Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Nigeria is a long way from here.

In the wake of Sydney’s growing friendship with +Akinola and his similar minded friends from surrounding parts of Africa I’ve lately I’ve become fascinated by the Nigerian media. Thanks to the internet it’s possible to read the latest news from Abuja, as well as papers from regional centres such as Lagos or Kano and the Muslim north.

Some, such as the national Guardian clearly work hard to present credible and professional journalism, and the courage of those producing these papers cannot be understated. Others, such as the tabloid National Mirror seem more interested in generating Adsense revenue than they are in reporting the news. But my favourite is the Daily Sun

Newspapers like the Daily Sun exist in every country, and if you’re after serious analysis it’s unfair to compare them to papers like The Guardian. Yet they can offer a marvellous window into the hopes, dreams and concerns of the average person. They show a community’s popular culture in a way that more scholarly journals never can. They can even help explain why that nation’s leaders behave in ways which seem to make no sense by one’s own standards.

In Nigeria’s case the Daily Sun suggests that the background of the Bishops who Sydney (and more importantly, significant sections of the US) are embracing is very, very different to that of our own societies. +Akinola certainly comes from a deeply religious community (the Sun’s length list of regular features includes both "MAN IN THE PULPIT" and "ME & MY GOD",where local religious worthies discuss whatever it is that gets them excited. Let’s be honest here: none of them approach anything in a way to which your average western evangelical can relate.

This is in no way to be taken as implying the people of Nigeria (or anywhere else) are in any way inferior to those of the west, so please don’t bother accusing me of racism. The point I’m trying to make is that Nigeria is a very different culture to upper-middle-class Sydney (or North America), and that assuming either side fully understands where the other is coming from is naïve – if not positively dangerous.

As an example: not many high-circulation Australian newspapers would feature an article titled "God can still deliver cultists who made money through rituals if..." This fascinating piece revolves around an interview with the Rev. Dr. Francis Chukwuma Uwah (JP), who is the General Overseer of the Hundredfold World Outreach Church International Incorporated, and advises that ”God is so kind and merciful that He can afford to deliver any occult man who made his riches through ritual sacrifices”.

Or somehow I think not even the US National Enquirer could run Dr (Mrs.) Stella Kalu Ozonanze Queen (Eze nwanyi)’s (pictured right) wonderful account “I’m in mermaid cult, but I also believe in Jesus (Ok, I take that back. The Enquirer would love her, but I can’t think of anyone else who'd give her a run.)

Overlooked in all the breathless conservative reports of +Akinola’s brave stand on the global stage is the fact that his is clearly a See in the developing world, and that far from being a stalwart leader of his nation he is actually just one of a countless voices fighting to be heard in the rich Nigerian religious tapestry.

In a milieu which includes High Priest Daniel Oguejiofor (pictured left), the general overseer of Yaweh the King Holy Sabbath ("How my prayer paralysed a native doctor"; the Church of God Mission Inc (CGM) ("Pastoral work ruined my company"); and The Lord’s Brethren Charismatic Reconciliation Revival Ministries ("Satan using women to destroy the Church") featuring in a national secular daily it’s a safe bet to assume there will be some pretty big cultural gaps for both sides to cross before either of us is in a position to assume administrative oversight of the other’s congregations.

In the mean time is it really so liberal to suggest that we all concentrate on fixing the planks in our own eyes until both of us can understand the other whole lot better? And in the meantime how about a few prayers or kind thoughts or whatever it is you're into for the team at the Guardian? Anyone exposing Nigerian corporate and government corruption has a job more dangerous than yours or mine will ever be, and deserves all the help they can get.


FranIAm said...

What a thought provoking and soul stirring post you have given us... once again.

Much to think about here and much to pray about always.

Thank you.

Doorman-Priest said...

It is good to have some balance, otherwise we end up steroetyping the whole of Africa because of + Akinola. Thanks for that reminder.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I have had the privilege of hosting Davis Mac-Iyalla in my home. I have seen, up-close and personal, someone who is willing to risk it all for his faith.

Davis, in case you don't know, is a Nigerian, a Christian, and an openly gay man. He humbled and shamed me, because he daily risks his life to follow Christ, whereas I risk nothing.

If I thought all of Africa was like Peter Akinola, I would despair. But I have seen the heart of Africa---and Christ is alive and well in it.

Alcibiades said...

Well said Doxy: people like him give new meaning to the term "hero" - their's is a kind of courage I can't even begin to imagine.

That's what makes me so angry about the whole CANA/GAFCON thing: instead of embracing these men and women of tremendous bravery and humilty large sections of the church are instead throwing significant amounts of money and support at pompous buffoons whom as far as I can see are nothing more than ecclesiastical equivalents of the notorious 419 Sacammers and who shall prove even more harmful to their own churches than they will to ours.

Lindy said...

I think that we give Big Pete power when we fail to recognize that he is a minority voice in his own country. Sure he has the big hat and all... But, I think he's a small fish.

Thanks Alcibiades