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An exclusive interview with Nigerian Archbishop Ben Kwashi

By David W. Virtue, DD
May 5, 2020

The Rt. Rev. Ben Kwashi is the Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria. He also holds the title of General Secretary of GAFCON -- the Global Anglican Future Conference -- a title and office he took over in 2019 when he succeeded Archbishop Peter Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney. He is a world traveler. He is married to Gloria and they have six children. He works closely with the chairman of GAFCON, the Most. Rev. Foley Beach.

VOL: Archbishop, Nigeria is Africa's largest nation, it is an important economic hub, but it is a nation under extreme danger from within with violence and terror intensifying almost daily. What is your take on this?

KWASHI: The war on terror seems to me to have multi-dimensional international interests. Firstly: the sophisticated chain supply of weapons available to the terrorists should concern the world community. Secondly: the number of troops recruited by the terrorists for them to be able to resist the nations of Chad, Cameroon, Mali and Nigeria, and to hold their grounds for up to ten years, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be a small venture of a band of terrorists. Thirdly: that this "band of terrorists", especially Boko Haram, has a single objective of Islamicizing Nigeria and has kept to that objective for ten years, should be a cause of concern not only to the Nigerian government, but also to the international community.

If Boko Haram terror were the only issue facing Nigeria it would be manageable, but another criminal band has emerged which is killing in a near unstoppable manner rural communities in the central regions and specifically Christian areas under the cover of Herdsmen. Unfortunately, both Nigeria and the international communities have adopted the narrative of farmer-herdsmen clashes, which in my opinion is most unhelpful in describing the true events as they are happening on ground.

As if that is not bad enough, a group of merciless bandits is killing recklessly in the north-west, destroying farmlands and villages and raiding communities. To cap all this is a new wave of the unscrupulous business of kidnapping in towns and cities in the country. Dealing with all these groups at the same time is no small task for nation building.

VOL: There is a bloodbath in Nigeria. Those of us who track religious freedom violations and Christian persecution speak of another genocide. Two groups: Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis are the primary killers. We read that tens of thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered in the last decade. Can you confirm this? What are the numbers?

KWASHI: Several research groups have travelled through the length and breadth of the country and have documented most of the atrocities committed against humanity. One of the most accurate is ICON.
ICON--International Committee on Nigeria--is a research group that reports on terrorism in Nigeria. According to ICON, Boko Haram was responsible for nearly 35,000 deaths there between 2015 and 2020. Meanwhile, Fulani jihadis reportedly murdered some 17,000 between 2010 and 2020.

VOL: Most of these stories rarely appear in mainstream Western news reports. Why do you think this is the case?

KWASHI: I can only hazard a guess that, as was the case with Rwanda, the western world has developed a system in which the interest of its nation comes first, as a policy. Therefore little is said until, and unless the truth of these kinds of atrocities finds its way beyond policy makers and into the hearts and minds of leaders in politics, in business and in society. When this happens and questions are asked from the top, then it becomes a matter of interest -- but this is only my guess.
The second reason I think is that the anti-Christian sentiment around the world is growing and the persecution of Christians, slowly but gradually, is becoming popular around the world.

VOL: Nina Shea, director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, is also deeply concerned about Nigeria. "More Christians have been targeted and slaughtered by extremists in Nigeria than in the entire Mid East in recent years. These vulnerable Christian communities, who are being attacked on two fronts by Islamic terrorists and jihadis, need help."

Just last year, President Donald Trump himself raised the issue of Christian persecution with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. "We've had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria," Trump said, with Buhari seated next to him. "We're going to be... working on that problem very, very hard because we can't allow that to happen."
What is your take on this? Has Trump followed through on his promises?

KWASHI: Sadly, in the lockdown occasioned by COVID 19, Christian communities have suffered great casualties in the last three weeks in Plateau and Kaduna States. I cannot know what President Trump is doing, but the killings have not stopped. The killings are unleashed mostly on the poor rural communities and mercilessly executed on the aged, the women and children at home in their sleep or in the farms. Any government that cannot protect its poor will have a poor future.

VOL: How many Anglicans have been slaughtered? Do you know how many Anglican dioceses have disappeared?

KWASHI: No Anglican Diocese has disappeared. A number of Anglican dioceses have tragically lost congregations and even Archdeaconry areas. In our walk as a church, we try not to separate Christian denomination in the number of casualties. We work together across denominations and tally the number of Christians killed and keep the records. For sure some dioceses have reduced in the number of churches, clergy and members as a result of these killings.

VOL: They say that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Is that the case in Nigeria?

KWASHI: I will respond to this by praying to God that that will be the case, and perhaps long after I'm dead and gone history might say so, and I would love history to say so because I believe with my whole heart that we have a gospel that is worth living for and a gospel that is worth dying for.

VOL: Is the Church growing in spite of the genocide? Is it possible to do evangelism in this environment?

KWASHI: Yes. Persecution has never killed the church and will never kill the church. Our loving care has not yet been rejected by any community and we do not only preach with our words, but we demonstrate it by bringing education, health care, mercy ministries to the poor, the elderly, the helpless and the vulnerable. We do this within the context of our persecution and in spite of it. We see responses to the gospel and growth of the Kingdom of God.

VOL: To what degree is the hatred of Christians directly (or indirectly) connected with the acceptance and push of pansexuality in the West, especially as it is being pushed by The Episcopal Church and its presiding bishop?

