19 February 2013

Nigeria: Tungamaje - Community Where Religious Differences Do Not Matter

Tungamaje community is about 45 minutes drive from the heart of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The entrance is along Zuba road.

Though a predominantly Muslim community, one can't help but be amazed at the more than cordial relationship that exists between them and the few Christians in their midst.

The community is far removed from the ethnic and religious bigotry plaguing the society today.

This was amply demonstrated by the gaiety and sense of abandon with which the indigenes of Tungamaje readily accessed the healthcare services offered them by the medical outreach organised by Foursquare Gospel Church.

This is not all. The church has almost completed a community health care centre for the indigenes who have been without one.

The Sarkin Kokonke of the community, Mallam Usman Yamau said despite the religious differences, the people live in harmony with one another and do not discrimante others on the basis of their religion.

"We welcome them with open arms," he said.

According to the traditional head of the community, Alhaji Abdullahi Musa, successive governments have failed them in terms of delivering dividends of democracy to the community.

He said himself and other members of the Tungamaje community have since resigned themselves to fate, after exhausting all available means to draw some of the basic amenities to the community.

He disclosed that whenever they want to access healthcare services, they have to travel 20 minutes to Zuba.

While expressing gratitude to the church for the providing of the health centre, he observed that health is one of the basic needs of man.

An enthusiastic Amina, one of the natives, said medicines and drugs are following her now unlike in the past, where she would travel all the way to Zuba to get even pain killers.

On how the church got a breakthrough and acceptability seeing that the community is predominantly a Muslim one, the Senior Pastor of Foursquare Gospel Church, Bubwa Tutu and the Zonal superintendent of Kubwa Tutu, Abuja district, Rev Lanre Onigade, said, "Everybody has needs and every human being is the same. We came here, but we didn't really come here to tell them about giving their lives to Jesus. We came to tell them that we want to meet their needs. Last year, we brought them clothing materials and others. This is the second time we are having medical missions here. We had one in June last year even before the church and community health centre was put in place."

"We are offering simple medical needs. We are thinking of surgical aspect of it also if there is any need for such like eye surgery. We can have it performed for them in secondary or tertiary level of care."

According to the senior pastor, the church came to the community to do what is called, "social evangelism," looking after the needs of the people here.

"And one of the major needs they have is health need. I know full well that since the government has not been able to fulfil and meet these aspirations of the people, a lot of them still have health challenges. I decided to come here and organize this medical mission's outreach, to reach these people, to look after their basic health needs. That is why we are here. Yelwa Zuba was chosen because our coverage area is FCT zonal capital territory and we have churches around here."

"We decided that these rural areas of FCT and since the urban centres are already saturated with churches, and very many of them have access to medical facilities and provision, it's better to come to a place where people don't have this kind of access.

"Also, there was no church here, so we started our church and our community health facility together to cater for the needs of the people. The health centre is finished. It remains just for it to be equipped which we are working on. We are also working on having arrangement with some medical personnel who will be coming here from time to time to attend to the people. We started the church and the community health centre at the same time in April or July 2011," he added.

Rev Onigade said the church has already spent about N4 million and the equipping is estimated to cost more than that.

"You know that most of these health centres are very sophisticated and very expensive. But we're soon going to equip the place to make it effective. We are not just interested in having a structure in place but we are interested in having an effective and operational community health centre," he explained.

He noted that though he has met the local government authorities and has spoken to them, he has not received money from anybody for the project.

He said, "So, everything being done here is by the church. Apart from the health facility, we intend to do more. Other things are in the pipeline. We have not started implementing them, but certainly we are going to do more."

"We believe in following the footsteps of Jesus because apart from preaching the gospel to people, he also took care of their needs, fed them, healed them and delivered them. He did everything to make their life comfortable and so we believe that the church should do likewise because Jesus has set us an example.

He called on other churches and religious organizations to meet social needs of people in their midst, saying, "I am actually aware that there are other churches, apart from our own, doing this kind of thing. I know also that there are others who may not be doing this. So my message to them is that they should go out there and look after the needs of the people because when you look after people's needs, then they will be willing to listen to whatever message you have for them. So, it is good to look after the needs of the people while feeding them with spiritual food."

On the security challenges plaguing the country, he said, "my take is that we are facing these challenges because of sin. That is what most people don't understand. They think that things just happen. Things don't just happen. There is what we call cause and effect. Unless there is a cause, you cannot have an effect. So what we are experiencing today in terms of security challenges is as a result of our piled up sins as a nation. Our leaders, the followers, the average Nigerian; many of us are sinners and many people have refused to repent of their sins.

"God is just calling our attention to our sinfulness and immediately we are willing to repent, all these challenges will give way and I also believe that the challenges would have been more than this if not for the prayer of the saints. I also want to encourage the government to do everything possible to bring this security challenge under control."

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