- Blasts Church leaders for the increasing anti-church sentiment amongst younger Nigerians
- Calls for a return to the basic tenets of Christianity
Following the rampaging coronavirus in the country and the world at large, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most. Rev. Godfrey Onah has called on Christians and Nigerians to see the challenge of the virus as an opportunity to show love and care to their neighbours.
Speaking at the 49th convocation ceremony of Bigard Memorial Seminary as the convocation keynote speaker on Thursday 19th March, 2020, Bishop Onah spoke on the topic ; “the endangered Christianity in Nigeria”.
He frowned at the many ways Christians are consciously and unconsciously de-christianized by some elements in the church parading as church leaders cashing on the gullibility of many.
Bishop Onah went down memory lane to enumerate the many events in the country that has prepared the ground for the many threats Christians are facing today in the country.
According to him, he considers the threat emanating from inside the Church as a greater threat than the ones posed by Islamic apologists in the country who he said has a well designed plan orchestrated to take over the country and convert it to a sharia state.
“I am of the opinion that Christianity in Nigeria is endangered. When we think of Christianity being endangered in Nigeria, we immediately think of the threat from outside, especially Islam. That threat is real, constant, planned and being executed with careful thoroughness and various levels. Muslims in government in Nigeria explore every possibility they can find through the law to favour Islam no matter how much they deny it.”
“And radical Muslims who have more access to governance are using every other means at their disposal, violence, occupation and other things to further the course of Islam.
“Anybody saying anything to the contrary is living in another country, not Nigeria. This project is not new, it has been there since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914. The British colonial masters instructed the missionaries not venture into the heartland of Islam, the north. But they allowed that the northern Muslims have the freedom to establish their own religion institutions in the south. They are not giving up on this move. It is only a matter of method.
“Recently, the spread of Islam has taken a very violent stands through attacks on Christians and places of worship and rulers at the federal level want to tell us that this radical Muslims also attack Islam and Muslims. My brother and friend, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kuka has answered them on that.
“It doesn’t console me when your child steals from me to tell me that he also steals from you. As a matter of fact, historians and analysts of our political history see this latest outburst of the Boko Haram insurgency as a reaction of young Muslims who were disappointed that the promises of the Sharia were not delivered, because by the introduction of the Sharia, they hoped that the project of Islamization of the country will be realized but when they saw that their politicians had politicized the Sharia, they decided to step in and do it their own way, that is one interpretation.
“Of course, what is happening now has spiraled out of control even out of the control of those who originally favoured Boko Haram thinking they could score cheap political points with their exploits.
“But, recently also they have targeted Christian leaders, first our leaders said the Christians were not being targeted, now they have admitted that they have targeted Christians in other to invoke a religious war”, Bishop Onah said.
Speaking further on the real threat facing Christians in the country, Bishop Onah heaped blames on some elements in Christendom whom he accused of commercializing the gospel through what he called the Pentecostal prosperity gospel, thus, dechristianizing Christian people from within.
Bishop Onah said while going through memory lane on how we have found ourselves in the present predicament;
“Whatever their reason, Christians are being targeted but in my opinion, the threat to Christianity from outside is not as powerful, dangerous and not as insidious as the threat from within.
“Because all historians will tell you, that no great nation is ever conquered from outside until it has decayed from within.
“Christianity is decaying from within. Christianity is endangered and this danger is caused by Christians and sometimes Christian leaders. And the greatest expression of the danger that is now steering Christianity in the face in Nigeria is what we now know as Pentecostal prosperity gospel or prosperity Pentecostalism.
“That is the worst thing that has happened to Christianity since it arrived in Nigeria in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“If we think about the history of this country, we will notice when this version of Christianity entered our country. Nigeria after independence has started trying to manage itself, it’s history, it’s politics, it’s economy, it’s diversity. There was even some effort at nation building.
“But, we know about war even though to rewrite the history of the war some people have scrapped history from curriculum of our schools.
“Even after the war, those who brought the war upon the Igbos say that the Igbos provoked the war. Even after the war, despite the hypocrisy of No victor No vanquish, the oppression and exclusion continues. It is only now that our political leaders are waking to the reality that Igbos don’t count in the political and economic program in this county.
“They are now saying the country is borrowing 22 billion dollars and there’s no provision there for the South East. We are only realizing that now.
“The Igboland was reborn within 10 years from 1970 – 1980, and when it was reborn, it pulled the economic engine of the entire country along with it. This country was taken off. As a student of this seminary, I flew to Lagos for the first time in 1983 , I bought a flight ticket at the Nigerian airways service at Okpara avenue and guess what, that ticket with my student ID card cost me 23 Naira. That time you could send money to your friends through postal orders, that time anybody who had a telephone will make a telephone call, that time you could travel from other parts of Nigeria. Students from all over the world were in our universities as well as their teachers and professors from all over the world.
