Should religious leaders and institutions take blame for upsurge in crimes? – Part 1
In his recent observation, a Deputy Comptroller of Prison has laid the blame for the high crime rate in the country at the doorsteps of religious leaders, saying they’ve failed in the discharge of their responsibilities. The man spoke from the vantage position of one, who daily experiences the upsurge in crime through the number of young people that are daily turned into prison custody, for one misdemeanour or the other. So, what have religious leaders got to say about this? Why, in spite of so much religiosity in the land, crime rate is rising? Are religious leaders really making any impact on the society? What has gone wrong? To what extent can churches and mosques be blamed for the avalanche of social vices in the country? CHRIS IREKAMBA and ISAAC TAIWO (LAGOS), SAM OLUWALANA and IYABO LAWAL (IBADAN) report.
Why we are not the reason for increase in crime, by religious leaders
Blaming Religious Leaders For Increase In Criminal Activities Is Unfair’
(Rev. (Dr.) Supo Ayokunle, President, Nigerian Baptist Convention/CAN Vice-President)
Attributing increase in criminal activities in the society solely to religious leaders is an unfair judgment, a miscarriage of justice and an unfortunate and hasty conclusion.
Firstly, the Prison Comptroller or whoever said that needs to clarify whether the Nigerian population of today is the same with the period comparison is made. In 1963, the population was around 60 million, but today the population is estimated to be over 150 million. If the mean of the commission of crime is found with regards to population of each period, has crime rate increased now?
Secondly, the Nigerian society has been urbanised. Due to rural-urban migration, many crimes are now being recorded, unlike when the society was more rural and crimes could be committed without the criminals apprehended or crimes recorded. What was the number of prisons we had 50 years ago compared to now?
Let me observe that the increase in the rate of criminal activities in the society (if there is) cannot be attributed to religious institutions alone, because there are other institutions such as the family, education, law enforcement and governmental policies, among others that also play key roles in the prevention of crimes. Religious institution is just one of such. For example, today, unlike before, policy makers, for reasons best known to them, are eradicating morning devotion for students in schools. The society is, therefore, becoming more and more secular. Early life moral instructions that were passed to children through such devotions for decent adulthood are no more. Will that not affect the behaviour of children that are not morally instructed?
Still in our schools, teachers are now forbidden from punishing erring students. They can only comment about pupils’ behaviour in their report cards. When there is no sanction at all for wrongdoing, how can it be curbed? Presently, government is planning to implement a school curriculum, where religion will no longer be studied in schools as a subject, but will only be a theme among many others in a subject.
Our policy makers in the political and educational spheres should largely bear the blame for upsurge in crime today, if there is any. They have deprived the young ones the opportunity of the right moral instruction needed for proper adulthood!
Again, do today’s parents make out time for daily devotion with their children before going out and when they come back at night, unlike what obtained, when people like us were growing up? Today, the father and mother wake up early in the morning and rush out to work in order to beat go-slow, leaving their children in bed for house-helps to attend to without any moral instruction. How can such children behave well later in life?
Furthermore, societal values have changed today. Nigerian leaders live flamboyantly and consequently, emphasis is placed on making it quick by whatever means, not through such virtues as hard work, patience and righteous living! What an awkward society!
There may also be some religious leaders out there today, who emphasise wealth and give more recognition to the rich than godly virtues in their congregations. Such religious leaders are failing God and the society through their prosperity gospel. Such religious leaders also live extravagantly. But I believe such religious leaders may not be more than those who do their works and teach what is right. I believe also that there are more good people in our society than those committing crimes. This problem can be attributed both to the religious leaders and players in other institutions who are doing their duties.
