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Bishop Of Calabar Questions The British Monarchy As Defender Of Faith, Says It took Advantage Of Us

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Andy Essiet, Calabar 

Bishop Josef Bassey

The Queen of England passed on recently after 70 years of reign and has since been buried. As matters arising, the Bishop of Calabar and Spiritual Leader of God’s Heritage Nation, Bishop Josef Bassey in an interview session, took a swipe on the British monarchy saying it does defend the Christian faith. Excerpts:

The British monarchy has just passed through a transition, what is your take on  the throne as the defender of faith? 

The British monarchy has a very rich history and in that history I believe there are a lot of things that are worthy of emulation, but there are also other things that we could learn from that will help us reorganize our world.

As a Christian, I have understanding that I am of the Kingdom of God. I take interest in studying kingdoms, how they function because we belong to a kingdom, even though ours is a spiritual kingdom and our God is sovereign and has absolute powers which is what really a monachial system of government seeks to do, like we found in the case of Britain.

You now understand that what the monarchy does is take advantage of anything that will help them reign sovereign over their subject of their domain while also trying to expand their domain or their scope of influence, which is a kind of thing that has been with the British monarchical system from inception. At one time we were all colonies of Britain but the salient things is that the monarchical system will take advantage of anything. 

Be that as it may, there are quite a number of things they brought our way by way of let me not call it civilization because that word civilization can be relative. There are so many things they brought our way which we give credit to them for. For me I think as we look at the time and life of the Queen, where I will like to zero in on a  title that the Queen held as the ‘defender of the faith’ which became part of the British monarchical system because the Pope had conferred that on her at that time during Henry Williams VIII regime, who later broke away to become the head of the church.

The question now will be, they brought us Christianity but then as a defender of the faith, there is a responsibility to protect and stand up for the value of the faith. But I think that for me that is one area that the reign of the Queen can be questioned, subject to critical analysis. Was she really the defender of the faith? Did she live up to it? What steps did she take in lifetime to protect the faith? I am asking because during her reign and under her watch you see churches in Britain become carcasses taken over, we saw an uprising of other religions in the British empire. If you are going to put that side by side with her office, then some questions should be answered.  Wherever they went, the went with Bible and Christianity, if you don’t protect and defend, what you brought to your colonies then it becomes suspicious, or were you just using it to have your way or you thought that religion could help you achieve this.

To my mind, I may be wrong but I can’t remember any clear position that has been taken by the monarchy in recent past on matters of faith. I would think that any dispensation would benefit from having a strong global voices speak for what they believe in and stand up for it. And that is seen when you look at the major religion of the world. 

Not just that you are a global leader but because there is a responsibility on you, it is the crown you wear that this is the defender of faith. I think if you should evaluate a performance of a person it should be based on what you have accepted to do. Today, in the kingdom, there is a lot of paganism and the rest, how could these be happening under the Queen’s watch. The Queen does not have control over the choices of the people necessarily but has influence, so what did she say, what did she do or what steps were taken? Queen Elizabeth was one of the persons who was the most powerful monarch on the planet, most powerful and most influential so she could not claim to be incapacitated, even if it is just to make an effort.

What do you expect of the new King?

I expect very little of the king, the Bible tells me that young men shall see vision, the old men shall dream dreams. So vision belongs to the young. It is when you are young and energetic that you can think of conquering the world. When you get old you begin to think more of your ancestors and you begin to dream dreams. So I am not expecting too much of radical shift from the King except that he may have wanted to do over time but since power was not in his hands, so he could not and then of course a lot is changing around the world. So the level of respect the Queen had, I don’t see King Charles being able to have. I don’t even see him being long there, I am speaking the prophetic instinct now because I think that in a few short years, he will abdicate the throne and put somebody else there. We wish him well and pray that he uses his reign to better a lot of humanity and help heal the world, the world is sick.

