Nigeria’s Humanitarian Crisis: Where Is the Church?, By Frederick Adetiba
While there is no doubt that there would be other Christian organisations, particularly those based in the Northern part that would have been providing support in one form or another, mega Churches who have the resources in terms of money and people have rather been quiet. When I reflect on the sacrifices made by the missionaries who brought the gospel to us, and the price the Apostles and other martyrs have paid for this faith, I sometimes question our understanding of the nature and character of Christ.
Since the tempo of the fight against the menace of Boko Haram was stepped up by former President Jonathan, more and more people who were abducted are being freed. Unfortunately, these people do not have homes to return to as their captors did not expect they would be returning, thereby destroying their homes after abducting them. These returnees have now joined thousands of others who were displaced in their bid to escape from the terrorists in various camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
While the new government has prioritised the war against terror, the country is faced with a growing humanitarian crisis in the region. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the humanitarian crisis in North-East Nigeria is the third biggest in the world. For those who are far from the reality in the affected areas, it is easy not to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. Those who are mostly affected are women and children. Just when one thinks this is already too much to grapple with, many of the women released from the various camps of the terrorists came back pregnant.
Just recently the European Union (EU) promised to provide 21 million Euros to assist the people. Some local and international humanitarian agencies have also been reaching out to the people. I was excited to read a couple of weeks ago of how a faith-based organisation is helping about 900 of these people in Edo State. How much can these humanitarian organisations do in a situation where there are about 60 million displaced people globally, according to the United Nations? That is almost the population of South Africa.
Central to the life of Jesus Christ is sacrifice that is borne of love.
While there is no doubt that there would be other Christian organisations, particularly those based in the Northern part that would have been providing support in one form or another, mega Churches who have the resources in terms of money and people have rather been quiet. When I reflect on the sacrifices made by the missionaries who brought the gospel to us, and the price the Apostles and other martyrs have paid for this faith, I sometimes question our understanding of the nature and character of Christ. Central to the life of Jesus Christ is sacrifice that is borne of love.
I remember how donations for mission work were collected regularly by one of the mega pentecostal churches I used to belong to. One would think it’s the same type of mission work that brought the gospel to us. But alas, this money is used to establish more branches, out of which more money is made through similar collections, tithes and offerings, which are usually retired to the headquarters or what we call the mother-church. If this was the disposition of early missionaries who brought the gospel to us the faith would have been of non-effect.
How would the likes of Mary Slessor, Samuel Bill, Patricia Brennan, Henry Townsend, Edward Lawton and many others who worked tirelessly to preach the gospel to us feel when they see what we have reduced mission work to? Some of these people abandoned their comforts to endure the tremendously harsh weather conditions of Africa to show us the love of Christ. Some of them died here without seeing their loved ones after they departed to our shores. The same gospel that pushed them to abandon everything and give all, including their lives, is what we have turned into a money spinning venture, to build empires for ourselves. That is definitely not what Christ died for.
The central theme of Jesus’ earthly ministry was reaching out to the poor and broken as summed up by Prophet Isaiah.
Some would dismiss this by saying Christ died to give us life in abundance, including wealth. That is correct. But the abundant life His death secured for us is not just to make us rich and compete with the world in the display of wealth. The abundant life is for us to be so filled with His love, so much that our lives become a spring that others can drink from. That is the abundant life His death purchased for us. The central theme of Jesus’ earthly ministry was reaching out to the poor and broken as summed up by Prophet Isaiah (61:1-10):
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
While it is equally right to argue that people can also be poor in the spirit, it seems we have chosen to concentrate our outreach to those who are spiritually poor but materially rich. The situation of IDPs in North-East Nigeria is a fertile ground for evangelism. And please, this is not in any way about going to them there to preach the Christian religion or to establish more branches, but simply to show them the love of Christ, which is the essence of the gospel. The evangelism that is needed here is simply about going there to tend to their physical needs; showing them that even though we belong to different beliefs and possibly different ethnic groups, we love them still. That is the practical demonstration of the love of Christ that is shared abroad in our hearts.
What exactly is needed by the troubled people in the North-East? Temporary shelter, food, clothing and other things we take for granted.
While I salute those who are doing something already, the Church in Nigeria can do more to demonstrate the love of Christ, particularly the mega churches. The humanitarian crisis in the North-East is an opportunity we must not pass on to international donor agencies. I was recently privileged to listen to a founding member of Hezbollah, an Iranian who found Christ. During his presentation, he looked intently at us and told us we don’t know what we have in Christ, and challenged us to demonstrate the love of Christ more, particularly to those who do not know Him. The end is near, the world is getting crazier by the day. We need to reach out to as many people as possible; we might just be able to save a few more from the claws of death simply by demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ.
What exactly is needed by the troubled people in the North-East? Temporary shelter, food, clothing and other things we take for granted. We can easily make a huge difference the same way we build our mega cathedrals, schools, estates and other investments that are owned by our churches. We can afford to raise billions of naira, and get people to volunteer a few weeks of their annual leave to tend to these people. I am not asking that we abandon our situations entirely, like the American and British missionaries of old did. I strongly believe that a little here and a little there will sum up to become a mighty intervention for these people who are in need.
Mr. Adetiba, a graduate student at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, is a staff of Premium Times. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter: @fredor4c