How Nigerian Christian leaders reacted to the ongoing #ENDSARS# protests

How Nigerian Christian leaders reacted to the ongoing #ENDSARS# protests

On the 16th of October 2020, youths in Nigeria held a candlelight service in memory of the men and women who have lost their lives to the notoriou

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On the 16th of October 2020, youths in Nigeria held a candlelight service in memory of the men and women who have lost their lives to the notorious hands and guns of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). There have been protests in many states of Nigeria for over a week, demanding that the government shut down the squad and deliver justice to the families of the victims affected by their inhumane activities.

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad is a unit in Nigeria which even though originally created to combat special cases of violent crimes, has over the years gradually followed a trend of intimidation, oppression, extortion, maiming and sadly often times the unnecessary and disheartening killing of innocent Nigerians.

The squad has acted year after year with impunity and even after numerous reports of their ruthless attacks by victims, they have been left unchecked by the government and allowed to worsen with a strange boldness, often threatening victims by saying they would kill them and nothing would be done about it. They became a constant thorn in the flesh of Nigerians with reported cases of extortion being narrated on social media every other day. The youths in the country, especially the male population have been the target of these attacks.

The modus operandi of the infamous unit has been to station themselves on busy roads and streets in unmarked vans while all dressed in casual clothes, then unlawfully conducting stop and search operations on male passers-by who look well to do, stopping cars with young drivers accusing them of online fraud and even sometimes just randomly picking people off the streets, getting as bad as right in front of their homes.

A particular complaint is that it had become a crime to SARS officials for young males to look good, use expensive phones or cars, have tattoos, dye the hair a bright colour, etc. The female population are not exempted from their crimes too, there have been numerous reported cases of rape and even murder.

Members of the SARS Unit.

According to Pew Research Centre, Nigeria has the largest population of Christians in any African country with more than 80 million worshippers, it is therefore saddening and shocking that for a long while leading Christian clerics were silent on a matter directly affecting many members of their own congregation.

During the course of the protests there have been outcries by youths to Pastors and other clerics, asking them to lend their support to their struggle. In the course of the protests there have been numerous attacks by the government controlled police on the protesters, with multiple reports that about 12 people have been killed and many others injured in the process. Eventually, a few have publicly come out to lend their voices, most of them using social media to spread their message.

One Pastor who hasn’t been mute or diplomatic at all during this time and has used all the means at his disposal to preach against the evil perpetuated by the rouge police unit is the founder and Head Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Pastor Sam Adeyemi. He has urged the protesters to “speak forcefully but peacefully without engaging in violent protests”.

According to a statement made on popular social media site Twitter, he said, “Rarely does a generation have the opportunity to lead change as the one handed the youths of Nigeria right now through #SARSMUSTEND. It cuts across the fault lines that divide Nigeria…. Some of you will be governors, senators, president, CEOs, etc., in 10 to 20 years. Hold the vision of a developed Nigeria in your heart.

Commit to value human life, be honest, promote justice, serve with excellence, and cultivate leadership skills. God will help you. #ENDSARS”. The statement was greeted with enormous praise and gratitude by the protesters, it was a welcome development and a saddening rarity given that such support was not immediately and strongly offered by many others.

Pastor Sam Adeyemi of Daystar Christian Centre.

Thread by Pastor Sam on Twitter.

Subsequently, popular Pastor E. A Adeboye of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), released a statement supporting the protesters. In a report by Nairametrics he said quote “The Redeemed Christian Church of God identifies with Nigerians presently protesting against brutality and the abuse of power by the very institution established to protect.

The Church welcomes the disbandment of the SARS, and notes the establishment of a new outfit called the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) but advises that it should not be a case of old wine in a new bottle”. Daddy G.O as he is popularly called impressively also took to the streets in a peaceful protest walk. Prior to this the dailypost reported that Apostle Suleiman of Omega Fire Ministries urged all pastors across Nigeria through a twitter post, to have a moment of silence on Sunday the 11th of October, for everyone who has unjustly been killed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

Pastor E.A Adeboye of RCCG during the peaceful protest walk.

Twitter post from Apostle Suleiman.

Apostle Johnson Suleiman of Omega Fire Ministries.

As much as these statements have helped bolster the strength and resolve of the protesters, It isn’t lost on them that only a few of their own pastors have supported them. A big example of one silence that has been roundly criticised is that of the founder of Living Faith Church, Pastor David Oyedepo.

Pastor David Oyedepo, founder of Living Faith Church.

Nigerians have a renewed concern as to how the man listed on Forbes magazine as the richest pastor in the world has failed to come to the aid of his followers. Interestingly, there are 4 Nigerian pastors in the top 10 of the list published by Forbes, many critics are already asking why more isn’t being done to support and aid the protesters. As they continue to say, “it’s a person who is alive that can go to church and give offering or tithe”.

It is often meant as a joke, but it also carries a deeper meaning. The lives of many youths in the congregation are at knives edge and need protection from which ever quarter they can get it, especially from their spiritual leaders to whom they accord much respect.

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