His Eminence Rev. Dr Samson Ayokunle A few days ago, we read in the media that the group over which you preside, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) issued a statement signed by your National Publicity Secretary, Joseph Bade Daramola asking for the removal of the CEO of Sterling bank, Abubakar Suleiman over the now infamous Agege Bread Easter advert.
The very strongly worded statement opines that Sterling Bank message is “ungodly, wicked, insensitive and deliberately provocative because the advertisement of Sterling Bank compares the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ to Agege Bread amidst the Easter celebration. This epistle is addressed to you with the aim of letting you and others know that it is my personal but very considered and strongly held view that you are wrong in issuing the statement in question. There is no other way to put it and lest one becomes guilty of what we accuse others of, it is important to clearly state that the statement was not only ill advised and unnecessary but also potentially counterproductive and indeed unchristian. At least not in line with the teaching and symbol of Christ the Redeemer that came into the world to love and to show mercy to all because “For God so love the world…”.
The statement in tone and in content is also alien to the teaching of the church of our time, that we are taught, is aiming to be ecumenical and welcoming to all shades of worship and dialogical in approach and relationship with all beliefs. It is legitimate to opine that the Sterling bank’s Agege Bread Easter advert is coarse, ugly or even distasteful, it might very well be all of it, many think so and a lot of people have expressed their indignation, but we have to in conscience and knowledge remind ourselves that these are subjective judgements, legitimate yes but still subjective. I for example think the Agege Bread Easter advert is error ridden, shallow, built on ignorance and ill conceived. Bread rises simply, ordinarily and cogently due to the fact that the yeast we add consumes the sugar we add and emits carbon dioxide that is locked in the gluten inside bread, when we add more sugar and we allow our bread to consume the more carbon dioxide that is formed and released, the higher the bread will rise. There is no nexus or similarity between the rise of bread and the resurrection of Christ which is mysterious, spiritual, symbolic and defining.
With a bit of calmness and a Christian understanding of matters, it is easy to detect and correct the flaws in the Agege Bread Easter advert. The Christian way of offering knowledge and corrections is with love, understanding and hope because we are taught that “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth”.
Your Eminence, the Christian Association of Nigeria with this statement missed a golden opportunity to lead and to show a superior face by offering the very needed Christian didactic and display of mercy and hope, instead of venting of anger, seeking vengeance and showing no hope for the errant ones. Sterling bank, directly from the desk and with the signature of its CEO released an apology admitting it had erred and stated that it was not its intention to cause such indignation.
From the statement issued by CAN, it seems that the Christian Association of Nigeria not only refuses the apology but doubts the intention of the apologist for it states that “the purported apology did not come from a penitent heart. How can someone in his right mind describe the risen Christ as a loaf of bread. That is insulting, ridiculous and a mockery of Jesus Christ. We advise Christians to be wary of the bank and other financial institutions they are patronising.”
Let us imagine for a second that the wishes of that statement are followed: the CEO is sacked and Christian customers become distrustful of the bank. Who will benefit? Someone will benefit but certainly not the Christian staff nor the Christian contractors nor the Christian shareholders who are not few in Sterling bank and not certainly Christendom that would have to deal with an army of unemployed and frustrated flocks.
Your Eminence, what will it profit a business to gain a joke and lose its customers? What benefit will a bank in Nigeria gain from alienating it Christian customers? This advert is an error committed by a light headed process and system incapable of considering the effect of its action. Let us even assume that someone in the whole bank was mad enough to want to offend and insult, should it not be the time to remember that we have been taught “not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.
On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing”. Is this not the time to remember that just before Christ was taken away somebody around him struck with a sword one of the servants of high priest cutting his ear but Christ said “no more of this” and healed the ear of the servant?
It is understandable when many out of passion say no Christian would be allowed to do such to an Islamic ritual and get away with it, but do we in conscience and knowledge really think we should act the way others act? Do we really feel it is our place in 2022 to defend the holiness of our Lord? In a society riddled with anxiety, distrust and ignorance, the Church of Christ needs to spend more time and energy and be seen to be finding ways to love more, give more, teach more and unite more even when it is tough and unpopular, especially when it is tough and unpopular.
Prof. Kila is centre director at CIAPS Lagos. He can be reached at @anthonykila