An executive committee member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rt. Rev. Dr. Chibuzo Raphael Opoko, has challenged churches to go beyond turning people to objects of charity in their various intervention programs in hunger and poverty. He said churches must be involved in sustainable and transformative livelihood intervention projects to target individuals and groups within their community spaces through micro-credit systems among many small initiatives.
“When churches keep silent on the issues of hunger and poverty, they become partners in crime and demonstrate solidarity with oppressors and oppressive systems and structures.”
Rt. Rev. Opoko, who is Secretary of the Conference of Methodist Churches in Nigeria, made the statements when he delivered the keynote address at the opening session of the just ended 29th General Assembly of the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC, also known as “the church”), held at the New Water in the Desert Assembly Apostolic Pentecostal Church International in Brewerville, outside Monrovia.
The Nigerian Methodist Church Bishop challenged the church to begin playing advocacy roles to question the underpinning socio-economic and political structures that hinder food production, food security and capacity building of its people.
Bishop Opoko said the church must begin to hold governments and other corporate bodies and organizations accountable in the use and distribution of community and national resources and for responsible best practices in corporate organizations.
In that line, he called on the church to wage war against every form of oppression, including the use of child labor for cheap profitability by some multinational companies. He said such devious activities deny children the right to education, capacity building and development.
“The church,” Rev. Opoko said, “must, like the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, fulfill the biblical injunction to be in solidarity with the poor, needy, hungry and oppressed.
“Our faith must be relevant to every facet of life and society. Any faith in Christ that is not relevant to the holistic needs of society equals failure. Any lack of relevance would mean complacency. Keeping silent in the face of the devastating impact of hunger and poverty that has ravished millions of people, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, is a disgrace.”
The Nigerian Methodist prelate then challenged the church to be silent no more. He said they should keep awake, and rise up in solidarity with the poor so they could become responsive to the issues of hunger and poverty
“The gulf between the haves and have-nots is growing significantly. Do we need research from the Food and Agricultural Organization before we see the grave impact of hunger and poverty in the land? Poverty not addressed begets more poverty,” he asserted.
According to Bishop Opoko, it is pertinent to state when church members refuse to see the problems and pains of the poor; it then means they are blind. At the same time, when churches and their members refuse to stand up against unjust structures and policies that exacerbate hunger and poverty in whatever guise, it means they are without a voice. Based on this the Bishop Opoko declared, “The church must never be silent again.”
Rev. Opoko reminded President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf—who attended the opening session of the three-day Assembly— that the church has roles to play in the fight against hunger and poverty, though he pointed out that some of the outlined roles are not exhaustible. “The church is at liberty to partner and associate with government and other well meaning stakeholders in the just fight against hunger and poverty.”
The Nigerian Bishop concluded the lengthy address by reminding the gathering that the Lord Jesus Christ needs everyone to prosper in all things and be in health as their souls prosper, saying the Lord will judge all at the last day in accordance with Mathew 25: 35 – 40,: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36. I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you visited me”. 37. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38. When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? 39. Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? 40. And the king will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”. He promised all present that they would never be judged as failures in the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.