It is first and foremost understanding the enormity of it and taking full responsibility. Are you conscious of the weight of that title? I can understand why they did it, you need to know the wisdom behind the title. You must know that people have been introduced to the faith, they have imbibed the faith, we they people who brought it and there is now the need to defend it so it doesn’t get corrupted, it doesn’t get extinct, it doesn’t get adulterated and to defend it, you need someone who is in power, has influence and authority, you need someone who has structure to defend it.


The Obong of Calabar is also the defender of faith,  what is your opinion? 

The Obong of Calabar is also the defender of  the faith as it were. So enforcing it will first take the consciousness, the awareness, the desire, the passion, the zeal to actually defend the faith. There must be a structure between the royal administration that should see to that.

Take the other major religion that we have in Nigeria for instance, the Sultan of Sokoto is the defender of the Muslim faith and he is the leader of Islamic faith in the country. There is wisdom behind it, the person who has that responsibility must appreciate it, must understand that it is a greater task of more global relevance than even the traditional title. That is what I think is missing. The coronation of the Obong of Calabar for instance is not complete until you go to the church. When it is necessary you should be able to say this is contrary to the faith not under my watch.

Government round the world must serve the interest of the people and if you’re in government and by government I am not just talking about political, even monarchy, you must seek to serve the interest of the people, protect your people, protect your values and if part of your value is your faith then it becomes something that must be protected.

And I believe not that because I’m a pastor, that the value of Christianity must be protected. The tenets of love, the tenets of peace, the value of Christian faith radically changes the world. The world cannot be made better by laws promulgated by Houses of Assembly. What the value of the Christian faith does is that it works with your conscience. If we  are going to have a healthy society then you don’t have to be a Christian to identify with the values of Christianity. If you have anything that restrains one from killing another man, I think such thing should be promoted and that is where I think that the issue of defending the faith is important not just for the seck of it but for the benefit of the world and generation unborn.

What is your take on culture and religion? 

We need to draw a line between culture and religion of other kind because culture itself is what defines you, your identity, your nativity and all of that. But where the conflict will come in is when we begin to talk about the spirituality elements. In the Calabar culture, even before the white man came, stealing was a crime, killing was a crime, capital punishment were meted out to people who contravened some of this social values, it was there. Like they said, Mary Slessor stopped the killing of twins, it wasn’t a culture, it was just a way for the gods to deal with issues that has to do with spiritual elements, so you get rid of them so that the land will not be cursed, that’s spirituality not culture, so once that is clearly understood, I don’t really see conflict.

If we may deviate a little, how do you see the eight months old ASUU strike?

The problem of ASUU and the strike doesn’t have to do with the youths, it has to do with all of us, we are all guilty and by that I mean, the society is sick seriously and terribly. The sickness did not begin today, it’s been a long time coming, what we are seeing is that the sickness got intense. 

Okay let’s put it this way, ASUU has been on strike, children have been at home for a while but we really do not care. Our society has become comfortable with abnormalities, that’s what happens to someone who has been sick over time, you hear him say, this my sickness.

Children will not be at home today if you and I made it our responsibility. The children will be back in school tomorrow if  the legislators stood up and realized that something is wrong, if every minister stood up because you are a parent, if every worker stood up and say this is wrong, this is evil, if every individual take responsibility for what ever goes wrong in our world and we seek to contribute what ever our quota might be no matter how small to making it right, we will see a change.

Every Nation begets the kind of leadership it deserves and the kind of government it deserves. So what is happening to our youths is not their fault it’s our fault, we have failed them, all of us have failed and all of us must take responsibility. We become so selfish that until it bites us before we cry but if it bites some other person we will not care. You will be shocked that there are parents whose children are home but they still defend the government, that is quite worrisome.

What will become of the youths tomorrow? 

The issue as to what will become of the youths themselves is an issue for another day. What are we modelling, the youths cannot become any different from the standard we have raised before them.

If you are raising youths in a society where you say education is not valuable, it is not important because that is a clear statement being made, so what do you expect. What we go through in school may be very wonderful but the training that we all get is what we go through in the nation itself, we become what the nation makes of us. 

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