It is hardly news that the Boko Haram Sect has been targeting churches for suicide bomb attacks in parts of the North which has resulted in deaths and destructions. However, by no design or mere coincidence, some churches appear to have been more at the receiving end than others.
The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) is one of them. TAYE OBATERU spoke to the President of ECWA, Dr. Jeremiah Gado who bared his mind on why he thinks his church has been targeted by the Boko Haram, the losses suffered by the church and other issues:
What would you say is the level of losses ECWA has incurred in human and material terms as a result of violent attacks on your churches?
I have not been able to ascertain the level of damage done to the four or five churches because, as you know, there is curfew (in Kaduna State at the time of the interview), but I have spoken to people on the ground. Many people have been killed, many others are in the hospital. I think we still have 12 people who are lying critically ill in the hospital.
That is what befell us on Sunday and like I have said, we did not commit any crime. Our crime is simply worshipping God the best way we know how, on Sunday. There are people who want to impose their will on us, who do not want to see us just as Jesus predicted.
*Dr. Jeremiah Gado
So we are not surprised but you see, as citizens of this country, we have a right to defend ourselves. We are not helpless. Our God is with us. We are actually searching our souls, we are also praying and fasting so that God will instruct us on what to do.
Why do you think the group which started by saying it was against Western education, has suddenly shifted its focus to launching suicide attacks on churches and Christians and why has it been difficult for government to end the bombings?
I believe people who are doing this, are doing it because they think Nigeria cannot be ruled by another person but them and that is a lie. They have believed so for so many years. Nigeria belongs to all of us. God never made a mistake by putting Muslims, Christians or what they call infidels together. No! Nobody is an infidel.
The traditional religionist has a right to Nigeria, Christians have a right to Nigeria, and Muslims have a right to Nigeria. Any of these people have a right to rule Nigeria and I know those who are sponsoring or financing Boko Haram are doing it to discredit this government.
They want us to blame President Jonathan for the situation that is happening. They want us to say that he is not powerful or lack the ability to rule but no we will not say that. They are the ones undermining his government and we will not play their game. We will not blame Jonathan.
We are rather encouraging Jonathan. You see if Nigeria is attacked as a sovereign nation, what will you expect the president to do? You will expect the president to mobilize all the forces in Nigeria to fight the invading enemy.
Now, this is an enemy to the sovereignty and unity of Nigeria and so we are calling on Jonathan to mobilize and hear what God said to Jonathan (in the Bible); “Be strong and be of good courage, do not fear”. You see, Muslims who want peace, Christians who want peace and all those in between who want peace will back this government if it takes any measure that will put this to rest.
Many people have blamed government of not being decisive enough in handling the Boko Haram issue which they believe is the reason it has lingered…
The reason why this thing is still lingering is that Boko Haram is not restricted to Nigeria. They have reared their heads in Chad, Ghana, Gambia and Burkina Faso and the leaders dealt with them resolutely, firmly and that’s what we are calling on this government to do.
President Jonathan is trying and he should keep up with the efforts to end this problem but he should not fear. What is terror? It is to instill fear, to strike fear into people, to make political demands using force. This is why many believe that Boko Haram should be listed on the world terrorist list despite opposition to this from some quarters. They are a terrorist organization, so let them be listed as one.
Do you agree with those who feel that President Jonathan has not shown enough will to tackle the problem?
I believe Jonathan has everything needed to actually bring this to an end. We are calling on him to use every force to checkmate them and those who are sponsoring them. He (Jonathan) knows them. The intelligence know who they are. He should go after them with every force that this nation can muster. That is our call. We would give him time, time is running out because we are provoked whenever we are attacked.
If the government that is meant to protect us is not doing so, it should not expect us to fold our hands and be killed like chickens. No! We have a right to defend ourselves. It is our God-given right to defend ourselves. So we are not going to give in to people who think that if they are not ruling this nation, nobody should rule it. We will say no. They will not get our votes. We will exercise our civic duties through the ballot box and we will not vote for people who are killing us and burning our churches. God forbid!
Why do you think they are targeting ECWA churches?
ECWA church is strong in the North. They think that if they uproot ECWA church in the North, they can declare Islam. They are targeting our church-es because we are strong. We are an indigenous church. We didn’t come from anywhere. We started here. That is why they are targeting our church-es. They are trying to eliminate these churches to scare us into running or migrating to another place, but we’re going nowhere.