We can admonish the religious leaders that are not performing their duties to wake up and do their work for the betterment of our society. But let me reiterate here, that even if religious leaders do their work well by teaching what is right, it is not in their power to force anyone to comply, they can only persuade. There must be willingness on the part of Nigerians to obey the law and do what is right. There must also be willingness on the part of law enforcement agents to bring criminals to book. Where criminals use influence and money to go scot-free, crimes would continue to be on the increase. The judges must let criminals pay the proper price for committed crimes without receiving bribes to set them free or condemning the innocent instead. Lawyers must stop defending criminals because of the professional fees they would collect. They should stop using technicalities of the law to free criminals. If crimes would be reduced, all of us in the society have roles to play, right from the home, where socialisation of the child begins. Blame game will not help us.
Finally, the end of the world is nearer us than ever before. In the predictions of Jesus Christ about the close of age, iniquities would abound. Satanic activities would increase because Satan knows that his end is near. He would do all things possible to take over humans’ hearts. This calls for deliberate, increasing effort from all of us, especially the religious leaders, key players in the families and educational institutions to teach societal morals that would help all to be more law abiding for a germane society.
‘Clerics And Government Need To Work Together To Run Nation’s Affairs’
(Prof. Sabit Ariyo Olagoke, founder and spiritual head of Shafaudeen-in-Islam Organisation, Worldwide.
THE increase in crime rate in Nigeria is principally a direct fallout in the general breakdown of our cultural core values and the general decadence of agents of socialisation that were erstwhile naturally responsible for the upkeep of our moral discipline and promotion of integrity. These include the home, school, peer-groups, voluntary organisations, religious groups and government among others. However, religious institutions are also fraught with allegations of anti-scriptural and societal acts, which also contribute to the rise in crime.
Religious bodies are for reformation. Clerics are for the reformation of adherents and the society, through teaching of the scriptures and role-modelling the virtues of compliance for the adherents and the society to worship their Creator aright and on the need for soul purification and body preservation from evil thoughts and sins respectively.
They (clerics) are supposed to keep societal peace through the principle of good neighbourliness, as well as, establishing symbiotic-interpersonal relationship through the concept of Zakat operation.
They are equally responsible for the unification of mankind, as well as, being good advisers to the governments, most especially on issues concerning empowerment and people’s general welfare in order to maintain peace, stability, secure and safe environment. The church and mosques must mentor the people, which is also part of their responsibilities in the society.
All assigned functions and responsibilities starting from home affairs, government, MDAs, schooling and religious services are divine construct (Qur’an 37:1-4). Churches and mosques have the mentorship of the people, adherent and their children as parts of our social responsibilities to complement parental role. The environment gives room for these; when we observe rightly that those who are in government, MDAs, market women and men all go to churches and mosques. They are even closer to clerics than the government.
Clerics and government, therefore, need to work together to run the nation’s affairs, the former in an informal manner like parents, while the latter goes through formal codes of rules of law in the implementation of the nation’s Constitution.
Christian and Muslim leaders are expected to stand by the scriptures as role models in the society. We are to work with all agents of socialisation to put things aright. Credibility, dependability and reliability must be our watchwords. Religious leadership is a divine crown that must not be abused. However, most religious leaders are there for economic reasons, hence the general laxity in religious administration. Most of the clerics neither internalise the subject matter of the Scripture, nor implement it for shepherd-keeping, thereby giving room for the avalanche of social vices in the country, such as rape, murder, theft, kidnap and robbery among others.
While it is imperative for government to address the issue of empowerment, employment and poverty to reduce criminality amidst us, clerics on the other hand, need to stand aright to avoid societal condemnation, as well as divine wrath. We must all be alive to our responsibilities as Nigerian patriots.
‘Church Can Only Preach, Pray And Provide Opportunities For Character Formation’
(The Most Rev Emmanuel A.S. Egbunu, Bishop of Lokoja Diocese/Archbishop of Lokoja Province)
THE deputy comptroller of prison must be speaking from a subjective impression of religious bodies. That crime among adults and young people is on the increase is not in doubt, but this is not only in Nigeria. However, what we call crime is what the Bible calls sin. When people disregard God and do their own thing, as if God does not matter, the ugly consequences are inescapable. If religious bodies are said to be failing, we should go deeper to the root of the problem. Are the doors not being shut against the church more and more?
