It Is Time For Us To Close The Church And Deal With These People — Peter Obi
At the 2022 Men of Valor Conference organized by Revival House of Glory Church (RHOGIC) at Wuye-Abuja, last Sunday, Peter Obi was invited as one of three speakers.
The conference theme was ‘Navigating the Corridors of Power: The Church and Politics.’ During the panel discussion, the moderator posed this question to Peter Obi: “In terms of reaching the youth and reaching people, what are your thoughts about how the church can mobilize young people?”
Here’s Obi’s reply: “It’s a very simple thing. That’s what we are doing here. The church has to know that we’ve passed the time of praying. It’s not going to be solved by praying alone. It has to be solved by action. If you like, pray for the rest of your life. With this people? They will never go away. You must chase them away. They are not people you’ll remove by prayer. It is time to act; not to pray.”
He goes on to make a remark about the fact that the insecurity we see crippling Nigeria today has been caused by us. “The people we refused to educate yesterday are the ones chasing us out of our houses today.”
Then he returns to the theme of Christian-inspired political action. This is what he said: “Do you know how Marcos left office in the Philippines? Marcos left office because on a Sunday, Cardinal Sin finished church service. Instead of saying ‘The Mass is ended let us go,’ he told everybody, ‘Follow me and block the presidential lodge.’ After three days President Marcos and his wife left. It is time for us to close the church and deal with this people.”
For many years I have been interested in the question about how the church can positively impact politics and social development in Nigeria in an enduring way. Last Sunday at a zoom discussion with a couple of other priests, I made the point about how religion in Nigeria is diminishing personal and corporate social agency because we have resorted to using religion, in Eddie Iroh’s words, like a drunkard who uses a lamp post not for illumination but for support.
Here’s just one example: How do Nigerian Christians end their commentary on the frustrations they are enduring? “God will help us.” “May God save us.” And yet we know that God will not come down from heaven and do for us what he has given us the wisdom and intelligence to do for ourselves. We can pray, fast, do crusades, hold vigils and revivals, go up to the mountain or come down to the valley, if we do not make the connection between faith and political action, we have not started.
We need to wake up from the slumber of a distorted religious outlook that substitutes prayer for hard work. Prayer has its place; but prayer without action, faith without work, is dead on arrival. This is the time to dust our books on Catholic social teaching and put the “church’s best kept secret” to good use for the common good of Nigeria and all Nigerians. This is for me the surest pathway to national rebirth.
Jaime Cardinal Lachica Sin tried it in the Philippines and it worked. Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, John Paul II’s mentor, tried it in Poland and it worked. Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen van Thuan spinned it in Vietnam and lacerated communism’s backbone. Each of these 20th century churchmen paid a huge cost for bearing prophetic witness and mobilizing their people for change in their countries, but ultimately, they and their people won.
Like Peter Obi has said, “It is time for us to close the church and deal with this people.” What happens after “Go, the Mass is ended” must now be a clearly defined program for political and social revolution!