This is our country. God put us here. We need to come together to find a way to co-exist peacefully with one another. And the government has the instrument to enforce that. Let them be seen to be doing that and not let people take laws into their hands. That’s why we are calling on youths not to take law into their hands because there are law enforcement agencies. But if the law enforcement agencies are seen to be co-operating with the enemy, then we have no other way but to defend ourselves.
What security measures have you put in place to prevent further attacks on your churches?
We have erected barriers. As you know the first church that was bombed, the bomber went through the gate. He went through barriers, the bomb exploded at the gate but it caused so much damage. So we are reviewing our security system and you will see that in due course. I don’t want to talk about it now but we are putting measures in place.
The reprisals that followed the bomb attacks in Kaduna have been faulted in some quarters. What is your position on this?
Those burning churches and going after Christians are doing so because they sincerely believe they are offering God a sacrifice. But what is happening should not take us by surprise because Jesus prepared us for what is happening but we should not respond in kind. It is not the way Jesus would want us to go about it. We do not want reprisal; we do not want revenge because God says “leave vengeance to me”.
So my appeal to the youth, our young men and young women is; “Do not take the law into your hands”. The God that we serve is going to fight for us; our God is not dead. If people fight for their gods, our God will fight for us. Leave the fighting to God. God’s way of dealing with it will be sweeter and more devastating than the way we will deal with it.
So my appeal to the youth is that, please and please, do not do anything that will not be a good testimony to what Jesus said would happen. Having said that, I want to present Jesus Christ to the world, because He is the way, the truth and the life and all that He had said so far none has been proven to be a lie.
Every prediction and prophecy of Jesus Christ has come true. He is God. He created this world. He knows what is going to happen. He knows the beginning from the end, and the end from the beginning. That is why we put our faith in Him because He knows what is going on. He has predicted that we are going to be persecuted so if it is happening to us now, we should rejoice that our Lord prepared us for such a time, and therefore we should not be taken unawares.
My condolence goes to all those who are suffering as a result of their faith. They were killed, maimed and bombed not because they committed any crime in this nation, it is because they are Christians and Jesus said: “If they hated me, they would hate you.” Jesus Christ is the way to God and He has never advocated violence.
He never forced or terrorized anybody to accept the Christian faith. He appeals to the heart and mind and that is, what we do. So Jesus Christ is actually what the world needs. The reason why these people are doing what they are doing is because they do not have peace with God.
How true is the belief by some people that the division in the Body of Christ has made it impossible for Christians to have a co-ordinated response to the problem?
We have different denominations in Christianity and any denomination that is attacked, all of us feel the impact of the attack and it is uniting us and we are coming together. When we are going to respond, we are going to respond as a Body of Christ. We are not divided because our enemies don’t differentiate between churches.
So we are united. It is an opportunity for us to show who our God is, coming together and focussing on the major thing, which is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I said before, the reason why they are attacking us is because of the fact that we belong to Jesus.
When Jesus was here on earth, they killed Him and they said ‘we are killing you because you claim to be the son of God.’ Jesus said, He is God, who is man to say He is not God. So the reason why we are being killed is not because of the hospital, schools we built or for taking care of the poor.
If Boko Haram claims to be fighting injustice, who is fighting injustice more than the Church? If it is because of poverty, who is fighting poverty more than the Church? The Church is fighting poverty, injustice for the common people. So they are killing us because we belong to Jesus and because they don’t want to hear the name of Jesus. It is Jesus who is going to change the world. So we are making no apology to anybody.
What message do you have for your teeming members whose faith might have been shaken by recent events?
Every ECWA member should jubilate that what Jesus said is now coming true in our own time. We should count ourselves blessed for being persecuted for the faith we have. It is the civil responsibility of Nigerian government to protect everybody, according to the constitution.
So I say, do not relent; do not be scared; be ready to defend ourselves as citizens of this country. That is my advice to all ECWA members. Pray that the Lord will comfort all those who have been bereaved, heal those who have been injured. I’m calling on the Nigerian government to pay compensation for every church that has been bombed.
For example, there is a church that was burnt down last year in Gombe. Up till now, the church has not received a kobo from the Federal Government. Imagine if it was a mosque; do you think it will happen?