The Church is identified by the Lord Jesus as salt and light in Matthew 5:13-14. Also in response to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In obedience to this, the Church teaches people the way out of the mire of sin – that overpowering pull to do what brings us regret and death, for sin brings death (Romans 6:23). In contrast, the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. That is our mandate from God.
Speaking from the point of view of the Church, the average attention the Church gets from most churchgoers is about two hours a week. The parents, schools, media and others in society have them for the remaining part of the week. Only those who allow God into their homes, schools, offices and market places can have their lives shaped and controlled by godly values. The Church can only preach and pray and provide opportunities for character formation.
But in a society that allows free access to uncensored materials from the media and Internet, honesty demands that the likes of deputy comptroller should do more realistic assessment of his views. That some churches promote lifestyles that cannot be justified or sustained from the teaching of the Bible is a fact. But any sincere seeker of the truth will know that there are enough platforms to show the right way to go.
While the Church continues striving to do its part to make the society a better place – much of which never gets media attention (and publicity is not the church’s primary concern anyway), we must ask: Has this country not seen the difference between the character pattern of those raised in mission schools – whatever their religious affiliation, and what has happened since we thought it was better to take over such schools?
I hope the deputy comptroller is following the news and seeing how many adults and lawmakers and others entrusted with the ethical guardianship of our nation are being implicated daily. And that includes some of those at the physical borders! Rather than playing the blame game, we should all be stakeholders in the sanitisation of the unhappy situation we have found ourselves.
Of course, the Church begins with what we call regeneration, whereby the heart is changed. When people— young and old, fear God, then many things will be changed. That is our prayer for Nigeria. And that surely is the lasting CHANGE we all need.
‘It Is Not The Church’s Assignment To Eradicate Crimes’
(The Rt. (Dr.) Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop, Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Lagos Mainland)
THE Church was born into a world full of crimes, vices, inhumanity against man, wickedness, unrighteousness, evils, robbery and killing, among others. The Church, whose head is our Lord Jesus Christ, was established and saddled with the responsibility of preaching the Gospel of salvation from sin through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is the world’s light and the conscience of the nation. It is meant to give light to those in darkness and to liberate those who are in chains of sin. It is the responsibility of the Church to preach repentance from sin.
The responsibility is laid upon the Apostles, Pastors, Evangelists, Prophets, Teachers and Ministers of God to preach God’s Word against evil, crimes, theft, kidnapping, murder, wickedness and all vices. It is also their duty to mould people’s minds through teaching God’s Word, to direct the people to the way of the Lord, to correct, reprove and train the minds unto godliness.
However, it has to be established that the Ministers of God are not God, but only preachers of the word. It is not the preachers’ duty to change the people, but to preach the word. A Pastor is not a Saviour but an announcer of the mind and way of the Lord.
It baffles me, when the Church is being accused of failing in its responsibility of stopping crimes and evil in the world. It is not the Church’s assignment to stop sin or eradicate crimes in the world, but only to preach the Gospel of salvation.
Another wrong notion that must be corrected is the fact that not all those who attend Church services are saved, holy and free from sin or crime. Many who are called Christians or attend Church are still in sin. Many of them are of the world. There are thieves, murderers, wicked people, fraudsters, armed robbers, kidnappers and many more in the church. We may not know them, but they are always there. We pray that they will meet with the Lord and be saved before they die so that they may not end up in hell.
Further more, we have to know that many who call themselves pastors or preachers are not of God or sent by God. There are deceivers, wolves in sheep’s skin, native doctors in cassock or collar. They may establish a church and have big ministries or names. Of those, Jesus said, that many will come to Him, saying, ‘in your name we have performed many miracles, in your name we raised the dead and in your name we opened the eyes of the blind, but I will tell them, I know you not, get away, you workers of iniquities.’
No one that is saved by grace and has experienced regeneration and transformation in the spirit can ever commit a crime. The Bible says that those who are born of God do not commit sin. A true child of God has been set free from sin and crimes.
