Hard times: How clerics, leaders respond to economic needs of members
When the going was good and the economy was buoyant, Nigerians loved paying tithes and making necessary sundry donations to their churches and mosques. Then, clerics experienced, first hand, and even proclaimed the people’s generosity, as there was no prodding before the faithful did the needful in this regard. But now, the table has turned and things are simply not the way they used to be. The lean times are here and many are now looking to their spiritual leaders to proffer credible solutions to survive the hardship. So, have churches and mosques put in place plans or programmes to cushion the effect of the austere time on their members? Are they forthcoming in counsels to alleviate members’ financial, physical and material burdens? CHRIS IREKAMBA and ISAAC TAIWO report.
‘We Have Always Responded To The Needs Of Those That Are Hungry Amongst Us’
(Rt. Rev. Isaac Nwaobia, Bishop, Diocese of Isiala-Ngwa South, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
On what we are doing as a church to take care of our members at this period of economic recession, I’d like to say there is no departure from what the church has been doing from inception, as recorded in the Bible. The church has always been in the vanguard of assisting our members, not only at the period of economic recession, but at all times, when we go to the aid of the less privileged. It is recorded in the scriptures that the Apostles ensured that Church members were catered for, according to their needs and we have not relented in taking cue from that in our church. In our diocese, we have some empowerment programmes for the youth. We also care for widows and we go to the rescue of the homeless. Our women ministry also reaches out to motherless babies’ homes.
We have always responded to the need of those that we know are hungry amongst us. We are not ignorant of the fact that some people would take advantage of this gesture by not wanting to do anything. Therefore, we encourage them to endeavour to do whatever is within their capacity, to also help themselves by asking those who have space at the back of their houses to plant vegetables, tomatoes, pepper and other things that can grow at the back of their houses, which they would not need to buy with money.
Apparently, the recession has dug a hole in the Church’s pocket to the extent that some our programmes have been suspended. The recession has slowed down some activities in the Church, as well as, affected the salary of full-time Church workers. We are not ignorant of the fact that some of the members have not received salaries for months, while some have lost their jobs. Those receiving pensions are not also smiling and less could be expected from members, whom are themselves struggling to pay their children’s school fees. In a nutshell, tithes and offerings in the Church have been affected.
‘We Urge The Wealthy In Our Midst To Regard Circumstances As A Challenge To Assist The Less Privileged’
(Professor Dawud O. S. Noibi, Executive Secretary/CEO Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN)
WITH regard to the responsibilities of Imams and leaders of Islamic organisations, it should be noted that they have the duty of emphasising to their followers, including the affluent and the masses, those lessons of Eid-el-Kabir. The Imams, in particular, should devote much of their Friday Khutbahs (sermons) to spiritual and moral guidance of their congregations, in the spirit of the festival and within the context of the security and economic realities of the country. They should also urge the well-to-do to regard the circumstances as a challenge them to come to the aid of the less privileged in their respective communities. This would include, providing empowerment and relief for those that need them. They should not be apprehensive of losing their wealth through spending for the benefit of the less privileged. They should be rest assured that Allah would reward them with much more than they spend, just as He rewarded Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) so marvellously.
Most importantly, the well-to-do must ensure that they give their Zakah regularly and appropriately, and the organisations that collect and disburse the Zakah should ensure appropriate distribution of it, as stated by Allah in the Qur’an (Q9: 60). If this were done, as it should be, it would go a very long way in providing relief for the less fortunate. Aside providing the immediate daily needs of the poor, Zakah can, and should be spent in providing empowerment for the youth and even older people that may be in need of such empowerment. Muslim organisations should explore ways and means of encouraging the youth, including graduates, to embark on farming, for example. Even those who may not be described as wealthy but are, nonetheless, comfortable, should kindly use their charity, other than Zakah, in meeting the needs of the less privileged in the communities.
‘Our Main Reaction Is To Intensify Teaching Of How To Live By Faith’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries INC. /Senior Pastor, Church of the Anointing, Warri, Delta State)
CARE and support for one another in our church is based on the example of the early church, where there was a communal lifestyle and the scriptures say, ‘they had all things in common.’ Thus, needs are met according to the expressed needs and available resources to meet those needs. This practice does not change with the economic situation. The only difference is that the expressed needs are greater than the available resources to meet those needs at this moment. And everyone understands the present situation.
Our main reaction to the economic recession is in increased teaching of how to live by faith in times such as these. We also teach on reducing wastage in every area of our lives and cutting down on non-essentials. With most incomes remaining at the same level and cost of living increasing, we have seen families adjust, as we teach biblical economics. For most, it is the cost of living that has increased.
Our brethren have continued to be reliable in tithes and offerings. And God has been faithful to us all. There certainly have been challenges, but overall, none among us is left out of God’s provision.