“But suddenly, neoliberal capitalism saw the prospects of African countries led by Nigeria and introduced a system of economic strangulation that they called Structural Adjustment Program. and our leaders were caught up in that and our economy took a dive and before people like Shehu Shagari would work out what to do to wake up this economy, the military regime struck and took over power, led by General Muhammed Buhari,..
“When they took over power they planted into the minds of the average Nigerian especially that you can take anything from anyone whether you are entitled to it or not provided you have power. And as the generals took over power, the criminals took over our streets led by Lawrence Anini, the armed robber.
“As this generals and armed bandits were terrorizing ordinary Nigerians, terrorist religious groups came on board led by the first generation of Pentecostal pastors in Nigeria.
“Rather than prepare the people to resist the operation, they prepared Christians to accept operation and turn to Christ as a solution to all problems and once you have accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, you don’t have to do any other work except pay tithe to your pastor and your problem will be vanished.
“That was the beginning of our woes as Christians and it was not long before the operations of these pastors were born everywhere. How did the Catholic Church react to that.
“Catholic Priests who, rather than promoting the truth of the gospel that is liberating were rather promoting the operation of religion as Karl Max and his disciples in the 19th century projected. For Marxist, religion exists only to solve immediate problems of poor people. Therefore, religion will die when the poor can take care of themselves.
“I bet you my dear brothers , Christianity as it is practiced in Nigeria today may die when people no longer need miracle to survive.
“There is now a dangerous alliance in Nigeria between bad governance and false religion were prophets of the gospel tradition have become only soothsayers who reveal to the public privileged information they got from politicians and claim they were revealed by God.
“But, this dangerous alliance is being seen through already by the common people in this country. If you watch what the social media are doing to the Christian Church and Christian ministers, priests, sisters and bishops, you’ll know that the people are no longer asleep and can no longer be led by rogues.
Turning to the rector of Bigard, Very Rev. Albert Ikpenwa, Bishop Onah said; “Father Rector, your students and products no longer know the name of Jesus Christ. They have changed His name to Jeesus with double E.
“I have told my seminarians that I will start expelling them for just pronouncing the name of my Lord wrongly because that is the name in vogue and in that name every knee is supposed to bow when it is mentioned. We have made fun of it”, Bishop Onah bemoaned.
“When I was growing up, bill boards in Nigeria announced products like Omo, Coca-Cola, Star, Guinness. If you drive from Jos to Lagos, you’ll see billboards of products that are sold for money. Today those billboards have been taken over by churches and politicians. Because they are all the same, business.
“Watch the billboards of Enugu state. I told Gov. Ugwuanyi, these are not your supporters but traders.
“Similarly, our religion has become a commodity. This must not be so, you students, seminarian of Bigard memorial seminary, products of this Hallowed institution. You receive some of the best academic, moral, personal, human and spiritual formation in the world, I can tell you that because I have travelled.
“But what do we do with the Commission we receive, I just told you the certificate you receive is issued in the name of the Pope. I want this seminary to know that it can be withdrawn, that certificate can be withdrawn. The complain we receive as bishops is that the formation being received here is no longer adequate to the challenges outside, what are those challenges? How to raise the dead and make magic to cure”, Bishop Onah asked rhetorically.
“That is why as I said, once they left, that formation is abandoned and piece and pieces are picked up from outside. But this vicious circle must be broken. I want to tell young graduates of Bigard, if you don’t insist on breaking this vicious circle, before you reach my age, you may not have a church to lead. It’s not a threat, it’s analysis.
“Our people are reviving the traditional religion because they will tell you that if the only thing Christianity can do is fight evil spirit, then the gods of our forefathers did it better and today when you tell Christians that they have to forgive and love their enemies, they stone you. The Holy Spirit is no longer the spirit of love but our divine assassin that we send to kill our enemies.
“Christianity as an endangered religion can be revived especially by the Catholic Church. We have the traditions, the institutions, structures and preparation to project the essentials of our religion and transmit those essentials. The essentials of love, tolerance, forgiveness, giving, service, that is the religion that we should promote.
“I often tell people that we are building beautiful structures like King Solomon who was busy building the temple and didn’t know that his kingdom was crumbling.
“The Church is not made up of good structures only, but of human acts. Those structures can be a sign and an expression of the deep faith but only then will they have a meaning.
“We must make a conscious decision to return to the basic values of the gospel and the threat of this coronavirus may be an opportunity for us to show whether we really consider our neighbours worthy of life and respect or whether we just want to save ourselves without the consideration of the other person.
So my dear friends, yes, Christianity is endangered, but more from within than from without. you cannot Islamize Christian people until it has first been de-christianized and the version of Christianity that is now popular in Nigeria de-christianizes Christians.
“We have the power and the grace especially to break the vicious circle and this is the challenge I am throwing to the fresh products of the most elevated academic, spiritual, moral and human formation that we have in Nigeria as at today.
“This is the challenge I’m throwing to you. If you are ready to take to that challenge then congratulations. But if you want to continue business as usual, then you’re boarding a ship that is already sinking”, His Lordship affirmed.