Church response to the kidnapped girls
It's welcome that some Nigerian church leaders have spoken out, but I wish more would, writes Israel Olofinjana.
As the world’s attention finally focused on the 276 Chibok school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, I couldn't help but think about a lack of response and action by some Nigerian pastors and churches either in Nigeria, Britain or even in the United States.
The awkward silence by some Nigerian pastors and churches seems to me to betray a fundamental issue here, and it's one of justice and speaking out for the oppressed. Why is it that we are more keen about our Gospel campaign meetings, conventions and conferences, than speaking out on issues like this?
There are many Nigerian pastors who lead a large congregation in Nigeria and Britain, and mobilising them alone to do something will go a long way to make a difference. There are also many Nigerian pastors who are on Sky television or even own their own TV channels who could use their platform to speak out against this injustice. I know we are all praying about this, but we must also act or speak out!
It is good to know that at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Holy Ghost service at Redemption City a week last Friday night, prayers were said for the girls and the nation. According to the matriach of RCCG, 'Nigerians and other well meaning individuals, who are called by the name of the Almighty, must join hands to intercede for the girls who had been in captivity for weeks and their hurting parents who are yet to hear any concrete word of the whereabouts of their female wards for several weeks.'
On the same night, Pastor Adeboye, the general overseer of RCCG, asked for prayers for the Nigerian government. Adeboye urged the worshippers to pray for the nation’s leaders at every level, asking God 'to grant them wisdom to rise above the current security challenges that has literarilly brought the whole nation to her knees'. This is commendable.
Another church leader in Nigeria who is known to speak on issues like this is Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly in Lagos. In a message entitled 'Bring back our girls', which is available on Youtube
, pastor Tunde condemned the lack of action of the president of Nigeria, saying issues like this need the commander in chief to bring the situation to order rather than the president’s wife encouraging marching on the streets. He also criticised the president, explaining that, “the president’s adopted daughter has a state wedding but he is not able to find solution to the missing daughters of other people, of which recent reports suggest they have been married away according to other religion.”
In the UK, Love Justice (formerly Love Jos) a Diaspora initiative that raises awareness about the crisis in Nigeria, is calling a gathering for church leaders on 7 June at Custom House Baptist Church for a 'presentation about the crisis currently engulfing the Christian community in Northern and Central Nigeria.'
'We believe that a lasting solution to the crisis lies with God’s people, the church and not the government,' Love Justice explained. 'The presentation will address in great detail the background factors behind Christian persecution in Nigeria and what Nigerian majority churches in diaspora can do to change the situation.'This is a proactive response which is very much needed and welcomed.
It is also now very encouraging to know that some key Nigerian pastors in the UK have expressed their sadness about the kidnapped girls. Among them are Pastor Agu Irukwu, senior pastor of Jesus House in north London, Rev Yemi Adedeji, the director of One People Commission of the Evangelical Alliance, Dr Jonathan Oloyede, convener of the National Day of Prayer, Pastor Ade Amooba, co-founder of the Christian Victory Group, the Revd David Shosanya, London Baptist Association (LBA) and Pastor Obafemi Omisade, national overseer of the New Covenant Church. Follow this link to read their comments http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/news/call-to-pray-for-nigerian-girls.cfm
In response to the recent Boko Haram video showing about 130 girls (with some now apparently forced to convert their religion), some Nigerian church leaders in the UK have joined forces to organise a mass prayer vigil. The prayer event scheduled for this Monday 19 May, 7-9pm will take place at Emmanuel Centre on Marsham Street in Central London. The prayer vigil is jointly organised by the National Day of Prayer, Christian Concern for our Nation, The Overseas Fellowship of Nigerian Christians, International Strategic Alliance Committee and the Evangelical Alliance.
While these examples demonstrate that some Nigerian church leaders are responding, we still need more to respond. In addition, a collective voice and action might make a bigger impact. This is where the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) can use its weight and influence. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) recently released the names of the girls abducted. One hundred and sixty five of the girls were said to be Christian, while fifteen were Muslims. CAN have demanded that after the girls are found compensations must be paid to them and their families. It will be interesting to see whether this will be followed through.
The global community have spoken out as the #BringBackOurGirls has gone viral on social media. As more information continues to pour in and help is sent from Israel, United States and the UK, we need more Nigerian churches to wake up and act collectively!
The Revd Israel Olofinjana is the minister of Woolwich Central Baptist Church and Director of the Centre For Missionaries from the Majority World
He is Nigerian from a Pentecostal background and holds a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
He blogs and is the author of Turning the Tables on Mission