Our editorial today is inspired by the following excerpt from Monday morning’s meditation by a Catholic cleric in Kumba.
“A prophet has no use if he does not speak – not about foretelling prosperity for people, but speaking out against evil in society. A prophet or a priest whose mouth has been closed by money, fear or the quest for power is no prophet at all. …. The church itself is a prophet and must speak out against the evil of society. That is why the people look up to the Church as the voice of the voiceless and defender of the poor and oppressed. Once the Church stays silent, it is considered a partner of the social ills. Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, says, “When the Church stays silent in the face of oppression, the church has participated in political action. Such a church has to die, and indeed has already died.”
Is the Church West of the Mungo dead or dying? Did the fate of Bishop Balla of Bafia finally have the effect of deterring the Body of Christ from telling it as it is, no matter whose ass is gored? What happened to those articulate pastoral letters which diagnosed the current malaise in the country and laid out a highly acclaimed blueprint for a lasting solution?
Over the past week or two, one has heard from pulpits across denominational lines a number of spirited sermons advocating school resumption, and only tagging the release of detainees as an after-thought. Now the Churches can own the release of some of the detainees as Heaven’s answer to their prayer and fasting. If that is what it is, how can anyone deny Jesus a clap offering for such responsiveness? We know, however, that God is thorough in whatever He does. He knows that the detentions were the outcome, not the cause, of the strike action by lawyers and teachers. God knows that the selective release of some, and not all of the detainees cannot resolve the logjam, because it is now believed that any let-up in the strike action might mean those still being held have been betrayed and sacrificed by the population for whom they put their heads on the block. God knows the stakes and cannot pretend that the release would solve the problem the detentions did not create.
God knows the core issues at stake, and His Spirit – the Spirit of truth – can definitely not lead the Church in the superficiality we now see. What is it that obscures the Church’s discernment in respect of school resumption? How can our pulpits become echo-chambers of the fallacy that parents who are keeping their children at home are doing so ignorantly, or only because they are being blindfolded and blackmailed by some group out there in the Diaspora? The reason many parents prefer sending their children to mission schools where fees are four or five times higher than in public schools, is that they care about the quality of education their children get, and trust the Church to procure it for them. It is said that the heart of all education is the education of the heart. Education is worth nothing if it does not nurture in us what is good. And every passing day reveals the insensitivity, the corruption and bestiality that pervade the conduct of public affairs in our country, even in the handling of this crisis itself. And the children are seeing it, and wondering if this is what life and governance are all about. In the midst of this tug-of-war over their going back to school this week or not, who really cares about nurturing in them what is good. Does the Government, or is it just a matter of proving that it is still capable of imposing its will on the people? Does the Church – or is it a matter of keeping the schools open as a source of income?
Of course, one dare not ask the other question – for fear, not of any reprisal, but of the abominable likelihood that the Body of Christ may have been compromised – that because of “money, fear or the quest for power” our Church leadership may have elected to ignore Romans 12:2. Is it possible (God forbid), that one or a combination of these three factors could have reduced our Shepherds – the vicars of Christ – to Esaus in clerical robes?