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The church should give priority to the poor

By Babatunde Ayedoju

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It is no longer news that Nigerians are facing hard times at the moment. Price of almost every commodity has skyrocketed and it is not just the luxury goods alone but also necessities of life like food. With a bowl of cassava flakes, popularly called garri, now sold for about N1,000, local rice for over N2,500, and beans for N2,000, there is no doubt that the economy is biting hard on Nigerians.

As if to dash the hope of tenants who looked forward to becoming landlords soonest, the price of cement began soaring to high heaven, with the product being sold for N13,000 in some retail shops in the Federal Capital Territory until the Federal Government intervened. After a meeting with the Minister of Works, David Umahi, and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite, the three major cement producers – Dangote, BUA, and Lafarge – reportedly agreed that cement price would not exceed N7,000 or N8,000, depending on the location.

The exchange rate of naira to the dollar has not helped matters, as naira now exchanges for more than N1,600 with the dollar, thus increasing the prices of foreign goods which have become unavoidable for Nigerians because of low productivity, and failure to develop local production.

Insecurity has also complicated matters, farmers in most parts of the country are now afraid to go to their farms because of incessant attacks from bandits, kidnappers, and criminal herdsmen. All these factors have joined hands together to set the stage for an era of hunger and extreme poverty for individuals who probably never thought they could do some of the things they now do, to survive the harsh economy. For the curious minds, such things include stealing, alongside begging for money and food.

Amid this prevailing situation came a viral video on social media in which the General Superintendent of Deeper Life Bible Church, Dr. William Kumuyi, was seen telling his church members that Christians should not spend all their money on building churches but also help their poor neighbours who cannot afford basic life needs. In that video, the clergyman clarified that while it is good to build the church, Christians must remember their neighbours dying of hunger.

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His words: “Look at all this offering we’re collecting. This church has silver and gold. There are indigent people around. While you’re building, your neighbours are dying. Your neighbour, who does not have anything, your sisters, and your brother have nothing to send their children to school. We built DLICC (Deeper Life International Conference Centre) with all the offerings we could build. And we can now be at ease and allow our members to die of hunger and to be destroyed because they have nothing and we have the money.

“And what if this church, like we used to do in the olden days, in the good old days that we reserve some amount of money for charity? That we allocate some amount of money for building DLICC, and the district church, and the people we’re building for are dying of hunger, malnutrition, and starvation. Let’s budget part of the money, millions of our currency to take care of the people.”

The mathematician-turned-preacher admonished his audience to give priority to the poor, whether they are members or non-members of the church, adding that “We should not spend all our money on the building of a church that will not be raptured when Christ comes, because Christ is coming.”

In that video, he also referred to a preacher who asked his congregation to raise an offering of N10,000, N20,000, and N50,000, only to instruct them that they should give the money to poor people in their neighbourhoods, saying, “All the offering is not just church, there are poor, unemployed people around.”

Since the video surfaced, it has elicited responses from Nigerians across the board. Professor Adediran Ikuomola, a criminologist and security expert, described the clergyman’s clarion call as a pointer to institutional failure. He said, “Based on the current reality in Nigeria, such as the poverty rate, exchange rate, and political instability, the church, like other organizations, is only trying to help out in their little way. It will remain the opium of the people, a consolatory ground.”

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Ikuomola said that beyond encouraging members to give to the poor, the church should speak truth to power, emphasizing that giving is part of humanity and some people will always give to the poor, even without being told.

He said, “The politicians who have messed up this country are members of different churches, They know them. They visit Aso-rock, and what do they tell the president, lawmakers, and others? Church leaders should lead by example. They should let the church under different associations like CAN, PFN, and so on lead by example, rather than diverting the issue to individuals or members of the church.”

The criminology expert, who said that the economy of great nations is anchored on good governance, political ideology, sincerity of purpose, and willpower, added that if the church wants to be sincere, they should make their primary, secondary, and tertiary schools free like the missionary schools of old.

“They should genuinely build companies, go into farming, and contribute to the agro-economy, not land grabbing and accumulation of wealth and business empire all in the name of the church,” he said further.

According to Comrade Tunde Taiwo, Chairman of the Association of Labour Veterans in Ondo State, the admonition of Kumuyi to members of his church in particular and Christians in general to assist the poor is apt, appropriate, and timely, especially at this critical time that most Nigerians are suffering from unprecedented hunger ravaging the land.

Comrade Taiwo noted that such a statement, coming from a high-ranking church leader would naturally have the desired high impact and compliance among his church members and Christians generally.

His words: “Adherence to that advice may not be total but the compliance level is expected to be impressive, and this will, to a large extent, reduce the hardship of Nigerians.”

While pointing out that Kumuyi is not the only pastor who has made such a call, the labour leader stated that such was the practice of the early church when converts sold property and brought the proceeds to the common treasury of the church.

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“Such moderate financial assistance to the less privileged will enable them to engage in productive economic activities which can result in increased Gross Domestic Product for the country,” he added.

Pastor Isaac Opara, a clergyman, said that Kumuyi’s clarion call is very important, because people are dying of hunger daily, and it appears that no one is ready to make things easier for the masses. While blaming the state of Nigeria’s economy on bad leadership, he said that Kumuyi’s appeal is nothing but a clarion call to everyone, adding that, “Christ has blessed us all with something; we can as well be a blessing to others from these. So, we should be a blessing to others. When these instructions are adhered to, definitely it will help our economy and at the same time reduce the crime rate in our society at large.”

Venerable Joshua Olugbemi, a clergyman who is also an economist, said, “I think the man of God is saying the right thing. The Church has not been fulfilling its obligation of taking care of the poor. If individuals can do this, it helps in improving the standard of living of the masses. But the people may not do this. It is so hard for the country and individuals are struggling to meet up with daily demands.”

Reverend Canon Emmanuel Adebisi, another clergyman, called for a balanced approach, saying, “Pastor Kumuyi is right on one part because people believe giving in the church is more beneficial than giving to people in need, but in the real and actual sense the people around us need our offering now more than the church. However, if offerings are brought to the church, the church should find a means through which the needy and poor people are helped because this will improve the standard of living of many. However, if offerings are not brought to the church the church can’t afford to be in the position of helping anyone.”

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The church should give priority to the poor

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