The Idi Amin opus, “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech”, is the reality of Israel Balogun, a religious critic who has been under fire for criticising a “man of God”.
In what could be described as a “miracle”, Apostle Johnson Suleman of the Omega Fire Ministries, in July, declared in a church meeting that angels would credit the bank accounts of some members of the congregation. Minutes after his declaration, many congregants grinned to the pulpit to testify that they had been mysteriously credited with dollars by angels.
This concept of “miracle money” propagated by Suleman did not go well with Israel Balogun, the founder of Wholeness Africa Initiative, who, in a video, criticised Suleiman’s actions, arguing that they had nothing to do with Christianity.
In response to Balogun’s criticism, Apostle Suleman filed a lawsuit, vowing to invoke “the entire due process of the law”. In the blink of an eye, Balogun received an invitation from the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department FCIID, Abuja, signed by Yahaya Abubakar, an Assistant Commissioner of Police. This begs the question of whether pastors can be criticised or not.
Are pastors not humans? Isn’t criticism sometimes necessary before a discovery is made? And for the record, the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. Suleman is popular in the Nigerian Christian community, and just like the forebearers of Christianity were criticised, he is bound to, too. If criticism equals “hate speech and cyber terrorism”, as ACP Abubakar stated in his letter, then our society is heading towards moral destruction.
The Bible in Acts 17: 11 speaks of the Berean Jews who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” But Balogun went farther than the Berean Jews to question the miracle-money doctrines of Suleman, asking him to prove his claims elsewhere outside his church. If they were true, then there would be no need to prove a point with the law.
Although Suleman would say he meant no harm to Balogun, he fell short of the New Testament standards in his action. To deprive a person of peace just to prove a point is far worse than the said criticism. It was “an eye for an eye” kind of action. Defending the gospel has nothing to do with lawsuits, as the cloak of criticism is a sine qua non for standing by and for the gospel.
Seeing a pastor in the full regalia of a warrior going after a critic as though he was a mortal enemy is not just shocking but baffling, because, by implication, he not only takes an un-Christian stance but also stands in the way of the freedom of speech he enjoys.
What is more upsetting is the intervention of the Police in the issue. In spite of the myriads of issues to deal with, they decided to interfere in a civil matter to prove that every animal is born equal, but some are more equal than others. For them, the truth was not the most important issue, but the ability of Suleman to persuade them of the truth of his position.
Needless to say, the Police, who are meant to protect defenceless citizens, are redistributing injustice on an unequal scale. True justice does not consist of punishing the aggressors but of making the victims whole. However, in Suleman’s case, nothing has been done except the victimization of a citizen who expressed his inalienable rights. So, I ask, is Apostle Suleman above criticism?
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