Charity Works: Is The House Of God Doing Enough For Members?
Although both the Christian and Muslimís holy books exhort adherents to be charitable, especially to the needy and less privileged for a better society and progress, it appears this injunction is not fully taken to heart. While it is true that some members do lend helping hands to fellow worshippers and others in their hour of need, majority cannot just be bothered. And because of this, the efforts of the few seem negligible in the face of so much need.
Despite the affluence being flaunted by some members in the various religious organisations, the needy and less privileged are not being genuinely catered for, even in religious houses. As charity is said to begin at home, what hope is there for the needy in the larger society, when those in religious places are being neglected? CHRIS IREKAMBA and PAUL ADUNWOKE ask religious organisations what they are doing to alleviate the sufferings of the poor in their immediate surroundings and the larger society.
Charity And Care For The Poor Is A Practice In Catholic Church
(Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua, Director, Mission/Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja/Consultor of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (C.R.R.M), Vatican City)
ACCORDING to the Second Vatican Council, ìa Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbour, neglects God, himself and endangers his eternal life (Vatican II, Gaudiuin et spes, 7 December 1965 Art. 42). Following†Christís example, the Church is, however, not enmeshed in the temporal order. The Second Vatican Council calls on all Christians to be involved in the work of saving souls and making the world a better place to live. According to the Council, Christians are enjoined to follow the example of Jesus Christ, Who worked as a craftsman. They should be proud to carry out their earthly activity in such a way as to integrate human, domestic, professional, scientific and technical enterprises with religious values, under which supreme direction all things are ordered to the glory of God (Vatican II, Gaudiuin et spes, 7 December 1965 Art. 43).
To carry out this mission, the Church has been deeply involved in promoting education and running schools. In a radio message of Pope Pius XlI, on Christmas Eve in 1942, the Pontiff said: ìThe natural law also gives man the right to share in the benefits of culture, and therefore, the right to basic education, as well as technical and professional training in keeping with the stage of educational development in the country, where he belongs. Every effort should be made to ensure that persons be enabled, on the basis of merit, to go on to higher studies, so that, as far as possible, they may occupy posts and take on responsibilities in human society in accordance with their natural gifts and the skills they have acquired.
The Church has always ensured qualitative education. ìUntil 1898, all education was under the direct control of missionaries. As late as 1942, they controlled 99 per cent of the schools and more than 97 per cent of the students in Nigeria were enrolled in mission schools. By 1945, there were comparatively a few literate Nigerians, who had not received all or part of their education in mission schoolsî (James S. Coleman; Nigeria: Background To Nationalism, Benin City: Ilepeju Press 1986, Page 115).
In health delivery, the Church built hospitals. There exists an association of Catholic Doctors and Nurses Guild in Nigeria to ensure that the sick are well cared for. The Church believes that it is better to give a person a net to fish than to continue to give him/her some fish on a temporary basis. However, the modern trend of poverty, suffering and displacement of people is not overlooked by the church. The act of charity and care for the poor is institutionalised in the Catholic Church. The primary role of the society called Saint Vincent De Paul is the care of the poor. Many Bishops and Priests through the assistance of the laity, who have the resources†assist children that cannot afford education with scholarships. The Catholic Bishopsí Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) created the department of Church and Society in the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria to coordinate the work of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, as it relates to the human society in general.
We Empower Members With Skills To Fend For Themselves And Help Others
(Brother Godwin Ifeacho, Chairman, Executive Board, Godís Kingdom Society (GKS)
WE cannot claim to have the love of God in us if we do not show love for our neighbours. The Bible enjoins us to be kind and show mercy to the needy, regardless of where he comes from. The divine rule is that we should love our neighbours as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:4,5; Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). Apostle James called this the Royal Lawí in James 2:8.
Christianity is thus founded on concern for and service to one another (John 13:13-15; Mark 10:43-45). Those that are materially endowed should make it a point of duty to help others, who are less privileged. We should learn to divide our bread with the hungry. Apostle James states, But whoso hath this world ís good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17, 18).
In addition St. James states, What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things, which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (James 2:14-17).
Thus, we cannot claim to be Christians, if we shut up our bowels against the poor. In keeping with the injunction of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:1-4, the GKS does not announce its charitable deeds. We are in a society plagued by unemployment, inflation, non-payment of salaries and pensions, lack of skills and funds for economic empowerment, etc. But the Church has over the years been rendering help to its members in whatever distress and also to members of the public, as its limited resources could carry. Various branches of the Church have been holding workshops to teach members, especially the youths various skills such as soap making, embroidery, pomade and beadmaking among others. A number of women have also been given sewing machines, grinding machines, etc. Some branches of the Church run revolving funds to assist those needing loans for one project, business and such things. Also, Charity Groups in the Church give financial assistance to brilliant, but indigent youths in tertiary institutions.
However, apart from material gifts, we also help one another to grow in faith.
Our Mosques Have Not Performed This Role Effectively
(Ojulari Surajudeen Ademola, Missioner and Member, governing board of the Nasrul-Lahi-l-Fatih Society Of Nigeria, (NASFAT), Oshodi, Lagos)
WHEREAS Islam prescribes that mosques should be charitable to alleviate conditions of the poor and needy, our mosques, today, have not been seen to perform this role effectively. It is mosquesí responsibility to cater for indigent members, so they can feel at home.
Charity, as the Holy Qurían taught us, is no longer effective because members have neglected Allahís house. However, I urge Muslims, Mosques and the leadership of various Islamic organisations to embrace charity because the more alms one gives the more blessings he/she would receive.
We Have Welfare Schemes For The Needy
(Mike Onyeka, Senior Pastor, Victorious People Assembly Intíl Aba, Abia State)
MAN has three aspects: he is a spirit, has a soul and lives in a body. The full gospel caters for all the three aspects. Jesus Christ our Lord ministered salvation for the spirit, deliverance and healing for the soul, while providing physical food for the body.
In John 6:5, after a crusade, Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him and He said to Philip Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?í He ended up feeding over 6,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. It is clear then that part of the duty of the church is to take care of the physical well being of its members; empower them with entrepreneurial training to enable them be self-employed.
Secondly, churches should assist members who are in need. Though principal assignment of the church is spiritual, the full gospel is for the total man. For the church, it is more blessed to give than to receive. A giving church, like a giving individual, prospers materially.
In our church, there is a scheme for assisting the widows. A number of young people in the church who are in different schools are on my personal scholarship to the glory of God. We also pay rents and hospital bills for needy members.
We Give Widows Monthly Allowance
(Pastor Ezekiel Joel, Full Salvation Believersí Assembly Intíl, Nnewi, Anambra State)
I AM sure many churches have welfare sections that take care of people that are genuinely poor by way of empowerment programmes, house rent subsidies and financial assistance to settle personal issues. There are many churches that are doing all of these, but they do not blow their trumpets because there are people that will want to abuse it by coming to them not for the salvation of their souls, but for the gifts. Interestingly, those who know what some churches are doing in this regards are opposed to the satanic idea of wanting to tax the churches. I know of a church that is and has been helping to assist other churches. By Godís grace, our church has been helping the needy to solve problems such as payment of house rent, childrenís school fees and others within the limits of our resources. We also give all the widows in our church monthly allowance.
We Award Scholarship To Indigent Membersí
(Rt. Rev. Michael Olusina Fape, Bishop, Diocese of Remo, Sagamu, Ogun State)
THE question many Church members, especially the less privileged, ask today borders on whether the Church could assist them to meet their essential needs like getting good job, provide financial assistance and others.
Going by the practice among the early Christians, one basic way of identifying Christians was their readiness to share their problems, in lack and in abundance. ìNow the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his/hers, but they had all things in common… nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostlesí feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had needî (Acts 4:32, 34-35).
From the above scripture, it is clear that the social welfare of members of the early Church was as important as their new life in Christ. In other words, there is a place for social action, while exhibiting genuine faith. That seemed to inform the emergence of the office of Deacons in the early Church in Acts 6 with the appointment of seven of them. If that was the practice among Christians in the early church, it cannot be different today. There are instances of members of the church going through serious economic and financial challenges today, yet without any appreciable assistance coming from the Church. While some members are stupendously rich, others groan in poverty. If only part of the tithes collected are used to support the needy members of our Churches, the Church will once again be a true reflection of a place of refuge for the needy and poor.
However, in the Anglican Diocese of Remo, we award scholarship to the children of indigent members, provide food items and cash to widows, as well as cater for the elderly. These are practical ways to identify with the less privileged among us.