From Ihechukwu Njoku | Nigerian Freelance Journalist|
Nigerian Pastor TB Joshua has released a documentary on YouTube detailing the ‘persecution’ he endured during his visit to Nazareth, Israel last year followed by a national award presented to him by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in the aftermath of the event.
In June 2019, Joshua held a two-day event in the historic hometown of Jesus Christ, which attracted thousands of religious tourists from across the globe.
However, the event held at the Amphitheatre of Mount Precipice was fiercely criticised by local religious figures and nearly faced cancellation due to the intensity of attacks.
“This man is only promoting lies, and anyone who follows this liar is unjust. That is why we ban our people from attending,” a representative for the Christian Church and Pastoral Council in Nazareth stated in the lead-up to the event.
“This visit that is going to be held by this antichrist and wizard – we, the Islamic movement – completely reject it,” noted Osama Haha, the head of Islamic Movement in Nazareth.
“Jesus warned us there would be false prophets coming. We do not know where this man is coming from or the purpose behind everything he does,” stated Father Seaan Bajali, a Roman Orthodox Priest.
“Boycotting the sorcerer Zionist is a national and religious duty,” the Executive Committee of the Orthodox Forum said in a statement.
A protest was even organized with hundreds trouncing through the city in Northern Israel with placards decrying the coming event and people shouting: “Let this witch get away from us!”
Despite the ‘noise’ surrounding the event, it was held successfully with Joshua preaching a message on love and ministering “healing and deliverance in Jesus’ name” to the large crowds that gathered.
“Love for fellow man breaks down all barriers. It melts all hindrances. It dissolves prejudice, misunderstanding and suspicion,” he preached in a sermon whilst a local mosque blared out via a loud speaker, “Do not participate with this wizard.”
A group of religious figures even visited the venue of Mount Precipice after the event and performed a ‘cleansing ritual’ with water, leaves and salt.
However, interviews with local figures after the event revealed a markedly different impression, with residents celebrating the economic and social impact of Joshua’s visit to the region and calling for him to return for future events.
“This is the first time in 2,000 years we have heard the name of Jesus proclaimed publicly in Nazareth,” stated a tearful Nazarene Christian.
The event, which was broadcast on local television throughout Israel and featured in The New York Times and Reuters, subsequently attracted the attention of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which gave an award to the Nigerian cleric and made him a ‘Tourism Ambassador’.
“TB Joshua, on the occasion of your visit to Israel, I am honoured to recognise you as a true friend of Israel. Thank you for your support and solidarity, which are deeply appreciated. It is my pleasure to name you as a ‘Tourism Goodwill Ambassador For Israel’,” wrote Yariv Levin, the Minister of Tourism.
“You only need to hear ‘Go!’ from above. Who are you to say no? When God says yes, no one can say no! The noise of north and south, the noise of east and west does not matter. It only promotes,” Joshua explained in an interview accompanying the documentary.
Joshua is the first ‘Evangelical Pastor’ to have held a public Christian event in Nazareth; the only other religious figure to have had such an event was Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
Reacting to the documentary, followers of Joshua were quick to salute his courage, opining that such degree of attacks would easily discourage those of lesser faith.
“It depends on who sent you,” the prominent cleric concluded. “Above all powers; above all kings. What can man do? Can man stop God? No. Capital NO!”