In the first post, we looked at the meaning of social justice and historical involvements with the church and the state. We continue in this post with some specific examples of the church and it’s contribution towards social justice or injustice.
Apartheid, The Church, And The Struggle Against Apartheid.
It is instructive to note that it was the Dutch Reformed Church, using the Calvinist Doctrine of Predestination, that introduced the policy of racial segregation and, subsequently, apartheid. The Dutch Reformed Church subsequently became the church for the ruling National Party.
The Roman Catholic Church in South Africa opposed apartheid, but another group formed the South African Catholic Defense League and opposed school integration. Officially, the Anglican Church opposed apartheid but there were some chapels that supported apartheid.
The Methodists, who were predominantly Black, opposed apartheid. They were part of the South African Council of Churches under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Yet, there was another group called the Christian League that supported apartheid.
This sub-chapter shows how the greatest opposition to the church in its struggle for social justice might come from within the church. It has also shown that when the church gets over-entangled with State, it can inevitably find herself defending evil.
That is what the evangelicals in the United States of America may soon find themselves doing for some of the actions of President Donald Trump.
The Church And The Struggle Against Racism In The United States Of America.
It is instructive to note that after Rosa Parks was jailed for refusal to give up her seat in a bus driven by James Blake, in Montgomery, Alabama, it was a new Baptist Minister, Martin Luther King Jnr., in town, that had the responsibility of leading the protests, bus boycotts, and marches that eventually led to some of the victories that Black people won in the USA.
Sometimes, the struggle for social justice reaches a boiling point and accidental leaders would emerge. They are forced by what is confronting them to stand erect and act. Sometimes, success in ministry is not in sermons preached, but changes that we cause to create social justice. Sometimes, the success of ministry is not in big congregations and cathedrals in the midst of social rot and gross social injustice.
Someone rightly said that the social injustice on ground might just be the mission of the missionary. Saint Teresa Mary found social injustice in India and set out, in her little way, to ameliorate the pains and suffering of the poor in the streets of Calcutta. It earned her the Nobel Peace Prize and global recognition and acceptance in a predominantly Buddhist nation.
The Complicity Of The Church And The Rwandan Genocide.
The Belgian government used the Catholic church as an agent of divide and rule in Rwanda. The Church aligned with the minority Tutsis against the majority Hutus. The Church was so powerful that the leaders claimed they were ruling in the name of the Lord. Whoever the church favoured was favoured. Catholic priests occupied government positions, then, in Rwanda. When the Tutsis wanted to establish a Communist State in Rwanda, the Church turned against them and aligned with the Hutus.
Archbishop Andre Perruadin equated communism with challenge to God’s dominance. People were taught in Church that Tutsis were demons. Priests quoted Jeremiah 6:22-23, to depict Paul Kagame’s rebel forces in northern Rwanda.
When the aircraft carrying the Rwandan President was shot down by rebels, it gave the Hutus, his tribesmen, an opportunity to kill Tutsis. A Catholic priest got a bulldozer to collapse a church over Tutsis taking refuge in the church. Those who did not die were slaughtered by the priest and church fellows. Catholic nuns were seen macheting Tutsis. A total of about 800,000 Tutsis were massacred under close supervision by Catholic priests and Hutus. They had done massive importation of machetes some months before the genocide. On Sunday, 20th of November 2016, the Roman Catholic church had to offer an official apology for her role in the Rwandan genocide.
Never allow tribalism, religious bigotry, and denominational indoctrination replace the compass of the Christian faith from your heart. Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your might.
Cardinal Sin And The Fight Against Corruption In The Philippines.
Cardinal Jaime Sin (1928-2005) was the Archbishop of Manila, the Capital of Philippines, during the reign of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand Marcos ruled by martial law and was extremely corrupt. Imelda, his wife, was in the Guinness Book of Records for owning 3,000 pairs of shoes. It would take her ten years to wear a different shoe daily.
An opposition leader, Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated on his return to the country. These and other factors prompted a moderate Cardinal Sin to call out his members for massive peaceful protests. Nuns with rosaries, singing hymns, surrounded the army headquarters. At a point, military officers joined the protest. Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos fled into exile and Corazon Aquino became president of the Philippines. It was called the People Power Revolution.
In 2001, he triggered another revolution, this time, the EDSA revolution that led to the removal of President Joseph Estrada and was replaced by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. At a point when the Vatican told him to stop the revolution he threatened to resign.
When Church leaders have integrity and separate themselves from the viruses of social injustice and corruption, they become the voice of the people and, by implication, the voice of God.
Cardinal Sin was a great Christian leader and a great patriot, this is a good combination in the struggle for social justice by the church.
Mary Slessor And The Struggle Against The Killing Of Twins In Calabar.
We must not forget the role Mary Slessor played in the struggle for social justice against the killing of twins. She was also instrumental in the establishment of Hope Waddell Institute, Calabar.
Remember, social justice involves the removal of barriers against self-actualization. Hope Waddell raised great minds like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Akanu Ibiam, Admiral Wey, and several others.
Imagine how many mothers of twins Mary Slessor saved from the tears and pains of losing their precious twins.
The church in each generation and each nation is faced with its own struggles for social justice. In Nigeria, we have our own challenges as a society, which include:
- The massive elite capture and kleptomania by the ruling elite in Nigeria.
- Systematic ethnic cleansing in some parts of Nigeria.
- Gross poverty in the midst of massive exploration of our oil wealth.
- Those who benefited from affordable and functional educational institutions in Nigeria have allowed them to decay, thereby depriving the next generation the right to education.
- Members of churches can’t afford to send their children to schools their denominations built with their offerings and tithes.
- How can state governors reject Thirty Thousand Naira minimum wage when some of them receive between 200 Million to 2 Billion Naira as security votes that are not audited?
- How can our legislators earn more than their American counterparts in a poor country like ours?
- How can an ex-governor earn pension and earn salary as a senator when there are graduates roaming the streets?
- Why must the State House clinic get more budgetary allocation than the sixteen Federal Teaching Hospitals joined together?
- Why must 100 Million Naira be spent to buy cutlery for the presidential villa every year for some years now? Are they disposable?
- Why would a civil servant who has served his nation for 30 to 35 years die in a line waiting to receive his pension, while the person who stole his pension funds is gallivanting in the corridors of power?
- Must the church allow husbands to brutalize their wives in the name of submission to husbands and the Lord hates divorce?
- Zolephehad’s daughters demanded for a right to inherit their father’s property. Is it fair to deprive female children their inheritance rights?
God Bless You.