Thursday, 18 February 2021

Special Report: The Role Of The Church In The Fight Against Corruption

 


By Otive Igbuzor, PhD

(General Overseer, Palace of Priests Assembly, Abuja.)

(Speech By Dr. Otive Igbuzor At The Public Presentation Of Year One And Year Two Report Of The Shun Corruption Project Implemented By Priests Peace And Justice Initiative (PPJ), The Social Arm Of Palace Of Priests Assembly On 17TH February 2021)

  • Background:

    Christianity is over 2,000 years and has a rich history. In the first three centuries, church growth was accelerated by the persecution of the church. In the fourth century, Christianity became the official Roman religion.i[i] In the seventh century, Islam was founded. By the tenth century, 50 percent of former Christian areas were under Islam. By the 14th century, John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English and emphasized the sole authority of the scriptures and the priesthood of all believers. In the 16th century, the years of reformation promoted by Martin Luther King and others emphasized justification by faith and priesthood of all believers. The protestant reformation was anchored on three key issues:

    1. The sole authority of the scriptures,
    2. Justification by faith and
    3. Priesthood of all believers.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, the emphasis was on revival, missions, and holiness. In the 20th century, the emphasis was on Pentecostalism- Holy Ghost baptism and empowerment.  With the rise of Pentecostalism, there was emphasis on material prosperity, loyalty to the nation state and individualism and social dimension of the church decreased immensely. This has led to the public perception today that is a challenge to all true Pentecostals. This public perception has led to the non-recognition of Pentecostal Charismatic social contribution of goods and services valued at more than 2.3 billion US dollars and with more than 250 million people in over 100 countries since 1980.[ii]i The perception is that Pentecostals are only interested in prosperity and not concerned about social issues in society. 

    The Pentecostal Movement is characterised by emphasis on baptism of the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of the gifts of the spirit. Christian Historians have characterised the Pentecostal movement into three wavesiv:

    1. First wave beginning in 1901 with a rediscovery of and a new experience of the supernatural with a powerful and energising ministry of the Holy spirit.
    2. Second wave starting in the mainline churches in 1960 with Christians affiliated to non-Pentecostal denominations (Anglicans, Protestants, Catholic, Orthodox) experiencing baptism in the Holy Spirit.
    3. Third wave beginning in 1980 with evangelicals and other Christians receiving baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    Scholars have pointed out that between Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2 in AD 100 and 1901 when the first wave started is 1,800 years. Some have argued that the 1,800-year period can be regarded as spiritually dead. But others point out that there was a range of spirit activity during this period ranging from hundreds of cases of prophesy to discernment of spirits and divine healing.v

    The Pentecostal movement has grown from a handful of believers in the early twentieth century to a global movement now numbering over 600 million people, and those who embrace the Holy Spirit and His gifts are now the fastest growing religious group in the world.[iii] It is continuing to grow especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Today, the countries with the highest number of Pentecostals is in the global south as can be seen from the table below:

     

    Country

    Pentecostals 1910

    Country

    Pentecostals 2010

    South Africa

    989,000

    China

    95,316,000

    Nigeria

    111,000

    Brazil

    82,000,000

    USA

    53,400

    USA

    76,000,000

    Germany

    22,000

    Nigeria

    43,920,000

    Trinidad and Tobago

    11,800

    India

    30,000,000

    China

    2,100

    Philippines

    27,000,000

    India

    2,000

    South Africa

    22,150,000

    France

    1,000

    D.R. Congo

    21,000,000

    Canada

    1,000

    Mexico

    14,800,000

    North Korea

    1,000

    Colombia

    14,507,000

    Source: World Christian Database, Brill, June 2009 (Cited in Synan, V (Ed) (2011), Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century.

    As shown in the table above, the highest number of Pentecostals are in the global South. Therefore, changes to the content and practice of Pentecostalism can come from the global south. Nigeria occupies a special place in the scheme of things.

    PRIESTS PEACE AND JUSTICE INITIATIVE (PPJ)

    When God gave us the vision to establish Palace of PRIESTS ASSEMBLY in 2016, two areas of emphasis was impressed on our hearts- Priesthood of all believers and the social dimension of the church. Therefore, right from the beginning; we established the Priests Peace and Justice Initiative (PPJ) as the social arm of the Church.  It is our contribution to building a peaceful, just, and orderly society. It is hinged on the dignity of the human person as created by God and the need to create an enabling environment for evangelism and holistic prosperity (3 John 2). At Palace of PRIESTS ASSEMBLY, we believe that the church should play a role in ensuring democratic governance, peace, and stability of society. We see it as a duty to bring biblical perspective to the challenges of democracy, development, insecurity, injustice, service delivery and humanitarian crisis. The vision of PPJ is a world of prosperity and social justice. Our mission is to act as catalysts to empower citizens to reign as Priests and work for peace and social justice. We are guided by the values of leadership, empowerment, royalty, integrity, and discipleship.  PPJ has five thematic areas of focus:

    1. Democracy: Elections, transparency and accountability and stewardship
    2. Peace Building: Human Security and Conflict transformation.
    3. Social Justice: Poverty, Inequality and Justice.
    4. Emergency and Humanitarian services
    5. Education and Health

    THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

    Several governments in Nigeria have launched anti-corruption programs since 1966 when corruption was mentioned as one of the reasons for the military overthrow of the then civilian government. Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies fighting corruption in Nigeria, the issue has remained widespread and pervasive partly because the norms and behaviour of citizens have remained unchanged. It has reached a level that the general public does not seem to disapprove of corrupt activities. Even persons who have been convicted are given heroic welcome at the end of their jail terms and rewarded with extravagant thanksgiving services in churches. But churches are supposed to be the epitome of morality and good conduct. However, the social cognitive theory of behaviour reminds us that behaviour is shaped by personal factors (instincts, drives, traits, and other motivational forces) and environmental factors (situational influences) as shown in the diagram below:

