Will we hold the Holy Spirit accountable for the deaths of 116 people?
Written by Tunicia Phillips
When I began writing this piece today, a sense of conflicting feelings engrossed every ounce of objectivity I thought I had. I am furious.
Thankfully, I could vent off the slew of daggers I had lined up for the objects of my fury- albeit, without having to hold balance, fairness or any of the journalistic ideals my blog does not warrant.
The Gauteng government hosted a religious memorial service for the 22 victims of the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapse who were from Gauteng today. The memorial ran concurrently with that of a coroner’s enquiry into the September, 12 collapse in Lagos, Nigeria. 116 People perished in the church guest house collapse, 85 of whom were South Africans. The church, led by the charismatic Prophet TB Joshua has come under fire at the enquiry when Lagos city officials revealed that the plans for the additional floors added to the guesthouse were not approved.
Joshua has been recorded offering journalists large amounts of money for favourable coverage on the events of September, 12. He also failed to show up for a second time despite receiving a summons from the court. Joshua has claimed that the lavish church building has been designed by the Holy Spirit. He also maintains that the church was attacked by an unknown aircraft seen flying over the building minutes before it collapsed. Experts have thrown the chances of that out during cross examination at the enquiry. Emergency officials have also testified that they were prevented from accessing the disaster scene after the collapse for 96 hours, due to church officials fighting them off and denying anyone access. This while the bodies over a hundred people laid buried under the rubble.
We must give government great props for how they have handled the repatriation process. It has been nothing short of hands on and results driven. What I will not give props for is the tip toeing around Joshua, his church and the Nigerian government for completely failing the South African families before the inter-ministerial task team intervened. This tip toe phenomenon was highlighted today when Premier David Makhura praised the victims for dying with a higher purpose. In light of the nature of their travel to the ‘Prophet’, their deaths were made to be almost God ordained.
Firstly, we cannot rule out the possibility that some of those who died may have been alive had emergency officials been allowed on the scene minutes after the collapse. Secondly, despite the Holy Spirit designing the church’s architecture and extensions, it was still flawed in the real world. In the real world, bad construction planning equals disaster. How dare government and the families accept cheesy justifications for the deaths of their people? How dare we reduce a preventable disaster to that of a disaster more welcomed because people were seeking God? How dare we patronise these families and take no stance on the accountability of this disaster?
Will we jail the Holy Spirit? Or will we put religious sentiments and affection aside and pull our senses together to bring justice to the people who died for nothing.