By Obong Akpaekong
Africa-Israel Initiative, AII, an organisation seeking the support of Africans and the global community for the nation of Israel, is fast positioning to achieve set goals and objectives. Last April, the body held its three-day International Annual Conference (April 19-21), in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and admitted Nigeria as its 18th member-nation in Africa. AII, founded by Norwegian cleric Erik Selle in 2012, also exists in Norway, United States of America and Israel.
At the Port Harcourt conference, Winston Iwo, bishop of Grace Covenant Ministries, with headquarters in Port Harcourt and a die-hard mission personality, was announced chairman of the Board of Trustees and Directors of the body. Iwo, who is also the special advisor to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike on Religious Affairs, was the West African co-coordinator of the body before the current position. The conference was the sixth since the formation of AII – after those held in Zambia – 2012, South Africa – 2013, Kenya, where it has its headquarters – 2014, Rwanda – 2015 and Ghana – 2016.
On May 15, AII elected an eight-member executive council to run its affairs in Nigeria. Those elected were Jide Adeleye – national director, Success Uche – deputy national director, Jacob Joel – national secretary, Godwin Nwanlem – assistant national secretary and Dukaye Ibama – national treasurer. Others were Adesegun Adenekan – national financial secretary, Ayo Odunayo –national publicity secretary and Ibulubo Godswill – national youth leader. Daddy Ibulubo, who was the 2017 International Conference Planning Committee chairman, succeeded Iwo as West African regional director. Interestingly, all the executive members except Godswill are clerics.
Since inception, the body has been spreading the message of love and support for Israel, a tiny republic of about six million people and one of the world’s most troubled nations. The country of birth of Jesus Christ has also failed to be a model for peace. It is surrounded by huge enemy nations – one of them – Iran, swearing that she will not rest until she has wiped out Israel from the surface of the earth.
Fortunately, Selle’s dream has yielded tremendous fruit. In the last six years, Christian leaders across Africa have through inspiration of the initiative built relationships with Israel in various sectors including culture, economy, communication and security, aside the spiritual. A number of African states, perceiving themselves as brother nations, are also developing regional alliances for peaceful co-existence, righteousness, security and stability.
Other blessings resulting from efforts of the initiative include unity and greater understanding among Africa’s political class, her business circles, professional teams and Christian leadership. There is evidence that AII has built a fortified platform to counter racism and subdue anti-Semitism and tribalism in the continent and has become a visible symbol for networking, capacity building and human development.
Israel became a nation-state in 1948. This development was seen by many around the world as a direct fulfillment of prophecies. The prophecies include that of Zachariah 8:13, “Now I will rescue and make you both a symbol and a source of blessing” and Psalm 121:6, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee”.
In all the nations that AII operates, strong emphasis have been laid on the need for Christian communities to practically identify with Israel in political activism, business and general life endeavours and to support her with material things and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Iwo explains that “God asked for prayers for Israel because He knew that modern Israel would become the focal point for world’s trouble shooters. It is not enough to know that Jesus came from Israel and was born in Bethlehem. Israel is the source of Christianity and the Church. We do not bear the root, the root bears us. We can only support the root.
“Having become Christians, sometimes we forget our root and the fact that we became Christians because we had a saviour through a covenant made to Abraham that a seed shall come forth, which is Jesus. The nation which God chose to bring about that seed was Israel and as a mother, Israel needs prayer and support from Christians around the world” he said. Iwo says awakening the church to its roles and responsibilities to the Jews remain the motivating factor in the formation of AII.
Kenyan bishop Joshua Mulinge, while speaking on conference topic “Israel in the Bible” also said establishing good relationship with Israel was a step in the right direction because it was through Israel that the Gentiles received salvation. Mulinge was happy for Nigeria for providing political and religious leadership in Africa. He is the vice president of AII.
Selle is happy that Africa is taking a prime position in character and relationship with Israel and other global matters. Hear him at the Nigerian chapter inauguration: “The light of God is in Africa.” He said Africa had become a blessing to the world and was transforming into a new centre of Christianity, practically surpassing other regions as a moral and ethical model. Selle expressed the joy that the fruit of years of revival, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, was being integrated into business, industry and infrastructure. He called on the political and religious leaders of the continent to ‘rise and shine’ to maintain the current tempo. He said the continent’s new partnership with Israel, whom he said stood out in innovation, development, agriculture, creative knowledge and security, was going to uplift the continent to greater heights.
Other conference speakers were Yehuda Glick, who addressed the delegates from Israel; Emma Ntayomba, Rwandan director of the organisation who took the topic, “The Power of Blessing”, Jostein Skevik, who spoke on “Biblical Feasts and the Covenants of the Bible”, Shalom Koronge, a youthful Kenyan pastor, who spoke on “The Future of Africa: A New Generation” and Nigeria’s Williams Daka, who spoke on “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”.
In his goodwill message, Zilly Aggrey, chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Rivers State chapter, called on African nations to emulate Israel in her drive for excellence in media, agriculture and security. Daniel Tam-Cookey, a rabbi and leader of the 19 Jewish communities in Rivers State expressed the joy that members of the Jewish synagogue in the state were invited to be part of the occasion. He said the world should blame the Roman Empire for the crucifixion of Christ rather than the Jews because the empire authorised the killing of the Son of God.
Daddy Ibulubo said in the months to come, activities of the organisation would sufficiently stimulate and promote the spiritual relationship between Nigeria and Israel even as the world was awaiting the return of Christ. He said the new relationship Africa was building with Israel would enable her partake in the promises that God gave to Abraham. Africa-Israel Initiative has also played strong roles in the all-time Christians pilgrimage to Israel.
Akpaekong is a public affairs analyst