    PPJ Behavioural Change Model

    Social Cognitive Theory Model

    There is therefore the need to build the personal factors and motivate people to act on the environment to change behaviour so as to maintain public support for anti-corruption. Meanwhile, members of the congregation in the church have a lot of trust in their leaders. The trust is based on embedded Christian values and the solid reputation of the church for meeting the spiritual and physical needs of its members. But there is a huge challenge in the world today. Many people appear not to know what is morally right or wrong. People commit atrocities and post them on the social media. The behaviour of many people, even those who profess religion are guided by secular mindset which is based on the notion that the source of knowledge is not divine as against religious mindset anchored on revelation from God. But it is clear that secular mindset has limited scope of its worldview to the physical aspect of life only and does not play a crucial role in shaping moral character as religion. Unfortunately, as from the 16th century, the years of reformation promoted by Martin Luther King and others leading to the growth of the evangelical and Pentecostal movements neglected the social teachings of the church. The result is that many professing Christians not only participate in corruptible transactions but do not take any action among their members or participate in the larger society to fight corruption. There is therefore the need to improve the knowledge of Christians, motivate them and provide a platform for them to join the fight against corruption.

     

    THE SHUN CORRUPTION PROJECT

    The SHUN Corruption Project is situated within the MacArthur Foundation’s Behavioral Change Cohort which contributes to the ‘voice’ component of the On Nigeria Program. It is implemented by Priests Peace and Justice Initiative (PPJ), the social arm of Palace of Priests Assembly (PPA), and partners across the six geo-political zones of the country. It utilizes the faith-based approach to educate Pentecostal Christians to emulate Jesus Christ the harbinger of their faith who was an embodiment of transparency and accountability and whose teachings unequivocally condemn corruption. The project adopts the Holy Bible as a central text and has equipped beneficiaries with several Scriptures to serve as the bedrock for the fight against corruption. Three key pillars also known as the ‘3S Outcome Model’ frame our approach – beneficiaries understand what constitutes corruption and are empowered to:

    • SHUN Corruption
    • SPEAK UP and  
    • STAND UP (take action) against Corruption.

    The PPA 3 S Outcome Model

     

    Towards achieving our 3 S Outcomes, the SHUN Corruption Project has made great strides with regards to eliciting behavior change among various beneficiaries. The project has also made significant progress with regards to influencing organizational change and redefining group norms.  Our Project reports are replete with stories of progressive change achieved by the project since inception  as covered in the years one and two reports being presented today.

     

    YEAR ONE REPORT

    In the first year, we established the structures/platforms and partnerships necessary to implement the project successfully. We built a critical mass of key trainers, advocates and campaigners to generate the ripple effect needed to replicate result at all levels. In addition, we documented the scriptural basis for Christian participation in social issues including the fight against corruption and trained the trainers for the project.

    YEAR TWO REPORT

    In the second year, the project activated the established platforms (Ministers Against Corruption, Women Against Corruption and Youth Vanguard against Corruption) and expanded to sixteen states of the federation. Many Ministers, church workers, Christian women leaders and youth are now engaging established platforms of the SHUN Corruption project. A lot of success stories is coming out and the idea of SHUN corruption, speak up against corruption and stand up against corruption is gaining ground among Pentecostals in Nigeria amidst opposition by some who think that they are only accountable to God. The radio air waves are being saturated with SHUN CORRUPTION anti-corruption jungles and drama skits. A lot more Pentecostal leaders bought into the project by signing into the pact of transparency and accountability. The research work, advocacy briefs and manuals are now being used to engage others and preach sermons. Ministers trained in year one stepped down the training in year two. A platform on Christianity has been established to serve as entry point to support Christians in government and other workplaces to SHUN CORRUPTION, speak up against corruption and stand up against corruption. An interesting dimension is that various professionals are coalescing to promote peer to peer accountability in the work place in the form of Builders Against Corruption; Police Against Corruption; Evaluators Against Corruption; Educationists against Corruption; Medial and Health Workers against Corruption; Surveyors Against Corruption; Electricity Workers Against Corruption and Lawyers against Corruption.

    LOOKING FORWARD

    In the years to come, we will consolidate on the gains of the first two years by reproduction and distribution of training materials, advocacy briefs, IEC materials and rolling out publication on corruption series. We will promote ownership and sustainability of the SHUN CORRUPTION platforms; deepen engagement with SHUN CORRUPTION professionals and champions of anti-corruption; deepen the quality and reach of our radio programmes and develop a Strategic Plan for Priests Peace and Justice Initiative (PPJ).  We will continue with our advocacy and follow up/support for step down training. In addition, we will support the capacity of Pentecostal Ministers to effectively engage the project by conducting research, developing manuals and training Pentecostal Pastors on building accountability spaces in Pentecostal Church and income generation. In addition, we will scale up our promotion of role model and mentoring of young Christians.

    In the next phase of the project, we envisage a ripple effect that would elevate the voices of Pentecostals as active citizens against corruption in communities, workplaces at State and National levels. The emerging culture of zero tolerance to corruption would be elevated to become a group norm as we showcase and celebrate individuals who utilise our 3S Model - Shun; Speak and Stand up against corruption. Public profiling and recognition of individual and group (Churches and other platforms) action against corruption would be one of the incentives for behaviour change. 



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