My uncle lost his only daughter, a 4year old innocent child who was down with malaria that a local clinic could have easily managed at Aba, the commercial city of Abia State , Nigeria. His wife had started a new church established by a prophetess who she looked up to as her spiritual mother. We were told that the new church preached that it is only “sin” that brings sickness upon man. No such thing like disease and infection according to their “spiritual mother. As an exercise of faith, most members shunned medical help for themselves and their families, including my uncles wife . Instead, “they prayed to God for forgiveness of sin in the time of sickness”. Now tell me the kind of sin that a four year old child must have committed that warranted malaria punishment from “God”.  What kind of sin sent a female anopheles Mosquito to inject plasmodium parasite into the blood stream of a 4 year old child?   

Not only was the child denied medical attention, MOTHER PROPHETESS in her spiritual malaria intervention “prescribed” that the kid be thoroughly anointed with olive oil to cleanse her from the sin responsible for her “MALARIA”. At home, the mother complied fully with the prescription, bathed her little daughter whose fever was getting worse with a full bottle of “BLESSED” olive oil. The poor little girl went into shock and died!

Religion is a subject that we encounter daily, either because we follow a specific faith and the rules established by it, or because we meet people who proclaim their faith unabashed, or because we know it is an interesting subject in social conversations. It is probably better to ask someone how much they earn, how they are faring in their lives, their work, their families ; or even about their health history, than to ask them what religion they practice. Religion is considered too personal a subject, and in scientific discourse, it is only recently that religion has received a lot of special attention.

The religious practices of a people affect their health, as well as all other aspects of their life, including their social relationships, contribution to societal functioning and disease condition. Man living in an interactive
society is affected by what happens in his environment and how he reacts to it. All people, no matter the race, have their beliefs and religious practices concerning health and disease. Each individual has his or her own belief system and values, and these  go a long way in influencing their perception, attitudes and behavior in the management of diseases and health related problems that befall them(WHO, 2007). With a view on Africa and its multi-ethnic society, peculiar nature and diverse practices, Africa is considered to have an extremely religious society, therefore, an idea on her religious practices and its impact on health, health practices and health seeking behavior is essential to her overall growth and development.

The average African believes in the supernatural. This is evident in his or her health practices and health seeking behaviors (actions taken when the individual perceives to have a health problem, for the purpose of finding an appropriate remedy). Therefore, upsetting the supernatural or its/His messengers produces a disharmony of this order and sickness/illness occurs. Ill health and sickness which often times are believed to require unorthodox and unscientific treatment, are explained as  being caused by evil spiritual forces and demons, directed by witches, wizards, sorcerers, generational sins and angered ancestors.   As such, the most likely order in seeking health is first a resolution of one’s imbalance with the supernatural through rituals, sacrifices, confessions of sins, incantations, prayers, divinations, use of potions and blessed materials such as oil, water, handkerchiefs- and all manner of logical and illogical mechanisms; before the patronization of the local chemist and then, the hospital. Consequently, cases presents late for experts attention.

Among all religion, Christianity have brought a lot of good thing to Africa. From the abolition of deadly cultural practices like killing of twins, human sacrifice etc. It brought us education, hospitals and other social amenities. Christianity preached hope to our first Christians and gave them hope. Not just the hope of eternity, but also hope for better life on earth through free education, quality health services and other social intervention.  Rev. Martin Luther King JR said that any religion that profess concern for the souls of men and is not equally concerned about the sums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried. Today, most church leaders preach wealth and encourage their numerous congregations to seek supernatural healing which can only be activated when one sow his earnings as seed to “the man of God”.Spiritual and social gospel is what every true Christian must pursue and if need be, die for. God made us in his own image and likeness and gave us the power   to help ourselves. Man’s intelligence to heal through medical means is a gift from God. Anytime you visit a hospital and get better, it is a miracle. However, Africans do not appreciate miracles that lack magical attributes.

Belief in a supernatural being is more often than not translated to reverence, fear, blind/illogical followership, and fanaticism. This is capitalized on by religious leaders most especially, and because of low self esteem, poverty and ignorance also on the part of the believer, these religious leaders make their followers believe that the cure to all disease and sickness is through religion and religious practices. This thus results in poor health seeking behaviors, increase in mortality and morbidity rate, failing to seek timely medical care, late case presentations and physical/psychological trauma. Religion can direct people away from conventional medical treatment, poor/non utilization of health care and health facilities, and poor/non compliance to health practices. People refuse medical treatment for themselves or their children because of religious beliefs, and people avoid medical treatment because the treatment is believed to be prohibited by their particular faith. In other cases, people avoid medical treatment because they believe that turning to medicine instead of relying on God answering their prayers for healing would show a lack of faith or confidence in God.

Religion can be a form of avoidant coping. Avoidant coping is when people engage in efforts to avoid dealing with an unpleasant situation or simply try to deny that it exists. In the case of illness or disease, avoidance is bad for health. Religion can offer people a way to avoid the problem. That is, people can say things like “It is in God’s hands” or “It must have happened for a reason”. In other words, if people want to avoid confronting a health problem, they can pass the buck to God and this approach serves as a barrier to maintaining and improving health.

Many people with mental health present with bizarre and distorted religious ideas and that religious beliefs and practices are used in pathological ways.Devoutly religious persons may have high expectations of themselves and of others. They may condemn themselves for having difficulties that they think religious people should not have. They may judge themselves and others harshly and alienate those who do not believe or act as they do.

Deceptive religious leaders take advantage of the social and economic problems of their followers, as such, they cloth themselves as pious and holy, but with the intent of business and money making.  Devious and deceptive means are employed, irrespective of whose ox is gored, to the detriment of their followers.

