By Professor Abdussamad Umar Jibia
In 1992, about 20 years after Nigeria severed ties with Israel, General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration restored diplomatic relations with the Jewish occupier state. This followed incessant calls for doing so by Nigerian Christians.
Islamic scholars berated the Christian clerics who called for restoring ties with Israel for their blatant ignorance of the Jewish state and what it stood for. Contrary to what is believed by the Nigerian Christian clergy, Israel is not a Christian state, and Jews do not believe in Jesus Christ either as a Messiah like the Christians believe or even as a Messenger of God like I, a Muslim, believe. As far as the Jew is concerned, Jesus is an illegitimate child of Mary who is a product of fornication committed by his mother.
And what is special about Israel? Unlike Ghanaian, Nigerian, Pakistani and other nationals who feel at home whenever they are in their countries, the Israeli carries the guilt and discomfort of an occupier even while “at home” in the land now called Israel. Many countries do not recognise the existence of Israel as a state.
What followed Babangida’s diplomatic decision is a shame. A Christian Pilgrims Commission at the centre and a Christian Pilgrims Board in each state. That’s not all. While my own grandfather travelled to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj on foot without any Government facilitation, and I saved my own money to go on hajj by air because we believe in hajj as part of our religion, an average Nigerian Christian is waiting for Government to pay for him to visit Israel to do what they call a “religious” duty. The journey, year in and year out, by Nigerian Christians to visit Israel for ‘pilgrimage’ has thus been a huge burden on the Nigerian Government. I believe there should be an act of the National Assembly to criminalise the sponsorship of pilgrims by Governments at all levels to whichever holy land the former want to go for their worship.
The latest struggle by Hamas to free Palestine from Zionist occupation is now in its second week. Governments and individuals worldwide have been voicing their opinions, with many taking sides and others calling for cessation of hostilities. One would commend the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) for being cautious this time. The Nigerian Christians’ umbrella body spoke against bloodletting and preached the sanctity of human life. I am personally impressed. The leadership of CAN under Daniel Okoh should go a step further to end hostilities against non-Christians in Christian-majority communities of the North. This would contribute towards the desired peace and development that has eluded Nigerians.
If CAN exercised caution under Most Rev. Daniel Okoh, the same cannot be said about the overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye. When I saw him calling Jews his “brethren”, I wondered whether I would laugh or cry. No matter how one tries to give Pastor Adebayo the benefit of the doubt for being a Nigerian respected by many, one will have to admit that the Pastor has, in this case, behaved like one of those roadside church-goers who have not been to school. Otherwise, how on earth would a Christian refer to Israeli criminals as his brethren and even ask thousands of unsuspecting RCCG members to pray for them?
Perhaps Pastor Adebayo is unaware of the Jewish state’s atrocities against innocent Palestinian Christians. Only recently, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem, Pierbattsta Pizzaballa, was reportedly complaining of increasing attacks by Jewish extremists “emboldened by [the] Israeli Government”.
The attacks on the Christian community in Israel, whose record is handy for anyone looking for it, include attacks on Christian sites, which people like Adeboye say they go to Israel to visit and Christian worshippers whom the attackers refer to as idol worshippers who should be, “killed according to Torah”.
According to a recent NBC News report about Jerusalem, “Churches have been graffitied and clergy who live and work here report being frequently spit on, harassed and even physically attacked by extremist Jews”. The report concluded that “Christian leaders say most incidents are never thoroughly investigated,” confirming that it has the backing of the Zionist state.
Hear Pastor Adeboye, “It is my prayer for all our brethren in Israel that the Almighty will grant you absolute peace from now on in Jesus’s name”. Haba Pastor! What does Jesus have to do with Zionists? And what do Zionists have to do with Jesus? The only non-Christian group who accepts Jesus, the son of Mary and believes in the virgin birth, are Muslims.
And he said, “The almighty God, the only one of Israel…”. My dear pastor, which God are you referring to here? Is it Jesus Christ whom they refer to as an idol or the only God who created Jesus without a father, just like he created Adam without two parents?
Adebayo and other African Christians should get their priorities right. Palestinian Christians have done so long ago. They have always identified with Palestinian Muslims in their struggle for freedom.
Professor Abdussamad Umar Jibia wrote from Kano via email@example.com.