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A Fleet of Jets: A Critical Look at the Business of African Pentecostalism
Leo Igwe   Mar 31, 2015   Ethical Technology  

Anybody who thinks that the wave of christianity based witch hunting and pentecostalism sweeping across Africa and migrant communities is due to some unique strand of piety and religiosity of Africans should think again. The rise of African pentecostalism has a lot to do with the 'business acumen' of the region's 'pastorpreneurs' who are exploiting the situation in the region. 

Poverty, lack of effective education and employable skills, despair and bad governance, local and global religious politics and weak state institution have created a growing market of desperation, anxiety and uncertainty. Many Africans who find themselves in this situation look for ways and means to satisfy their basic needs- health, jobs, marriage and family life, social and political success etc. In a region where most people lack the material means to satisfy their basic needs and aspirations, in societies where the goods of science and technology are marketed in forms that are out of the reach of most members of the population, people resort to spiritual and supernatural means to process their needs. Self acclaimed men and women of God cash in on this situation. They establish faith companies and market spiritual alternatives and solutions to mundane problems.

Self acclaimed men and women of god place people in a situation of endless, continuous expectation of their miracles. They get them into always thinking that their miracle is on the way- yes always on the way. So if a person is poor, he or she is made to believe that the miracle of financial breakthrough is on the way- even when the person is unskilled. If one is sick, the person is made to have faith that a miraculous cure or recovery can be achieved even when the person is terminally ill. Those who have no child, no partner, no jobs go to these churches to pray and wait for their miracles.

And if, per chance, one experiences some good fortune, the person would regard it as a fulfilment of the expected miracle and goes back to the church to do thanksgiving.

Otherwise the person continues to expect the miracle -praying fasting and tithing even when things get worse. That means church members pay but the pastors gain whatever is the case- if one is awaiting the promised miracle or it's been ''delivered''.

There are two main catergories of promised miracles- promised miracle of remedy or solution to problems - like illness, business failure, unemployment, child birth difficulties, visa problems and promised miracle of prevention or protection from attack, harm and destruction, diseases, loss of job. Living conditions in Africa are such that people are trapped in situations where they are expecting miracles of solution or miracles of protection.

And as persons expecting miracles, people continue to sow seeds in the church to guarantee a safe delivery of the divine consignment

Pastors use narratives from the Bible and made up testimonies of persons who have had their promised miracles delivered to keep and sustain those still waiting for their own miracles. For instance a church member posted this testimony on the face book page of one of the Nigerian churches.

CURSE OF BARRENNESS BROKEN
I got married five years ago. It was very difficult to get pregnant. I came for counseling and prayer. I was told to bring a bottle of water. After counseling the water was prayed on and I took part(sic). When I got home I bought a bigger one and mixed it. Before I could finish it I got pregnant and I had a baby girl. 

Pastors create a no lose situation for themselves and an all lose situation for the miracle seekers. Some of them do not live to see the arrival of their miracle consignment from God. Pastors position themselves such that whichever way the miracle deal goes they always stand to benefit- whether you receive your miracles or not. They present themselves as middle men and women, as messengers who are not be blamed for the content or outcome of the promised miracle.

Now how does witchcraft come into play in the deal of promised miracles, in the business of African pentecostalism? The idiom of witchcraft is used in framing the situation that needs a miracle of remedy. Pastors attribute many problems people encounter in families to witchcraft and sometimes directly or indirectly instigate witch hunts by prescribing the elimination of the witches in the families. Witchcraft is also used in framing a situation of promised miracle of protection because the anticipated harm or destruction is presented as a form of witchcraft. African witchcraft is going global. African pentecostalism is extending its business empire to other continents. Pastorpreneurs are coming up with new marketing strategies to tighten their exploitative grip on the society and to extend their power base.

Some of these pentecostal churches are now extending their business to Europe and America.

They target the African migrant communities in these regions A branch of one of these churches, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry, has an ongoing prayer program called '120 Prayers to Crush Witchcraft'

See http://mfmedgware.org/index.

It is a shopping list of prayer points. Some of the prayers read as follows

48.  Every evil load of witchcraft go back to your sender in the name of Jesus.

49.  Every witchcraft prayer against my life scatter, in the name of Jesus.

50.  Every environmental witchcraft be disgraced in the name of Jesus.

51.  Witchcraft grip upon my family be dismantled in the name of Jesus.

52.  Witchcraft initiations melt by fire in the name of Jesus.

53.  Satanic decree over my life I cancel you now in the name of Jesus.

54.  Witchcraft manipulations of my finances die in the name of Jesus.

55.  Every witchcraft padlock hanging against me lock your owner in the name of Jesus.

56.  Every witchcraft engagement over my success break in the name of Jesus.

57.  Every ancestral witchcraft claim over my life break in the name of Jesus.

58.  I destroy the power of stagnation and limitation in the name of Jesus.

59.  I cut down every tree of failure in my family line, in the name of Jesus.

60.  I destroy every pin of witchcraft in my family line, in the name of Jesus.

61.  Every witchcraft covenant working against my life be broken in Jesus name.

62.  Every witchcraft register bearing my name catch fire in the name of Jesus.

63.  Every witchcraft documents written against me be consumed by fire, in the name of Jesus.

64.  Every witchcraft informant that is observing my destiny be paralyzed, in the name of Jesus.

65.  Every image carved against me catch fire, in the name of Jesus.

66.  Every witchcraft authority over my destiny break in the name of Jesus.

Pastors provide their members 'protection' from witchcraft attacks and get them to pay for the service. This is how the promised miracles of remedy and protection has turned into such a lucrative venture that many African pastors are able to own a fleet of jets.

But it is important to note that pastors engage in this miracle business with impunity because of weak law enforcement and a political situation that privileges religion in these countries. Pastors register their churches as charities or not for profit organisations but manage them as businesses as sole proprietorships, as profit making companies, and in other ways that are not allowed by the law.

The idea of witchcraft/jet owning christianity is not new. Churches in Europe and America accumulated vast amount of wealth over the centuries using some of these business schemes like selling indulgences by the catholic church in the middle ages. African pastors are only exploiting a trend that is found virtually in all religions- the trend of extorting money from believers in the name of god and using the money to further personal interests. African evangelists are using a narrative that has long been employed by christian and Islamic actors to acquire and control or better to legitimize  acquisition and control of worldly goods. 

Leo Igwe, as a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, has bravely worked for human rights in West Africa. He is presently enrolled in a three year research programme on “Witchcraft accusations in Africa” at the University of Bayreuth, in Germany.



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