The visiting executive committee member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has reminded his fellow Liberian clergymen that hunger and poverty are part of justice and peace issues, and said there can be no peace when human beings are not prospering and in good health “as their souls prosper.”
“There is no justice when people are starving in the face of an abundance of food in the world. How is it possible the world can produce enough food to cater to the world’s seven billion people, yet, millions not only go hungry but die of hunger? Where is the justice? How can there be peace?” The Rt. Rev. Bishop Chibuzo Raphael Opoku, Secretary of the Conference, from the Methodist Church of Nigeria asked.
The WCC executive member addressing the recent 29th General Assembly of the Liberian Council of Churches in Brewerville, outside Monrovia said the issues of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, gay and lesbian relationships, sexuality and more have occupied centre stage discussions in the churches and in the larger societies today, “but the church appears complacent and has remained seemingly silent and unresponsive on the core issues of hunger and poverty still ravaging millions of people in the world especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America.”
Addressing the Assembly held under the theme: The Role of the Church in Fighting Hunger and Poverty,” the Nigerian prelate commended the LCC for coming up with what he described as a robust program at the national level and for also utilizing the opportunity of the 29th General Assembly to focus on the fight against hunger and poverty in the land. He expressed his appreciation to them for their outstanding contribution to human and national development.
Bishop Opoku asserted that as members of the Church, “We are all on the pilgrimage of justice and peace. By addressing the issues of hunger and poverty, the LCC are also in line with WCC on addressing justice and peace issues. This means that we are all journeying together on the pilgrimage of justice and peace.”
He frowned on leaders of churches today who are only concerned about the wellbeing of themselves and that of their families. He described them as leaders who care less about the poor and needy while enjoying in their own space; leaders who are unable to accommodate strangers, the needy and the hungry while within their own comfort zones. He declared “The church must promote and encourage people to be more like Gaius (The Man Who Helped God's Work from John 1, 2, and 3) in its various assemblies.”
“Some of our churches today have engaged themselves in public ceremonies, open celebrations, construction of massive edifices and palatial mansions without recourse or caring for her members, who are dwelling within the margins of society suffering from hunger and poverty. The Prophet Isaiah condemns the hypocrisy associated with the attitude of church leaders and informs us that the Lord is in solidarity with the poor and needy. We cannot continue to fast when the silence of wickedness is maintained at the expense of people dying due to hunger and poverty.”
How are the churches responding to the crisis situation of hunger and poverty? Quoting Edmund Burke (an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher), Bishop Opoku said: “For evil to triumph in a society is for good people to remain silent.”
“The church,” Rt. Rev. Opoku declared, “can no longer remain silent and unresponsive in the face of the devastating effects and impact of hunger and poverty. ‘Silent no more’ is a wakeup call for and on the church stemming from the all important subject of the role of the church in fighting hunger and poverty.”