2019: Leaning Into Divine Refuge and Strength, By Folu Olamiti
The Primate Of All Nigeria and Archbishop Metropolitan, The Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, set the tone for the conference by speaking to the theme with comforting assurance of God’s love and protection to the bereaved, homeless, widows, widowers and orphans, reinforced with the biblical saying: “And lo I am with you always to the close of the age, to bless you…”
In September 2018, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) held its Standing Committee Conference in Minna, Niger State, with the theme: “God Our Refuge And Strength.” No topic could be more appropriate at this hazardous time in Nigeria, when the Christian community, especially our brothers and sisters in the northern part of the country face realties and threat of persecution, violent attacks and extermination.
There is no pretext about this, as we witness and read everyday how the blood of the innocents is shed and tears and sorrows envelop communities and families of victims. Not only that; thousands of infants and school children are daily orphaned and forced to helplessly watch their promising dreams evaporate and gaze at a bleak future, eking their daily bread from dustbins!
Even those at internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps are not better off, as Boko Haram terrorists regularly raid and loot their domains, while wreaking havoc on their means of livelihood. In the same breath, their social welfare is nothing to talk about, as money allocated for their upkeep is allegedly being mismanaged.
Against these pitiful and horrific tales, the choice of the theme of the bi-yearly Conference in Minna was, therefore, premised on the need to seek God’s face in recognition that all human efforts had failed to solve the quagmire.
The Primate Of All Nigeria and Archbishop Metropolitan, The Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, set the tone for the conference by speaking to the theme with comforting assurance of God’s love and protection to the bereaved, homeless, widows, widowers and orphans, reinforced with the biblical saying: “And lo I am with you always to the close of the age, to bless you… to encourage you when success delays in coming, to strengthen you when persecution and troubles are present.”
Primate Okoh pointed out that the world had known great evils in the past, considering the magnitude of evil unleashed upon it by the first and second world wars and national, regional and international conflicts with crises across the globe, which has also found their way unto the shores of Nigeria, in form of the vicious and deadly Boko Haram insurgency.
Side by side the rampaging terrorists and suicide bombers are also the menace of ritual killings, invasion and burning of churches, mass murder of worshippers and predominantly Christian communities by land grabbers and power mongers by some armed gangs and youth, especially in the Northern part of the country. The Primate described this gruesome trend as sad, unfortunate, alarming and reprehensible and alerted that: “The nation is being surrounded by unrelenting enemy, where innocent people are being gunned down and butchered. Bomb manufacturing factories are being discovered. The Boko Haram terrorists have unrepentantly sworn to destroy Nigeria, unless their interests and that of their sponsors prevail.”
Describing these times as troubling, Primate Okoh asked: “Would God help her? Has He helped in the past? Can we rely on His faithfulness?”
The Primate was affirmative in his episcopal response, stressing that the Lord has always intervened timely to rescue the nation and restore peace. “Following past powerful interventions in our national affairs, one can say God is a Nigerian.” He expressed confidence that: “God Who delivered Jehoshaphat from the menace of the Moabites and the Ammonites; Who delivered Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem from Sennacherib, his arrogant and defiant Rabshakeh, would deliver Nigeria” from current travails.
Primate Okoh admonished political gladiators and the nation not to despair, but to embrace peace and faith in the Lord, as demonstrated by renowned civil liberties crusader Rev Martin Luther who, on hearing depressing and gloomy reports, summoned the faithful brethren around him and exhorted: “Come, let us sing (or read) 46 Psalm” and thus challenged God ‘the mighty one in battle to arise and let His enemies scatter’, saying, “This is the time such prayer should continue to be repeated by all.”
Assuring Nigerians that the presence of God “guarantees security for the country, he emphasised: “Nigerians are being pursued by an implacable foe. God is our fortress, our refuge, our help and our deliverer, and He will help us at the break of day!” Consequently, he urged those presently in distress not to lose hope, assuring them that “Our God never sleeps and is watching what is going on and will surely come to the rescue of the oppressed.”
The Minna meeting rounded off with an intercessory prayer by delegates and participants, comprising the houses of bishop, priest and laity for urgent divine intervention in the affairs of Nigeria and for a immediate end to the merciless killings and persecution of Christians and innocent Nigerians by the Boko Haram terrorists.
Folu Olamiti, a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, writes from Abuja.