Ifeoluwa Siddiq Oyelami
The Bible states, "Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:17). For a Christian who reads and follows the Bible, the principles of justice and compassion hold immense significance. As such, supporting oppression or oppressors should seemingly be antithetical to their core beliefs. Perhaps that is why in the early days of Islam, a Christian Ethiopian leader welcomed persecuted Muslims who were fleeing from the oppressors in Makkah. In fact, Allah mentions in Surat al-Maida verse 82 that Muslims will find Christians to be their most friendly allies, while Jews and polytheists tend to be more hostile. Allah says, "That is because there are priests and monks among them, and because they are not arrogant." Therefore, when a sincere Christian recognizes the truth and comprehends it, they are likely to accept it.
Nigerian Christians and Israel
The ongoing crisis in Palestine has brought to light the support that Christians in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation, have expressed for the state of Israel despite its actions against the Palestinians. The General Overseer of the largest church in Africa, Pastor Adeboye, shared a video and post on his former Twitter page, where he not only expressed his support for Israel but also offered prayers for the state. It is important to note that Pastor Adeboye leads the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), the largest and arguably the most influential Pentecostal church in Africa.
Adeboye's posts reflect the mindset of many Christians in Nigeria, which is evident in their social media discussions and everyday conversations. To the average Christian, Zionist Israel symbolizes the Children of Israel (Jacob), who are perceived as the children of God. While much of this discourse is deeply rooted in the Old Testament and the Torah, which have influenced Christian doctrine, it is perplexing that some contemporary Christians are willing to overlook the atrocities committed by the Zionist Israeli state.
One might assume that Nigerian Christians are akin to Indian Hindutva supporters who back Israel against the Palestinians primarily because they share a common enemy—Muslims. However, this is not the case. While Nigerian Christians may have certain political tensions with Muslims in their country, these issues are mostly related to political power struggles. The fundamental reason why Nigerian Christians may misunderstand the Palestine-Israel situation is the lack of information. Many of them have been brainwashed and are unable to look beyond the literal texts of their religious book.
Is Israel Christian?
No, Israel is not a Christian nation; but Jewish. This fact is generally well understood by the average Christian. However, what some Christians may not fully grasp is the extent of the religious and cultural distinctions that set them apart from Jews. The post-World War II promotion of the concept of Judeo-Christianity has, in certain cases, fostered a perception among Christians that they share significant common ground with Jews, leading them to align with Israel even in circumstances where it is the oppressor.
It is important to recognize that Jews do not hold the belief that Jesus Christ is a messiah or prophet, which represents a substantial theological difference from Christianity. Furthermore, historical conflicts between Jewish and Christian communities have, on occasion, resulted in tensions and hostilities. At times, some Jewish individuals have expressed disgust towards Christians and their places of worship. Understanding these theological distinctions may enable independent thinking.
The Occupation affect Christians too.
Nigerian Christians often hold the perception that the Palestinian population is exclusively Muslim and may not pay much attention to their plight when facing violence from Israel or the loss of their lands. However, it is essential to acknowledge that there are indeed thousands of Palestinian Christians who also bear the burden of Israeli occupation. Their lives and properties have not been spared from the actions of usurpers, and they do not receive any preferential treatment. According to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Israel has destroyed or damaged 85 Palestinian churches since 1948. In 2019, the Israeli government approved a plan to establish a new Jewish settlement on the site of a former Palestinian village that was originally destroyed in 1967, including the demolition of its church in 2005. Additionally, during a recent crisis in Jenin, occupation forces caused substantial damage to a Catholic church.
Despite the ongoing challenges faced by Palestinian Christians under Israeli occupation, certain Nigerian Christian leaders, perhaps seeking validation in countries where they have established their churches, or out of misguidance themselves, are leading others astray. It is crucial for them to make Nigerian Christians aware that the occupation and oppression affect their fellow Christians as well. Palestinian Christians, like Afif Saffieh and Hind Khour, hold key diplomatic positions and play integral roles in Palestinian governance. Christian Palestinians have historically been a part of the community, and in the present context, they are ministers, advisers, ambassadors, and leaders in various Palestinian organizations.
Moreover, some Christian Palestinians were part of Palestinian society that were forced to leave their homeland during the 1948 War. According to Palestinian historian Sami Hadawi, over 50% of Christian Palestinians lost their homes to the Israelis during this period. Thus, when Christian leaders, like Adeboye, offer prayers for Israel, it raises questions about whether they are inadvertently praying for the harm of their brethren in faith, given the plight of Christian Palestinians in the region.
It is noteworthy that an increasing number of Nigerian Christians are beginning to recognize, much like their Western counterparts, that the actions of the Israeli government do not necessarily represent their own beliefs or values. Christian figures such as Reno Omokri are coming to the realization that they should not be actively supporting the oppression in Israel and, at the very least, should adopt a more neutral stance. This growing awareness is reflected in RCCG’s retracting their posts expressing support for Israel. These developments indicate a shifting perspective within the Nigerian Christian community and a growing sensitivity to the complex issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hopefully, this will continue, and we will see many Christians standing against the Zionist apartheid regime, if not for anything, then for common sense and compassion.