‘All Segments Of Society Including Media Must Be Blamed’
(Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, Catholic Diocese of Oyo)
HUMAN beings are not only spiritual, but also multidimensional in nature. They have physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual faculties, which need to be nurtured and developed. Therefore, although the Church has Jesus Christ’s mandate to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, (Matt 5) and to bring people to conversion, it cannot by itself alone form or determine the character of any human being.
For example, the Catholic Church, in the last few years, has been insisting more than ever before on the role of the family in the upbringing and character formation of every human person. It has held Synods, training, formation, symposia, workshops, congresses, rallies and other landmark programmes and events to optimise the role of the family for this reason. In fact, an exhortation promulgated last week by Pope Francis on the 2016 Synod of Bishops on the Family entitled “Joy of Love”, called the family a great school of freedom and peace, which introduces fraternity into the world.
Other Christian organisations have been doing their bit too. Catering adequately to the different dimensions of the human being is essential to the complete well-being and balance of any society. This must be done through the family, good education, good politics and a good environment that favours adherence to lawful existence. Wherever and whenever any of these is deficient, society experiences a deficit of wellbeing as well. One can understand the frustration and outburst of the deputy comptroller, who blamed the Church for all the crimes of young people, but man is a complex, not solely a spiritual being. And even if the Church were performing optimally, without the social, emotional and intellectual dimensions through good politics, education and law enforcement, its efforts would still fall short. There is no magic about it. All segments of society, including the media must carry the blame.
‘Deputy Comptroller Should Blame The Devil For Increase In Crime’
(Prophet I.B. Sebastin, General Overseer, Mountain of Mercy Ministry, Egbeda, Lagos)
I DON’T agree with what the man said, that religious bodies should be blamed for the high rate of crime in the society. We, as religious leaders are trying our best to reform our members by telling them what God says, the type of life He expects us to live, but the point is this: if I tell somebody to obey God’s commandment, live a holy life and the person decides to do otherwise, do you blame the church? No, you should blame the individual. So, if you, as a person, have not received Christ as your Lord and personal Saviour, you are bound to live in crises. We only have the responsibility to preach the right gospel to our members.
On who assigns the responsibility, it is in two ways: one, God assigns the responsibility to us and sometimes an individual may decide to say since Jesus Christ died for me, I need to work for Him. Sometimes, it is a calling that it is something that you must do, and sometimes too, you choose not to do it.
We have pretenders even in the church of God, some people who come to church, will listen to the preaching of the man of God and the moment they step out of the church, you begin to wonder whether it is the same person I saw in the church, or, he/she is a different person. That means they did not benefit from the Word.
Men of God are trying to reduce crime, immorality and other vices in the society, but just like what God said: When you begin to see these signs, know that the end has come. We are very close to what happened in the days of Noah. In those days, he would preach and tell people to repent and forsake their evil ways, saying God was about to destroy the world with water. But the people were laughing and making jest of him. It is the same thing that is happening today. Men of God will spend their time speaking and correcting people, but they will tell you: “We have been hearing the same message over and over again that Christ is coming, or who told you that the world is coming to an end?” It is the same attitude that you see today. Many would hear the word and ridicule it. That is why there are immorality and atrocities everywhere.
I want to encourage men of God to preach the true word of God. They should not look at faces and say, “oh, this man or woman is rich, if I speak the truth now, he/she will run away.” Let them run away, but ensure you adhere to God’s voice. After all, Jesus was not afraid of anybody in His days. Correct people when they go astray, don’t be afraid of them or begin to pamper them. Those who would hear and change would do so and those that won’t hear, wouldn’t, no matter what you do.
For example, we organised a programme some years ago, and God specifically told me that the money we are going to realise should be given to beggars and orphanages. At the end of the programme, the money was shared and people were distributed to go to these places and give the money to the needy, as I mentioned. But surprisingly, one of them called me and said: “Daddy, I saw one woman in a bus; she was looking tattered like a beggar. So, I gave the money to her.” I asked her: ‘Do you know you are talking to a prophet? What I’m trying to say is that she took the money meant for beggars. However, she later came and confessed and that was how she left the church.