KWASHI: The pansexuality agenda is the most unhelpful introduction into the mission of the church. Even pagan religions would laugh at us! But the more this agenda has come in, the more detractors of the church have been armed to resist the gospel of salvation. In some places it has actually increased hatred and derogation because it is still widely believed that the Christian religion is a western religion.

VOL: American Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is deeply committed to pushing his church's homosexual agenda onto African Anglican provinces and will use whatever money he can get to push his "inclusive" agenda. How effective is he being? Do you see signs in Nigeria or any CAPA provinces that he is being successful?

KWASHI: I don't know. I am not sure that there is any huge success that is visible.

VOL: There was a very disturbing report out of Abuja last week that said that the Anglican Church of Nigeria was under mounting pressure on the Church's hierarchy to recognize homosexual priests. The charge was made by Primate Nicholas Okoh. He threatened to expose those pushing for the recognition of homosexuals. If true, this is very alarming. Can you tell us more about this?

KWASHI: I'm not aware of this. But this should not alarm anyone because the church has always had a way to deal with homosexuality with love and care. I am not sure that pressure will succeed. The Church of Nigeria has never been threatened by homosexuals. And even if there are homosexual priests, they have not, to the best of my knowledge, made any demand for recognition. In fact, more than that, such priests should have been charged with perjury because the canonical oaths of recruitment into training and ordination as deacon and priest, together with the vows of ordination require that such practice is denounced.

VOL: What is the primary thrust of your work in GAFCON?

KWASHI: We must insist upon and guard the Gospel and its prime place in the work of the Kingdom. Some have emphasized portions of the Scripture without the true gospel. The evidence is a lack of compassion, lack of love, generosity, kindness, gentleness, mercy and humility. Such people foolishly take pride in segregation, arrogance, show of knowledge, accomplishments and causing needless divisions. Whenever the Scripture is emphasized without the saving Gospel of Christ, a window is opened for diabolical diversions and pride to take good positions in the church.
We must therefore pursue Biblical revival centered in the Word of God which bears fruit in the mission of the gospel, full of the Spirit, manifesting the gifts of the Spirit, genuine in showing love, humility and godly character. The evidence of this will be a personal life of holiness, integrity, humility and a willingness to serve in Bible teaching, prayer life, family life and relationships with members and fellow clergy. Any pastor, priest or bishop who refuses to plant deep the Scriptures, the values of honesty, holiness, humility, sacrifice, and loving service, the pioneering sacrificial ministry of the gospel, the mission of evangelism and the drive to proclaim the risen Lord in any church shall have to account for the drift from the scriptures and degeneration of that generation from the ministry and mission of the Gospel of Christ! St. Paul was absolutely clear about his focus in life:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, 'The one who is righteous will live by faith.' (Romans 1:16-17)

In these two verses Paul encapsulates the central core of his theology and of his way of life. The power of the gospel is the power of God working towards the salvation of everyone who believes. It is more than just preaching, more than just talking: it is not merely an announcement of the fact that salvation will take place one day. The gospel is itself a divine power leading to salvation; it leads to faith and action, to the restoration of lives, of communities, of the environment. The gospel -- if it truly is the gospel that is being proclaimed -- will assuredly bring life, light and growth; because of the gospel, structures will be developed for the building of life together in communities and for the care of the environment; and at the same time, the power of the gospel will militate against all forms of dehumanization or degradation. We have a gospel worth living for and a gospel worth dying for!

VOL: GAFCON has clearly replaced the Lambeth Conference as a safe harbor for evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans. Do you see that growing?

KWASHI: First, I will not see that GAFCON is replacing the Lambeth Conference because the Lambeth Conference has a historic place in the Anglican Church.
But secondly, GAFCON has no ambition to replace Lambeth. GAFCON, however, does provide an excellent way, a place of gathering for Bible believing, faithful Anglicans of all traditions within the Communion who are being thrown out of their churches and dioceses for being faithful to the Great Commission, to the Bible as affirmed by Lambeth '98, resolution 1.10, and for maintaining the reformed ethos of the Anglican church as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. Such Anglicans, lay, ordained and Bishops, who are suffering under hostile leadership or who find themselves being suffocated by strange and cultural doctrines opposed to the word of God, GAFCON gathers together for the Anglican Communion. In other words, GAFCON is doing a fantastic job for the Anglican Communion in gathering Anglicans who would otherwise have gone to other denominations.

VOL: By not enforcing Resolution 1:10 Archbishop Justin Welby is complicit in the acceptance of this resolution. He has failed to enforce it among the pro-pansexual western provinces, even though it was agreed that they would be held to account. Do you see any way forward with the Lambeth Conference and the Instruments of Unity by either GAFCON or Global South bishops who are wavering in their support of Welby?

KWASHI: Yes; there is a way forward. It was Gamaliel who said, "if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" (Acts 5:38b-39) So we in GAFCON have resolved to "faithfully proclaim Christ to the nations". That is our focus until Jesus returns. This means that we are not going to engage ourselves in disputes, arguments and fruitless meetings. We are going to be encouraging people to roll up their sleeves, put their shoulders to the wheel and get down to working with children, women, the poor, the needy and all others, in the power of the Holy Spirit, until the whole world turns to Christ. The missionary spirit of the New Testament must be alive and well in the GAFCON movement. Those who wish to join in this task will do so and will join with those who are faithfully doing this for Christ. Those who do not wish to do this will definitely not join us.

VOL: Thank you, Archbishop.


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