By Austin Tam-George
Growing up as a young boy in Port Harcourt, I developed a somewhat argumentative relationship with religion from the age of 12.
I had been taught at Sunday School that Satan, a man I had never met, was responsible for the outbreak of measles and cholera that had ravaged many communities.He was the hidden architect behind the turmoil in our State and country.
These revelations were astonishing to me as a child, and I wondered why such a malevolent individual had not been stopped. Where was Satan from, i asked with incredulity, and how come nobody had taken him on?
Satan. Measles. Cholera. This was a heady brew of complex epistemology for a child, so I often retreated into silence.
But I suspect that the notional bankruptcy of this teaching led me into an early scepticism about religion.
As a Christian, i believe in the omniscience of God.
But in order to have a meaningful life and help transform the world we live in, I also believe in the science of personal responsibility and social action.
Personal responsibility means that we are unable to blame the malevolence of satan for the heaps of refuse in the streets, or for the lack of portable water or primary health care in our communities. This is our responsibility.
Social action makes us see the infinite value in working with others to uplift the weak, to give hope to the hopeless and to help remake a broken society.
I believe that the ultimate test of true religion is the audacity to go beyond the spiritual vilification of satan. Religion must find a way to reconnect man to a larger beneficent purpose here on earth.
If the will of God must be done “on earth as it is in heaven”, then we must support the poor, reach out to the prisoner, speak up against oppression, and help build a better world.
Pastor David Ibiyeomie of the Salvation Ministries in Port Harcourt, is doing an enormous amount of good work.
In his teachings, whether in church or in his over 80 books, Pastor Ibiyeomie frequently challenges his audience to strive to achieve a better version of themselves.
He preaches about healing, prayers and the place of fasting in the Christian faith. But he reminds us of the importance of hard work, personal responsibility, and the need to aim for a larger social good.
Crucially, Pastor Ibiyeomie recognises that there is no sermon greater than the power of personal example.
This is why in the past 20 years, Pastor Ibiyeomie and the Salvation Ministries have spent billions of Naira in humanitarian relief efforts. They have built free schools for forgotten children, and granted scholarships to thousands of students in Nigeria and abroad.
In a morally vandalised world, dominated by leaders blinded by the cataract of corruption, Salvation Ministries has emerged as an important oasis of hope.
Through the many religious and educational programmes at the Salvation Ministries, millions of people have found healing, hope and spiritual fortitude.
As the church holds its flagship programme, the “5 Nights of Glory 2020”, on the 20-24th of January, may shattered dreams find fulfillment yet again.
And may God’s healing power and righteousness flow like a mighty stream.
Dr Austin Tam-George is a former Commissioner for Information, Rivers State