All over Africa, So many people have lost their lives as a result of fake prophesies of men who call themselves pastors, priest and imams, but are only saying what the poor masses want to hear for financial gains and fame. Why do we fold our arms in Africa and expect God to solve problems he has already solved by giving us the potentials to handle the situation. One would not be surprised if an African man demand that God prove his power by making food to fly into his mouth from his plate so that he never has to  use his hand for feeding himself and then the whole world can marvel at the size of his faith…or magic .

The ability to heal through medical means comes from God. He created us to conquer and subdue the earth. God himself is omniscience and he made us in his own image and likeness. The correct practice would have been for a sick person to be taken to a hospital, while the relatives reach out to his pastors, priest, imams or native doctors for relevant spiritual aid.

As a Christian, I will keep this discussion around Christian religion. While in the hospital, the man/woman of God can pray for your healing. Prayer works, I have seen it, but there is a huge difference between having faith in God and testing God. Our actions in Africa is like a man walking across a high speed expressway expecting God to prove himself by making sure he does not get knocked down by cars. That is pure stupidity.

A lot of HIV/AIDS victims have been declared healed in churches, and then warned against going for laboratory confirmation. These categories of “men of God” who are in the habit of saying things that God did not tel them in their bid to excite their worshipers argue that seeking laboratory confirmation is equivalent to doubting God, “an action which will surely provoke God into withdrawing his miracle and consequently, the test result will read positive again. Some of them go to the extent of insisting that, if at all any laboratory confirmation must be carried out, such must be done in the “anointed church clinic” (which has already been programmed to do the bidding of their pay masters). The brainwashed worshipers will follow the instructions out of fear and declare themselves healed, thereby defaulting from their treatment. Few months later, their viral load will ground them and they will be rushed to the hospital with all sorts of opportunistic infections which usually leads to their eventual demise.

No genuine man of God will tell you to stay away from the hospital when you are sick. None will bar you from laboratory confirmation of your healing in any hospital of your choice. When God heals, it is permanent and your lack of faith or appreciation does not make God withdraw his healing. If at all, lack of faith stops you from receiving the healing in the first place. When Christ healed ten men with leprosy and only one returned to show appreciation, he noted his good action, but bible never recorded that the others were re-infected with leprosy as a punishment for their lack of appreciation. God is a merciful and loving father and he intends to heal us holistically. When he heals us physically, we are also healed spiritually, but most times, man gets carried away with his physical recovery to the detriment of his spiritual restoration. However, that does not make God send the sickness he has removed from the physical body. It is only when you go back to your sin that you may create a bigger portal for new disease and problems.

Men are more attracted to gospel of miracles, prosperity, signs and wonders than gospel of righteousness, love, peace, mercy, sacrifice, tolerance and endurance. In today’s African Christianity, poverty and sickness have been demonized  just like traditional religion have done in the past and families have been set against each other in the name of religion.Many men are taking advantage of the social and economic problems of Africans. They cloth themselves as pastors, priests and prophets but their intentions are purely personal business. In their bid to attract the masses, they invent miracles, signs and wonders. They ensure that they identify a family member responsible for your diabetes and the gods your forefather’s worshiped who have risen to inflict your child with sickle cell disease. If you have aged parents or grandparents, they will be responsible for your wife’s or husbands infertility because aging has become the ultimate qualification into the cult of wizardry and while this madness is going on, any attempt to raise your voice against these practices will be visited with strong attack by the teaming followers of these churches.

“They would warn you to be careful how you talk about men of God”, they are anointed and God will punish you for criticizing them”

Nobody has the monopoly of God’s anointing. We are anointed too, between the ego of the so called men of God and the health of the people of God, we chose to stand with the people of God. You might be careful how you attack our Godly campaign instead.While one may not contest the wickedness of man and their ability to inflict illness by spiritual means, the point here is that it is not aways the cause of our health challenges. our environment, socio-economic condition and lifestyle is enough to kill anyone . Moreover, the “outbreak of visionaries” cannot allow anybody to separate real ones from fake.Therefore, we can only advice that you seek medical help in addition to your prayers to be on the safe side, physically and spiritually

Church and other religious leaders in Africa have become the pediatricians for sick kids, gynecologist for married women and specialist in all medical condition. They have become the first point of call for all medical condition except EBOLA. Yes, the almighty Ebola was unanimously giving correct attention. While it was safe to recommend only spiritual solution by some churches when it is cancer and diabetes, they made no such recommendation with Ebola. In fact, all the prayer houses observed medical advice for Ebola prevention to the core, even to the extent of preventing members from touching the pastors and priests during prayers. That is the height of the hypocrisy. With Ebola, members are supposed to go to hospital why the religious group support them with prayers, why not apply the same approach in all sickness? Isn’t that how God has designed it to be?

It is the responsibility of nurses as clients’ advocates to speak up against any practices that endangers the health of members of our society. It is not a fight against Christianity. It is actually a campaign for correct Christian practice that everyone seem to have lost the courage to preach in Africa.

The Gospel deals with the whole man. Not only his soul but his body; not only his spiritual wellbeing but his material wellbeing. Therefore, men of God must deliver that holistic gospel to the people of God in words and action. Teach them love, so that our society may be safe; teach them faith, so that they build courage to pursue positive goals; build affordable schools and hospitals for them, so that the poor can feel the love of the church and love the God that establishes the church; And empower them to identify and utilize human potentials to solve mans problem, especially heath challenges , as much as you build their faith in supernatural power of God which they will need at a point when human intelligence reaches its limitations.





Lead Nurse Africa is a Pan-African nursing organization dedicated to public health promotion and professional development.

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