By Udeme Nana

A recent news report has stated that the Tanzanian Government has arrested a Pastor, Boniface Mwamposa after twenty people were killed and a dozen others injured in a stampede during a church meeting in the Northern Tanzanian city of Moshi.

According to that story, “the stampede occurred overnight when his church members were being ushered through an exit so they could walk on anointing oil!

More than two decades ago , at Mount Carmel centre , about twenty kilometres from Waco , Texas in the United States of America , an apocalypse preacher , David Koresh who practiced “spiritual weddings” which enabled him to sleep with his followers of all ages, caused the untimely death of many of his members in a gun duel with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations ( FBI ).The agents had gone there on a rescue mission. There was such a sect in Uyo in the late 90’s . Iso Jehovah is known to have replicated such a “religious community” where sex was free for all in that neighbourhood . Till today, some adherents of that primitive religious adventure are still paying with their lives having been afflicted with all manner of infections and diseases which they contracted while in that unholy locale at Nung Oku, a community in Ibesikpo Asutan local government, Akwa Ibom state.

That tragedy in Tanzania is the new normal occurrence in several parts of the world. The custodians of the fifth commandment “thou shall not kill” are the ones now traumatizing members, exposing many to hazards, near death encounters , causing actual death thereby bringing sorrow and tears among people who look up to them for spiritual anchor, emotional stability and hope.
The other day, a young female undergraduate was almost lynched to death at the venue of a traditional marriage. On the prompting of her “prophet” to scoop the sand under the feet of a bride at a marriage event so the item could be used for supplications to God on her behalf since she was also searching for a husband, she was caught red handed in the act by eagled – eyed relatives of the bride and beaten to pulp. She had to confess at the village council where she was dragged to that she did the bidding of her “pastor” who counselled her to scoop and bring the sand. What an assignment ! Magic sand. She escaped jungle justice and untimely death on that occasion following the intervention of the Police.

These tragedies are not limited to churches though, as muslims also die in stampedes when they converge in their “holy sites” in Saudi Arabia but the incidences in several churches have become scandalously alarming and rampant.

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Church adherents have died in hurriedly built facilities, many have met their end struggling to receive handkerchiefs, anointing oil, holy water, and whatever artifacts which so called “men and women of God” give out as items so recipients are assured of better life and good fortune. It is however, regrettable how persons end up dying while running to embrace life.
Several churches, apart from causing deaths directly through accidents, also bring about deaths indirectly through false doctrine; teaching their adherents against taking advantage of innovations in medicine and healthcare for healthy leaving. And the Christian Association of Nigeria has done very little to stem these issue.

Members are taught to avoid drugs like plague while blood transfusion is seen as an abomination. The example of a couple, Mr & Mrs Emmanuel Onokpise of Abata close, Orile Iganmu, Lagos who would rather have their baby die than be administered blood transfusion is a ready case in point.

There are churches which expose their adherents to slow death through prescription of a regime of long schedules of dry fasting at monthly, quarterly and yearly intervals. These ones do not care whether one is a minor or aged. The Pastors do not bother about the medical condition or history of members. Often, the demise of victims in this category is from exhaustion and dehydration. And at the end, such circumstances are framed as the “will of God”!One wonders which God would have worshippers starve to death? Is it not boldly written that humankind “shall live to fulfill” a purpose? Is it not clearly written down that “one shall not die but live to declare the works of God”?

Many churches have become clinics, health centres, hospitals and places better described as points of no return for the ill and sick. Someone falls off a Keke and dislocates a bone, rather than go to a hospital, is taken to a “church” for prayer and healing.
Church members suffer from Diabetes Mellitus, acute malaria, cancers, benign prostrate, HIV and the destination to find a cure is a church. In the 21st century?

Children who are afflicted with measles and other early childhood diseases are taken to “church” which basic diagnoses is “spiritual attack” which “requires prayers and fasting “as a means of “deliverance”! Not a cure oh but deliverance. There are incidences where pregnant women resort to “churches” for pre – natal attention and delivery. Several women have lost their lives from complications arising from such ignorant action.

The promoters of these indiscretions forget that the missionaries who brought the christian religion built hospitals to attend to the healthcare needs of persons in their environment of operation.

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Another emerging disturbance is the noise pollution emitted by many churches during weekday sessions and Sunday worship. These churches do not bother about the sensitivities of other members of the public. They blare music, songs, shout prayers and sermons through heavy duty loud speakers and in that process, kill innocent persons slowly.

Noise pollution is a serious health hazard. We grapple with traffic noise from keke, taxis, buses , lorries , heavy duty trucks and trailers, we live with noise at the work place especially industrial sites and noise in markets . These “noisome pestilence”, unknown to many, causes stress; high blood pressure, faster heart rate which leads to cardiovascular diseases, cognitive impairment, sleeplessness , hearing loss and headache. These are all silent killers.
It is high time the relevant agencies of government intervened to remind these churches about the fifth commandment “Thou shall not kill”.

Udeme Nana, Ph.D, is a lecturer at Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua.