In two days of 23rd and 24th of June 2019, Nigeria’s Prophet TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) located in Lagos Nigeria , held what many have described as a historic religious meeting in the city of Nazareth, Israel, where it is stated in the bible that Jesus Christ was born.

Coincidentally that month of June was also celebrated by Joshua, his ministry and supporters as a period of his birthday, having been born on June 12th 1963, in a small village of Arigidi in Akoko, Ondo State Nigeria.

Joshua known for attracting thousands of people all over the world during his numerous deliverance and healing activities, has since made his church located at Ikotun Lagos a tourist attraction.

He has equally held successful crowded crusades in many countries, including; Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Dominican Republic, Peru. Paraguay, Mexico, South Korea, Botswana and Columbia.

But none of these past crusades held by TB Joshua was plagued with any confusion or controversy, as he got tremendous support both from the people and the government of those hosting countries. However, that of Nazareth meeting turned out to be different as there were series of reports which indicated opposition against his holding the event, in spite of the fact that officials of the area gave him their full support and even encouraged pilgrims to troop into Nazareth in their numbers, while envisaging raking in about a million dollars in tourism revenue.

Several reports before the actual event, indicated that the planned visit by Joshua had drawn criticisms in Nazareth across party and ethnic lines. Even church representatives joined Islamic clerics in calls to cancel the meeting. Some Church officials also asked residents to boycott the event and not to mention it in their sermons. While asking believers to be cautious of false messiahs who try to convince people that they are performing miracles.

It was only the Catholic Church that dissociated from the protest against the event. In a Haaretz news report, Rev. Fr. Emil Shopany said, there was no reason not to allow TB Joshua to come to Nazareth to hold prayers just like other pilgrims do.

But many supporters of Joshua wondered if the protest was not as a result of jealousy on the part those religious leaders, in order to tarnish the rising profile of the Nigerian Prophet, who has through his exemplary ways made a big difference in Christianity.

However, during the event, Joshua in his usual way while addressing thousands of pilgrims who still attended the ceremony, broadcast live on Emmanuel TV and local Israeli television in Arabic and Hebrews, used the message of love to disarm the opposition.

In his sermon which he titled;  ‘We are known by our love’, the cleric spoke at length on the divine significance of love. First he started by saying; “I feel humbled walking in the footprints of Jesus,” Joshua told the multi-national crowd, stressing that it was “God’s design” for Jesus to come from Nazareth, which he described as “the morning of Christianity”.

“What makes us human is not our ability to think but our ability to love. This means love is life and if we miss love, we miss life,” he told the crowd, advising them to realize that love must be unconditional. 

“If you want to love better, you should start with someone who hates you, has bad feelings towards you, who sees nothing good in you,” he stressed.

Speaking further, Joshua said, “love one another irrespective of our religion or race for love comes from God”

According him, “Love for fellow man breaks down all barriers; it melts all hindrances. Love has ears to hear the heart. It dissolves prejudices, misunderstanding and suspicion.

“If we are able to overlook the failures, mistakes and weaknesses of our neighbor, then there is genuine love because there is no perfect man on earth.”

In his reaction to the opposition that greeted his coming to Nazareth, Joshua stated, “Even though there was rancor, it was an act of God,” while he also asked foreign pilgrims present to make Nazareth their “second home”, encouraging them to “visit places such as hospitals, schools and other areas that need your attention and show love because the love we give away is the only love we keep.”

After his sermon he touched and prayed for many people who also confirmed their healing. For instance, Li Gul Chua, who travelled from China, testified that she could walk freely without crutches for the first time in six years after Joshua prayed for her. 

In underscoring the significance of the event in the volatile, predominantly Muslim region, Pastor Hadad, a Nazarene, emotionally said, “This is the first time in hundreds of years we have heard the name of Jesus proclaimed publicly in Nazareth,” 

Another witness of the event said, “I used to see Jesus as just a story from history, we used to attract tourists,” Itay, an Israeli tour guide, bluntly stated. “Today, I saw – through T.B. Joshua – that the name of Jesus actually has power.”

News of the event got to the international media, with coverage in The New York Times, Reuters and Israel’s leading newspapers Haaretz and Jerusalem Post. 

Many prominent people also attended the meeting, including the Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who was physically represented by his wife Janeth.

After the event, many came to the realization that there was no need for the initial opposition, as the meeting actually brought a lot of positive changes to the lives of many people, as they witnessed several good things they had not seen before.

AMBROSE NWAOPARA  the writer is an author and a renowned life coach

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