‘We Have Continued, Despite Recession, With Our Charity Obligation To Deserving Members’ (Pastor Ezekiel Joel, General Overseer, Full Salvation Believers’ Assembly Int’l, Nnewi, Anambra State)
THE tough economic situation in which our country has found itself, is to say the least, very pathetic, if not harrowing. It is true that it’s a global phenomenon, but for a developing economy, which has been, unarguably dependent solely on crude oil, our case is pitiable. Sadly, individual believers, who make up the Church, are not immune to the effects of a stifling economy.
As a church, we have been praying for national rebirth, economic recovery, and spiritual revival. Truth is that as citizens’ incomes are grossly affected by the dwindling economy, so have tithes and offerings in many churches, ours inclusive, reduced significantly. There’s no denying this. But, God has been faithful. We have continued, however, by God’s grace, with our charity obligation to the deserving, and to the widows, especially, within the limits of what God blesses us with, while believing God for a turnaround.
‘Recession Has Affected Giving Of Tithe/Offerings In The Church’
(Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos)
CONCERNING the welfare of our members, during a period like this, when the nation is in recession, the truth is that the Church has always had concern for the welfare of its members, by assisting those who have challenges both physically and sociologically. We, therefore, take care of the poor ones, both in the Church and outside.
We have a welfare group in each of our parishes. We also challenge those who have more among the members to replicate the standard of the Bible, by reaching out to those who have difficulties in the areas of employment. However, I want to say there is a limit to what the Church can do, as it is not possible to take care of every member. We are, therefore, calling on the government to wake up and work out ways and means to educate people on how to be self-sufficient. We are experiencing recession because the government has not put things together to benefit Nigerians. The government, both at the Federal and State levels should come up with ideas and sustainable programmes that would help Nigerians wade through this period of economic recession. Nigerians are hungry and desperate. It is not enough to be encouraging Nigerians that there is hope; rather the government should come out with positive ideas that would translate to practical assistance for the people to overcome the current hardship. Those leaders with this responsibility to do something should wake up and go into action.
The recession has affected the giving of tithe and offerings in the Church, as a good number of members are not making money in their businesses, as they used to. Many are falling back on their reserves to survive. Naturally, this has affected giving of tithes and offerings.
*We Have Been Raising Money For Members According To Our Capacity To Start Something’
(Pastor David Ademola Olalekan Ayanfe-Oluwa, General Overseer of Radiant Life Assembly (Faith House), Lagos)
ECONOMIC recession is not new, and God has always had an answer for it, according to the scriptures. The early Church was also caught up in a similar scenario, so to say, and brethren brought whatever they had to distribute among those that were lacking. Today, the Church is taking a cue from that by adopting similar approach.
In our Church, there are three basic things that we have been doing to empower our members during this economic recession. Our members were given detailed knowledge from God’s Word that economic recession is not new, and that God has always made provisions available for His children to secure and preserve them to fulfil their destinies. We also admonish our members to be practically generous towards their brothers and sisters in need, both in the church and outside of it, regardless of denomination or religion.
Our church organises welfare packages for those in need time and again. We have also been raising little capital for some members, according to our capacity to start something that would keep their families going.Our members are still giving according to their income and strength with little or no change from the status quo.
‘Government, Churches And Mosques Should Rise Up To Assist The Needy’
(His Eminence, Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church, Nigeria)
AS regards what the Methodist Church is doing concerning caring for our members at this season of economic recession, we have a welfare package for our members. The Church looks inwards to take care of both members and non-members. My wife is running what we call “Feed my Lamb Foundation,” as well as, “Feed My Neighbour Foundation,” which also take care of our people in rural areas.
Sometimes ago, they were in Benue State and other parts of the country to give to the poor items, including food and wrappers, among others.
Our local churches have also bought into the practice of giving out food to the hungry. This type of programme is going on in all our churches to ensure that those that lack are well taken care of. We also have a programme between October 6 and 9, designed to cater for those in need in rural areas. In fact, we have a laid down policy to ensure that the less privileged among us are not neglected.
I seize this opportunity to reiterate that people are suffering in this country, with many not having food, and roofs over their heads, while many that are supposed to be working are not paid salaries. But while the Church is trying to take care of its members, the government should also be more sympathetic towards the plight of the citizenry, because there is hunger in the land.
Payment of tithe and offering in the Church has reduced to about 30 percent. Of course, we cannot expect tithe and offering from those not paid salaries, as well as, from those not producing anything because of the impact of the recession. Apparently, the recession is having a spiral effect on the payment of both tithe and offerings. People are suffering and we are pleading with the government to do something to cushion the biting effect of the recession.
There was this arrangement before the civil war, when some establishment and people would buy rice and millet, among others, which they stockpiled. They used to release them into the market at a period like this and this used to drastically reduce the people’s suffering. The price of rice has gone up to N25, 000, while the minimum wage is still pegged at N18, 000, which some state governments cannot even afford. I don’t know where we are going. Many citizens are exceedingly poor, which calls for government immediate intervention.
I personally commend Nigerians for not allowing the situation to aggravate the level of crime rate. The fact is that Nigerians feel happy in the midst of suffering. Nevertheless, I still believe that the government, churches and mosques should rise up to assist those that are at the receiving end of the biting economic recession.
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