity. The leadership must improve governance. Corruption must be openly dealt with from the top. Workers should be paid adequately and programmes put in place for them to be able to build their own houses legitimately. Our pastors and imams must set examples with their own lives. They must assist their members to experience the truth that one does not have to steal to be wealthy. The blessings of God make rich and they add no sorrow.
‘We Should Distinguish Between Real Christians And Church Goers’
(His Eminence, (Dr.) Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate, the African Church/President, Christian Council of Nigeria)
DESPITE the fact that we have so many churches and mosques today, there still exist greed, corruption, kidnapping, impersonation and ritual killings among others. This is the reason one has to distinguish between Christianity and religion. The word “Church” from Christian perspective should elucidate the difference and solve the problem of misconception between Christians and churchgoers. The church means (Ecclesia or “assembly”), which exists in Christ, through, and because of Jesus Christ. At Antioch, it is a distinctive New Testament reality, which was based on their Christ-like character.
What have people turned Christianity to be nowadays? The differences between the church and religious ones are rooted in the newness of the covenant of the believers that old things have passed away, behold all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians (members of the body of Christ) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, ordained to show forth the praises of Him, Who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
Again, Christians are those washed by the blood of Jesus Christ and sanctified by His word. Therefore, could any human trafficker, prostitute, armed robber, “419er”, and hired assassin be called a Christian? The answer is NO. Those who claim to come to church and still engage in such corrupt practices are just churchgoers and hypocrites.
It is a Biblical injunction that one should not steal money from his/her place of work or employer and donate it to the church. Anybody who steals in any form is a sinner, and no sinner will ever have fellowship with God except through repentance. It is the responsibility of the leaders to preach righteousness and Godly contentment to their congregations to forestall the evil perpetrated by the so-called churchgoers. Every God-ordained leader will always watch over those committed to his charge.
Example is in the case of Prophet Samuel and Saul as seen in 1 Samuel 15:14, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” NIV Daniel is another typical example of how Christians should behave as the light to unbelievers around them. Daniel 6:4-5 “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally, these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” (NIV).