FORMS OF ABUSE IN THE NIGERIAN/AFRICAN CHURCH THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED
I never knew that a day would come when I would have to address an issue like this, but the case of abuse right in the Church has become so prevalent, it is important for me to write articles and a book to address it.
Recently, I read the sad story of a big church in Lagos Nigeria that does not allow the housemaids into their main hall of worship. The church which is mostly filled with elites prevents housemaids who accompany their bosses to the church from worshipping in the same congregation with those bosses and their families. The more heart-breaking part is that the children of the rich men are allowed into the church. They are allowed to sit with their parents; they have fanciful dresses and dress well. The poor maids do not have good dresses like the children of the rich. Hence they are not allowed to enter into the hall of the congregation. What a shame. With such level of abuse, it will take serious rehabilitation to restore the confidence and self-esteem of those children. That is an abuse of children right in the church.
Another sort of abuse of children by churches is the stigmatisation of children. In Africa today, especially in Nigeria, many children are tagged as witches and wizards. A child who steals food because he is hungry is immediately tagged as possessed. A child who is not respectful to parents is also possessed. Such a child is demonized. Another child who constantly passes of urine on his bed at night, which might even be age-appropriate is tagged as an agent of Satan. Sometimes, children that are thus tagged are immediately lynched and burnt. Some of these children are sent to ‘spiritual homes’ where they are subjected to all kinds of experiences in the name of deliverance and exorcisms. They are whipped, tied to trees, chained and made to drink concoctions in order to ‘arrest the evil spirits in them’. Our churches have facilitated this level of abuse by tagging some children witches and wizards for what is considered normal childhood behavioural patterns.
The case of a Danish woman named Anja Ringgren Loven, who rescued a young boy on the streets of a community in Nigeria readily comes to mind. Anja had established an orphanage in a community of one of the Southern states of Nigeria to protect and adopt vulnerable children. She met a young boy of three years, who was close to dying on the streets of the community looking for thrash and left-overs to eat. The young boy had been tagged a witch because both of his parents died shortly after he was born. He had no one to look after him, and his only means of survival was to roam the streets and beg for food. No one would still give him crumbs to eat, because they believed that evil would befall them if they offered any help to the young boy. Anja spotted this little boy in this condition, with absolutely no clothes on his body, his body wasted from severe starvation and hunger. She helped him with a bottle of water and biscuits; someone took a picture of her as she was offering water to this young boy. That picture became one of the most memorable pictures of 2016, which travelled around the world.
Anja did not just adopt this baby; she put him in school. Two years after, she shared pictures of the young boy again who at this time was looking well fed and very healthy.
The Nigerian Church has promoted so much hatred for orphans, maids and other vulnerable children that the community does not see them as priority any longer. Many Christians in Nigeria believe that helping the poor would make poverty come upon you. They believe that helping an orphan would make you die as the parents of the child died. Hence, people look at these vulnerable children as a curse to the community. They are destroyed and killed daily in the name of God and religion.
As I write this, it is difficult for me not to shed some tears and weep due to this extent of damage that has been done to my people. Can you believe that people, I mean Christians now believe that helping the poor and vulnerable children is signing up for poverty? People would rather give their money to a big man of God, or the wealthy preacher because they believe that they are sowing to the higher anointing. They would not want to help the street children, the maids, the orphans, the vulnerable and abused children, because they believe that would make them land in poverty. Oh! What depth of wickedness. This is one of the greatest damages being perpetrated by religion in Nigeria and Africa today.
The weak and vulnerable children are not alone in this stigmatization. Churches also tag and stigmatize the old people as well. When a person is getting old, there are bound to be physiological signs of aging. Some of such signs could include some strange behavioral patterns. Pastors and prophets in my country actually tell people that these are signs of witchcraft. A great number of people in Nigeria believe that their aged father or mother or an aunty or relative somewhere is responsible for all their woes and problems. Hence, they mete out terrible treatments to these people. Right now, growing old in Africa is becoming more and more scary by the day. Apart from the fear of abandonment, you are likely to be tagged a witch and treated accordingly. Yet, all of these mindsets come from the church. This is great damage that religion has caused.
To be continued Tomorrow, don’t miss it.
Excerpts from the Book “Damaged By religion, Path To Healing”. #DSABOOKS
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHURCH AND NATION
By Pastor Sunday Adelaja.