So, in the church, there are people who are willing to obey God, as well as those that are not exactly what you think they are. Religious leaders are not to be blamed, but rather the devil that is the archenemy of the gospel and God’s children. So, he is the one responsible for all that is happening today. There are people who have the zeal to serve God, but devil doesn’t want them to do so. Sometimes, the devil influence people and make them to misbehave. So, it is the devil that the deputy comptroller of prison should blame.
Again, if we must genuinely fight crime, all religious leaders, whether Muslim or Christian should forget who they are and come together as one and let us fast and pray, even if it is just for one day. These should include President Buhari, governors, senators and everybody and you will see what God will do for us. But many religious leaders will not agree to come together to offer prayers to God on behalf of our dear nation. This is what I’m advocating, if we must eradicate crime from this country.
‘Blame Religious Leaders Preaching Prosperity Without Salvation Message’
(Pastor Johnson Odesola, Special Assistant to the General Overseer (Admin and Personnel), Redeemed Christian Church)
I DISAGREE with the deputy comptroller of prison, who hinged crime rate in the nation on the failure of religious bodies, vis-à-vis discharge of their responsibilities.
Talking from Jesus Christ’s point of view and as a custodian of the Word of God, I would say that depravity in the life of man leads to all atrocities, such as rape, murder, theft, kidnapping and robbery among others.
Jesus tells us in the Bible that all these evils proceed from man’s heart, as a depraved person and it is only salvation through Jesus Christ by means of repentance and conversion with a brand new heart that can remove them.
We have the responsibility, as God’s messengers to preach against these vices, but preaching alone cannot do it, if the people we are ministering to do not give their lives to Jesus Christ, to get a brand new heart to live a new life in Christ. This is the problem the world is facing today.
Then, where religious bodies may not completely be absolved of the blame is in the case of those preaching prosperity without salvation message and ensuring that the people are first born again.
Jesus tells us that we should seek first God’s Kingdom and God Himself would add His righteousness and all other things we need, such as money and houses among others.
No one is as rich as God and out of His great wealth, the magnitude of which the heart of any man cannot fathom, is what we are being given. God wants man to prosper and He has clean prosperity, for the Bible says, that He is the Custodian of ‘treasures of darkness and hidden riches kept in secret places’ that can only be revealed to His own that are born again.
Religious leaders are not just to take donations from members or anyone. They should ask for the source of such money, especially when they are colossal. They should be interested in knowing the type of work the person does. They should be inquisitive and not just accept every donation, assuming that the person is righteous. This is a warning to those that set up their religious organisations for the purpose of making money, because they would take the lion share of the recompense of the criminals, whose money they are taking and enjoying now.
‘Crimes Would Have Been More If There Are No Men And Women Of God’
(Father Ezekiel Ade Owoeye, Chaplain, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, University of Ibadan (UI)/President, Nigeria Congress of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (CPPC)
I DON’T want to agree totally with my brother, who made that statement because if not for religion, I don’t think Nigeria will be where it is today. Though there are a lot of crimes, but they would have been more than this, if there were no men and women of God. We instill the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to combat crimes. We cannot say that religion has failed in the country.
The mandate to preach the goodnews was given by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He said we should go to the whole world and preach the goodnews. The responsibility was assigned by Jesus Christ, when He wanted to go to heaven and He gave the responsibility of preaching the goodnews to the church and that is what we are doing up to this moment.
The church cannot be accused of failing in its duties at all because it is always preaching against the vices. We try as much as we can to tell people that come to church how bad, and against the good will of our Lord those various vices are. It would have been worse, if in the churches and mosques people are not being urged to live righteously, and in unity and God’s covenant. We would have been living in a state of anarchy, where everybody will be doing what he/she likes. The society would have been worse off, if there was no religion.
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