‘Christmas is about celebrating the saving grace of Jesus Christ’
The Minister of Education, Good News Baptist Church, Surulere, Reverend John Olafemi Ojo, who equally oversees the children and youth ministry of the Church in this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU spoke about the persecution of the church in Nigeria especially in some northern states of the country. The Reverend who holds a PhD degree in Sociology of Religion from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, speaks on the economy and urges Nigerians to put their trust in the Lord in the coming year. Excerpts:
Last week, Christians all over the world commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ. Now, is there anything like an ideal Christmas?
If we recognise the reason for the season, which is Jesus Christ coming to the world to save us from our sin. Well, since it has become more of a tradition; after the service you can stay at home with your family, and whatever God has blessed you with – share with one’s family. So, there is nothing like an ideal Christmas. The fact that somebody is rich and they can afford chicken, turkey and everything does not make it an ideal; and for those who cannot afford anything, there is also no problem, but which ever; whatever you have there are still people who do not have anything – they will not buy new cloths, and yet from their heart they are really appreciating even the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; and so, as far as God is concerned, that is the most important thing and not just in the festivity or killing of chicken or buying new dresses.
Some people strongly believe that the church in Nigeria is under persecution. Do you share that view?
It depends on how we look at it; but I know that generally churches in the northern part of the country are facing persecution and it comes in different form. Apart from the burning of churches which is the common one especially with Boko Haram of a thing; I know that before now, with most of the states in the north, even to get a land to buy for a church is a problem. The moment they know that it is for a church, its either they say that they are not selling or something like that. So, most of the time what they normally do is that individual (maybe member of the church) will buy it and later on they can transfer it to the church. Also note that there are times in many cases where they are using Sharia to even threaten Christians in some states in the north. So, from one state to the other in the north – only that the level or intensity of persecution differ in one way or the other. In fact, it is not just now; I have a friend who was in First Baptist Church, Maiduguri; he told me that they wanted to buy land but could not do that. Even to do house fellowship sometimes is also a problem except you are the one who owns your house. If you are a tenant or maybe it is a storey building and occupy any of the flats if the landlord is a Muslim, or mostly they will not allow you to do that. So, somehow we say there is a persecution; the only thing is that the level of persecution differs from one state to the other.
But, some will argue that this persecution of a thing is self-inflicted by the church; being that the church for many years has urged Christians to stay off politics:; do you share that sentiment?
I don’t think that is the case – not everybody will join politics and even if you join politics; am not sure that is the real reason. Because for example now; the vice president is a Christian, yet it doesn’t mean that being the vice president and also being a Christian, it doesn’t mean that things are easy generally for Christians. So, the fact that whether we should join politics or because people have not been encouraged to join politics in itself – I don’t agree with that. Even we have states where people; for instance in Kaduna State, where almost half of Kaduna, especially southern Kaduna are Christians. There was a time when the formal deputy governor before he became governor – the one who died in a plane crash; but now that El-Rufai is the governor, before, the deputy was a Christian, but for his second term he removed the Christian and picked a Muslim.So, the truth is that joining politics does not remove the fact that there is still persecution. There are two ways to look at it – persecution because Jesus predicted it; the Bible also predicted it. At the end time, it is the sign of the end time but also persecution in the sense that Islam wants to dominate and they see Christians as a force that is affecting the spread of Islam; so, by all means they want to ensure that Christianity does not spread and the only way they can do that is to subject Christians to all kinds of persecution and maltreatment. So, I don’t think having everybody join politics will solve that problem.
In few days from now, it will be a new year; what should Nigerians look up to in the year 2020?
But one thing is that each person should put his or her trust in the Lord. Yes, nobody will predict what will happen in 2020, but there may be challengeswith the economy, especially now that the value-added tax (VAT) is increasing and what that means is that things will be more difficult economically next year. But, the fact still remains that those who put their trust in the Lord – God knows how to supply their needs and also to help them. It’s just for everybody to put his or her trust in the Lord.