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Father Ejike Mbaka: the message is more important than the messenger

Barking up the wrong tree with Mbaka

Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, the charismatic Catholic priest based in Enugu has shut down his weekly “adoration” crusade until after the (s)elections because of a “threat to the life” of the priest.

Mbaka alleged about two weeks ago that the president and his wife were planning to kill him.

Mbaka had incurred the wrath of Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters because of a New Year message in which he claimed the country had gone from “Goodluck to bad luck”.  The video of that sermon went viral online, with Mbaka becoming something of a hero among opposition APC supporters, and it transformed the priest, who previously was well known around the southeast of Nigeria, into a national figure.

The vitriol against Mbaka from Goodluck’s supporters has been unrelenting.  Some have alleged that he is on the APC payroll.  Others claimed that Mbaka only turned against the president because the payment he was expecting for having openly backed the president, especially during a visit to his church by the president’s wife Patience last year, did not materialise.

Other detractors wanted the church hierarchy to caution Mbaka and silence him, possibly for using the pulpit for political purposes.  There was even a music video ridiculing Mbaka for being in it for the money.

People I know that know Mbaka well claim that the church hierarchy in Enugu is unlikely to sanction him because he is seen as even more powerful than the bishop, and his parish contributes significant funds to the church’s coffers.

The controversy swirling around Mbaka is unlikely to trouble him as the pugnacious priest is not one to shirk from confrontation.  He claimed that if he was interested in money, the best place to be would have been on the side of the president.  He countered those that said he had previously welcomed the president’s wife to his church and praised the Jonathan administration, by claiming that he was entitled to change his mind and that the “Holy Spirit” directed him to speak out against Jonathan’s misrule and the misery it has caused the majority of Nigerians.

Those who claim that Mbaka should not use his pulpit to criticise the government are ignorant of Christianity and the history of the Catholic Church.

For starters, the recent history of the Catholic Church shows liberation theologists in Latin America playing a significant part in progressive movements against oppressive regimes.  Liberation theology tries to interpret Scripture in line with the conditions of the poor and the oppressed.  Pope Francis is said to be a sympathiser. Many Jesuit priests were inspired by liberation theology with a “commitment to promote justice and enter into solidarity with the voiceless and the powerless.”

The Bible is littered with texts that do not divorce religion from politics.

In his Letter to the Ephesians St Paul wrote: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12)

In Luke 1:52-53, Mary says about God: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Malachi 3:5 warns: “‘I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against . . . those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me.’

So those claiming Mbaka should not talk about politics in church should take time out to familiarise themselves with Scripture.

Rather than attack the messenger, Mbaka’s critics should examine his message.  Did he tell the truth about the Goodluck regime and its failures?

Christ said in John 18:37: “I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of the truth listen to my voice.”

Mbaka is telling the truth when he claims Goodluck has failed.  He is telling the truth when he talks about the suffering of Nigerians under the current regime.  If you are a Christian you should be on the side of the truth.  If you are a democrat you shouldn’t be vilifying a man for having a different view, even if what he says causes you discomfort.

 

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