The Vital Role of the Church in Liberation Movements
By Chiemelie A. Umeh
In the ancient past God sent the prophets to inform and organise the people on the path of righteousness, justice and truth. Man in his nature usually disobeys the law and disobedience to the law of course attracts punishment. This punishment can be in the form of conquest and enslavement by a superior power or any of the likes. God in his infinite mercy sends the prophets to preach repentance, forgiveness, hope, liberation and restoration.
The coming of Yahwehshua – the Christ – was to pay the supreme sacrifice for the atonement and liberation from sin thorough death on the cross and the free gift of salvation. From time immemorial, God has always raised an individual and a significant few to champion the course of liberation and restoration of hope. From the days of the prophets to the time of the apostles, and down to the early church fathers and missionaries, the mission and purpose has always been the same … restoration, hope, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
The Indigenous people of Biafra are basically pursuing the course of restoration of the ancient kingdom of Biafra and right of dignity, national identity, respect, unrestricted progress and advancement. Headquartered in Germany, the movement has as its governing body, the Directorate of State, headed by Mazi Chika Edoziem, under which are different structures, but is generally led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, known and referred to as the Supreme Leader. Kanu is deputized by Mazi Uche Mefor.
Yahwehshua – the Christ – was sent by the father to preach good news to the poor, set the captives free, heal the sick and offer the free gift of salvation. He gave hope to the downtrodden, preached liberty to the captives, repentance from sin and reconciliation to the eternal Father. After resurrection, He commanded his disciples to continue the good work and promised to be with them to the end of time.
The disciples continued from where he stopped. They shook great empires from their very foundation. From Jerusalem to Rome, and down to the Byzantine Empire. The Judeo-Christian values were established and subsequently passed down to generations.
The church in Nigeria is facing an existential threat – the “Evil Agenda” of Radical Islam. Since the 19th century, the Fulani have declared an unprovoked war on the indigenous people of Nigeria, Biafrans in particular, their ultimate objective being the Islamizion of the entire South. Of course they enjoy the active connivance of imperial and local forces. Although the church leaders are fully aware of the impending danger, they’ve regrettably refused to take necessary actions.
The church is busy amassing wealth while radical Islamic ideologists are perfecting plans to hoist a black flag with Arabic inscriptions – an Islamic conquest ceremony. A good majority of church leaders are keeping silent when they should speak up and take decisive actions to repel this ruthless match to dip the Quran in the Atlantic.
Just recently, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri ecclesiastical province charged Igbo’s to defend themselves and their land. This is the same call that the Supreme Leader of IPOB Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been making for the past seven years. The church has failed to realize that she is the collective voice of the ordinary people. The once powerful Catholic Bishops conference of Nigeria (CBCN) that pressured the military into submission is now a victim of the Fulani bandits in Nigeria.
The death of the 18 year seminarian, Michael Nnadi, and other ministers of the gospel at the hands of the Fulani foot soldiers is a clear indication of what will befall the church in no distant time. The greatest achievement of these Islamic ideologists will be to proclaim “Allahu Akbar” at the altar of Assumpta cathedral Owerri and the Basilica of most Holy Trinity Onitsha. All these gigantic cathedrals across the south will be converted to mosque.
IPOB is working day and night to secure the land of our ancestors and repel the Janjaweed. They’ve been confirmed by the jittery Fulani government of Nigeria as the only legitimate body fighting for the right of Christians in Nigeria. Instead of the church (CAN,PFN,CBCN) to rise up to responsibility the way it has done in other clime, the Christian church deliberately distanced itself from the activities that concern her own survival.
It is the moral duty of the Church leaders to match side by side with the people in defence of the traditional values and preservation of national identity.
When the rights of the people were threatened in the Philippine, His Eminence, Cardinal Jaime Sin (1928-2005) – charismatic past primate of the Philippine Church – mobilized the people in the “People Power Revolution,” together with the President of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippine (CBCP), Cardinal Vidal and other religious leaders to pull down the totalitarian and notorious regime of President Marcus. Cardinal Sin’s motto is, “I will serve”.
He was always at the service of his people; always shielding his people from the forces of extremism. He clearly understood that it is a battle between the church and the forces of darkness.
When pressured by Rome he threatened to resign if compelled to withdraw his support for his suffering and endangered people. He clearly understood that his primary responsibility was Love for the flocks of Christ and absolute loyalty to his fatherland. Where are the Cardinal J. Sins of the Nigerian church? Have the leaders of the church abandoned the flocks of Christ? Umu Chukwu Okike Abiama are like sheep without Shepherd.
During the Apartheid regime in South Africa, when the government imprisoned the top ANC leaders and banned the organisation, other leaders like Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki operated from London. There arose a new set of nationalists who took up the mantle from religious angle and were instrumental in pointing out the moral decadence in the apartheid system. This new set of nationalists is the black clergy, ably led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He stood with the people by condemning the atrocities of the government from the pulpit. He spoke in funerals, joined in rallies and protests in total solidarity to the wishes and aspiration of the indigenous people.
Archbishop Tutu played a vital role in the collapse of the Apartheid system. He travelled widely to garner support for the liberation movement, utilized his international connection in defence of the homeland. He called on the international community to pressure and impose sanctions on the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela described him as “public enemy number one for the powers that be”. With absolute commitment to the struggle for the emancipation of the indigenous people, the South African Church worked hand in hand with the ANC in ensuring majority rule.
At the peak of the cold war, Pope John Paul II saw it as a point of moral and patriotic duty to see to the end of the “Evil Empire”. The polish pope made great efforts in preserving National identities, empowering groups to make bold political changes. A strong believer in the dignity and freedom of man and victim of the Nazi brutality, he was the embodiment of the Polish identity and aspirations. He clearly understood that the spread of communism must be stopped at all cost. It was his goal to uproot communism from the roots starting from his homeland. With deep sense of patriotism and love for fatherland, he visited Poland severally, making speeches in historical, holy and important sites; emboldening the people to take charge of their destiny.
The saintly pope told the Polish workers to oppose any form of degradation of man, including degradation by work. Speaking to the students in Cracow he said, “build a more just world where there were no restrictions, exploitations, falsification or discrimination of any kind.” His words energised liberation groups like the solidarity movement, giving them moral support and words of encouragement. After his election, at the balcony of ST Peters , he told the people, ” Be not Afraid “.
Those words echoed loud and clear to his polish compatriots and the impoverished people around the world. The poles drew political strength from those words and by 1989 the communist system collapsed, starting from Poland. The Evil Empire has been defeated.
When the late Catholic Church leader visits a country for the first time, his first action is kissing the earth (soil), signifying absolute loyalty, respect and reverence to the indigenous Land. That’s a demonstration that the sanctity of indigenous lands is universal. The Christian leaders in Biafra land have forgotten that their loyalty is first and foremost to the sacred land and its defence their main priority. The church leaders must learn to value the land of their ancestors.
History has proven that there has always been a strong and formidable alliance between the church and liberation movements because the battle has always been against the church and the indigenous people. In fact, in the USA the leaders of the civil Right movement had to give the mantle of leadership to a Reverend … the venerable Rev. Martin Luther king jnr.
In Biafra the church leaders should endeavour to follow the example of the Polish pontiff by making themselves available as instruments of God to end this evil agenda. Let us match together to change our story, for although the oppressor can control the country, they cannot control the celestial force because no ideology can replace the mighty power of God and the will of the indigenous people. Our virtues of hope, faith and love should be marched with loyalty, sacrifice and service to the fatherland.
The leaders of the church have to follow the example of Saint John Paul II, Archbishop Tutu, Cardinal Sin and other courageous leaders of the church in supporting the liberation movements like IPOB to repel the forces of darkness and oppression. The church has the capacity to galvanize biafrans worldwide to mobilize funds to defend the blessed land of Biafra. Of course they can do it if they want to.
One of the reasons the Catholic Church is the leader of the Christian faith in the east is because during the war the Irish missionaries (spiritans) supported the war efforts. They were responsible for the humanitarian intervention of Caritas and other Christian relief agencies. That is why the bond between our people and the Catholic Church is very strong. The world of course looked the other way when genocide was being committed in Biafra land. The Holy Ghost fathers however stood by Biafrans at that difficult time in our history. Today our own indigenous church leaders are conscientiously silent and deliberately looking the other way when their land is under threat from the same old enemy.
The Archbishops and other leaders of the church should unite the clergy across Biafraland. The financial resources of the church should be channeled to the defence of the homeland. Just as Desmond Tutu worked closely with ANC to institutionalize majority rule in South Africa, the church leaders have a moral obligation to actively work hand in hand with IPOB to restore the ancient Nation. The presidency has confirmed that the resources available to IPOB are being used to defend Christians in Nigeria with little or no support from church leaders. It’s a shame. Christians must rediscover and reinvent their mission.
The primary target of the Janjaweed is to convert our worship centers to mosque. If freedom of worship must be sustained, then the land must be secured first at all cost. We should not get to that point where Biafrans will have to depend on the church for humanitarian aid. The support and aid we need from the church is to support IPOB financially and spiritually to defend and secure our land.
The church has a moral and national obligation to secure our ancient Biafran Judeo-Christian value system of liberty, freedom of worship, power of choice , restoration of our dignity as a people and ultimately, the restoration of the Sovereign state of Biafra.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the Stars. If we lose that war, lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”
The same way the late Roman Catholic pontiff worked closely with Ronald Reagan of USA and Margret Thatcher of Britain to collapse communism, Biafra-land church leaders should work with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB to collapse Nigeria.
The darkest hour is fast approaching, our destiny is before us. The land is ours, the faith we profess is under threat. Oh Christian leaders, the choice is yours.