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Freetown’s Dangerous Brother Jero

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Freetown’s Dangerous Brother Jero

By Lans Gberie.

Pastor Victor Ajisafe, the moronic founder and ‘General Overseer’ of the so-called Christ Revival Evangelistic Ministries (otherwise known as Sanctuary Praise Church), has a habit of pushing his ability for lucrative milking of the credulity of the Christian faithful towards heights of pompous trouble making. After a bloody coup in 1997, Ajisafe quickly transformed himself into a ‘spiritual adviser’ of Johnny Paul Koroma, the demented arm-chopping leader of the Armed Forces Ruling Council. For close to a year he held open-air sermons rousing Freetown churchgoers, cowered by the depredations of Koroma’s soldiers, to support the junta as the new God-anointed rulers of the country.

His constant refrain at the time was that as a ‘prophet’ he would throw away the bible if President Kabbah ever returned to Sierra Leone. Kabbah duly returned as president, and it is unclear whether the earnest ‘prophet’ had a chance to throw away his bible. But he was arrested and charged with treason and conspiracy for allegedly collaborating with Koroma’s junta. ‘Collaboration’, of course, was a protean charge that seemed to have been confected for scoundrels like Ajisafi: crudely opportunistic but not in any way capable of carrying out an act of treason. Justice Sidney Warne, presiding, told the prosecutors that though Ajisafi’s conduct was objectionable for a so-called ‘man of God’, “prayer cannot constitute an act of treason.” He was freed.

President Kabbah could have taken the easy option of deporting the pastor, who is Nigerian. Instead, often magnanimous to a point that bewildered his supporters, Kabbah left Ajisafe free, a sort of miracle that he exploited to good effect: his church grew and prospered in the aftermath.

In 2008, Ajisafe shoved himself into the news again when he was, along with three other members of his church, accused in a magistrate court of malicious damage for breaking a wall fencing a building on Kingharman Road in Freetown, close to his ‘sanctuary’.

Still, the video and audio circulating around showing Ajisafe flying himself into a neurotic rage in denunciation of Christianity’s great historic rival, Islam, sets a new bar for criminal recklessness. He appeared to have been provoked by the immense success of a visit to Freetown by the popular Zimbabwean Islamic cleric Mufti Ishmail Menk. Freetown, which probably has more Muslims than Christians, is used to visits by flamboyant Christian evangelists who draw huge crowds to the national stadium and sometimes perform ‘miracles’. Ajisafe himself has made a fortune working such ‘miracles’ for his credulous congregants, though he appeared to have failed to pull the critical one relating to preventing President Kabbah’s return to Freetown.

Mufti Menk has been reported to have made, in the past, depraved comments about gays, but in Freetown – judging by the videos and audios of his appearances – he was the model of reasonableness and sophistication: he extoled the virtues of peace, good neighbourliness, patriotism, hard work, and political and religious tolerance. And doing all that without, as is always the case with Ajisafe, having his entourage or hosts pass around dozens of collection boxes for the faithful to demonstrate their pieties with their wallets or handbags.

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How this elegant conduct by someone representing a much-maligned religion can fail to impress or even inspire religious solidarity is hard to fathom. For Ajisafe, the visiting Mufti’s very demeanour meant that he is an “Islamic false teacher” who drew ‘idle’ and jobless people in Freetown to the stadium so that he would ‘lie’ to them. There is, he said, “nothing like Islam in the history of Sierra Leone – we have idol worshipping and Christianity.” The Mufti had tried to falsely project Islam as religion of peace, but in fact “the symbol of Islam is the sword,” adding that “every terrorist act is caused by Islam.” The Mufti was “an angle of darkness [who] dressed himself as angle of light,” and wondered why, if he represented true religion, the Mufti did not perform miracles. He railed against his old nemesis, the late president Kabbah, accusing him of using the “backdoor” to bring Islam to Sierra Leone and get the country to join the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Every one of these charges, of course, is a blatant, shameless lie; and the video I have seen of Ajisafe’s display shows his stunned audience sitting in silence as the well-fed, grasping and avaricious fool worked himself into a frenzy, going on and on with his bombastic denunciation. Fact checking Ajisafe’s statements is probably a waste of time, but a small try will do. It was President Joseph Momoh (a Christian), not Kabbah, who got Sierra Leone into the OIC. Miracles are deplored by Islam; and the idea that Islam spread throughout the world by the sword is so daft and idiotic it needs not engage anyone. As for terrorism, when did the world start to hear about Islamic related acts of terrorism? ‘Terrorism’ as a word derived from the excesses of the French revolution of 1789, which was far from Islamic.

As a Catholic myself, the history of religious wars and persecution perpetuated by my church shames me. Ajisafe’s church is his own creation, part of a money-churning trend that the writer Wole Soyinka observed and depicted with prescient illumination decades ago. In his 1960 play, “The Trials of Brother Jero”, he depicted a charismatic money-grubbing and land-grabbing charlatan very much like Ajisafe but without the irresponsible streak.

Ajisafe should keep to making money out of the deluded but apparently dwindling congregants of his Sanctuary Praise Church. And he ought to be closely watched by the authorities.

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