Interview: For Jesus and Nigeria
Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, in central Nigeria, speaks to Charissa King and Stephen Tomkins
‘From my earliest moments, I was a rebel,’ says Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos. This rebellious streak has led him from rascally boyhood behaviour to the principled stances of his adult years. Though consistently aiming to be submissive to God, Mr Kwashi has not been afraid to challenge authority – whether criticising the Nigerian government or the global Anglican Church, or radically restructuring local church systems in order to root out corruption, or repeatedly refusing to give in to terrorists, despite facing brutal violence and death threats. In a debate about human sexuality at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, Mr Kwashi has spoken out against what he feels is the imposition of western concerns on the global south. This year he became leader of the conservative global Anglican group Gafcon, which he says has rescued ‘those who would otherwise have left the Anglican Church’.
Mr Kwashi’s biography, written by Andrew Boyd, Neither Bomb Nor Bullet, was published by Monarch in July. Reform spoke to him this summer.
What was your life like in the years before you became a Christian?
Oh, my life was, like every young man of my generation, very exciting. We didn’t know what we were doing. We hopped from one beer parlour to another, from one club to another, and we drank away our young lives and smoked it all up and we enjoyed the music of our generation. The most fascinating was us sitting in the Afrika Shrine of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. We enjoyed his love of it, and the music was great. James Brown was quite a hit in our time; Mick Jagger was also quite good.
Was it easy to transition from army life to the Christian life?
Any genuine encounter, a free, lifechanging encounter with the Gospel message, would provide for you an avenue of escape from the bondage of the life that the modern, secular, pluralistic world offers. That escape is so palpable you could actually, within a day, look at your past life and say: ‘Thank God I’m free,’ because a life outside of Christ is an utter bondage, indescribable in words.
You didn’t miss your army friends?
I honestly did not miss them because the bondage was unbelievably strong. What psychologists call peer pressure, it’s more than pressure – it’s a bondage. It’s a bondage because you wanted to belong and you had to belong. When I got out, I started to find that I had so much money around me, whereas, being in the group I was constantly in debt. In spite of knowing that we had work to do in the barracks, we didn’t have enough sleep and were constantly in overdose of some kind of chemicals. That also drove us to want the other cake that we just couldn’t have. The Gospel message truly and really freed me. I was lonely but then I had new friends, and new peer groups that had a purpose in life, a mission that I missed without my knowing…
This is an extract from an interview that was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform