Nigerian church stands up for social justice
It was a scene to behold, men of God mounting the podium to pray and openly voice their support for young people protesting against police brutality, and condemning the government’s approach towards addressing the grievances of the youths that made them hit the streets in demonstration of their resolve to no longer put up with careless and insensitive leadership.
For a long time, the Church in Nigeria had been described as docile, laid back, and irrelevant to the goings-on in the country. Indeed, some prominent clerics have been accused of dining with the political elite and compromising their cherished sacred callings.
But all that appears to have changed, at least in the face of the unfolding anger in the country against bad governance, triggered by the #EndSARS now protest, an agitation by the youths of Nigeria against police brutality, occasioned by the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force.
First to break the silence in the church and openly announce his support for the protesting youths was Pastor Enoch A. Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
He had declared in his Twitter handle: “Our daughters will not be able to prophesy and our young men will not see vision if we don’t keep them alive. I support the youths in this peaceful protest as they speak up to #EndPoliceBrutality. #EndSARS#EndSWAT”.
For many who had observed that that respectable cleric hardly or never made an open declaration about his stand on any issues in public discourse outside his jurisdictional purview, that was revolutionary.
Pastor Adeboye was soon to follow with another outburst following the shooting by men of the Nigerian Army of a group of the #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos Island on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
He tweeted: “I condemn in the strongest possible term, attacks launched by the Nigerian military on unarmed young people, who have been peacefully protesting police brutality over the past twelve days as #EndSARS protests.”
Other voices in the church also echoed from their various sanctuaries across the country, including Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Citadel Global Community Church who has never shied away from engagements in the public debate on various socio-political issues, Pastor Paul Enenche of Dunamis International Ministries, who personally led a march in the streets of the nation’s capital, Abuja during the protest.
Indeed, there were other men of God who also made an appearance on the protest grounds at both the Lekki Toll Plaza and Alausa Government House grounds in Ikeja, another converging point for the protesters.
Pastor Ituah Ighodalo of the Trinity House showed up at Lekki where he prayed and gave moral support for the protesting youths, just as Pastor Sam Adeyemi of Daystar Christian was on Twitter guiding the young ones on the need for a focused but peaceful push to ensure a better future for themselves and generations to come.
What all that reminded those who cared to take note is that the church must rise up and retake her place as the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the conscience of the nation. The church must not allow herself to be intimidated and made irrelevance by a corrupt political, ruling class only out to pursue their own interest and subject the populace to ignorance and perpetual subservience.
The renowned U.S. civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King, has been quoted to have said that: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the slave to the state but rather the conscience of the state.”
What that simply means is that inasmuch as the church is not expected to take the place of the governing political establishment, which itself exists by God’s sovereign act, the church must not be identified with the corruption in the system and must not shy away from speaking truth to power by aligning herself with God’s righteous standards and helping to enforce same in the society.
No one else better exemplified this conscientising role of the church than the head of the Church Himself, Jesus Christ, who during His earthly ministry took on the religious and political powers of the day and fiercely criticised them over their penchant for corruption, blood-shedding, oppression of the poor, hypocrisy, bigotry and all forms of sinful activities.
The voice of the church must be heard again, loud and clear. But to begin with, they that go to equity must do so with a clean hand. Let us first examine ourselves and be certain that we are not guilty of what we accuse others of. The church must stand up to be counted once again, rest assured that the gates of hell will not prevail against her.