Among the legendary statements ever uttered by man, which I cherish so much is that by Othman Danfodio. He said that “Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it.” That is why I have tremendous respect for men like Ray Ekpu, who has devoted nearly 50 years in a relentless and vigorous pursuit of such truth. As a veteran journalist, prolific writer, administrator and a renowned columnist, Ray’s analyses and opinions on issues can be authoritative. Ray is also a courageous writer, not afraid to bare his mind on diverse issues. Perhaps, it was with such zeal and zest that he took a journey this time, in an unfamiliar terrain, in his weekly column of Daily Sun and Guardian of Tuesday, January 28, 2020. In an article titled “Fanatical Witnesses,” he made a series of allegations against Jehovah’s Witnesses with expressions like “They hold their church services on Saturday not Sundays. They do not sing the national anthems of the countries in which they live. They do not respect the national flag. They hold themselves as outlaws and do not give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. They think that their duty is only to give God what is God’s.” One of the few things I still remember about my philosophy class, an elective course I chose as a student in the university over 20 years ago, is that there are two ways of finding out truth. The first is “logical coherence,” while the second is empirical investigation, these methods are timeless in appeal and efficacy. Like other mortals, Ray is not infallible, he never claimed he is hence my first reaction would have been to write a personal letter to him, refuting some of the assertions he made in the article, which are not correct. But, on a second thought, I reckoned that it would benefit him and the reading public more if I send this rejoinder to the editor to publish because some of the allegations and conclusions in his article are misleading, others are at best half truth, while the rest are insults and outright falsehood. One of the main tenets of journalism is that, while opinions are free, facts are sacred. So, a little empirical investigation on the website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, JW.ORG (the world’s most translated website), would have shown him that more than 90% of the over 8.6 million witnesses in 240 lands, islands and territories worldwide hold their weekend meetings on Sundays.
On the issue of national anthem and pledge, Jehovah’s Witnesses, having made an unreservedly and whole-hearted pledge of loyalty to Jehovah, the sovereign of the universe, believe that it amounts to hypocrisy to make another pledge to a country or state, interestingly, the pledge we made to Jehovah includes living by bible standards, which includes respect and obedience to constituted authorities. That is why, in obedience to the scriptural injunction at Romans 13:1, we give to Caesar by obeying laws of the land, conscientiously paying our taxes, tributes and honour to such governmental authorities. However, in rare instances where the authorities make demands that are contrary to God’s laws, like in some countries where certain laws unduly restrict or ban our worship, we follow the footsteps of the apostles as recorded in Acts 5: 29, to … “obey God as ruler rather than men.”
The Witnesses’ respect and view of governmental authorities transcends perfunctory obedience like singing the national anthem and pledge, swearing oath to serve with honesty, only for many to get involved in anti-governmental activities like civil disobedience, official malfeasance like fraud or outright theft. As an experienced administrator and believer in good governance, I know that Ray would prefer a heartfelt obedience to constituted authorities to a mere ritual of flag salute or mockery oath of loyalty and allegiance.
I also find as complimentary Ray’s attempt to describe the dress of the Witnesses who came calling at his door in derogatory terms. While, like he said, they may not have worn finely cut suit and red-carpet gowns, he noted that they were modestly dressed, and the gown “covered everywhere from head to toe,” it would interest Ray to know that such was the description of the garment made for Adam and Eve, the first human pair, by the greatest designer in the universe, Jehovah (Genesis 3: 21). I also found it a bit disappointing that a writer of Ray’s repute would describe as “stupidity and insanity” a loving effort by the Witnesses who have volunteered and sacrificed their comfort to share a message of God’s kingdom with him. He has no right whatsoever to insult people for practicing their religion or for having an unpopular conviction, just like Christ and the first century Christians had. People have different routine and circumstances hence the Witnesses call at homes, markets, streets and even workplaces in search of humble ones who are favorably disposed for everlasting life. As fishers of men, they deliberately adjust their preaching schedules to when their listeners will be most likely found, just as experienced fishermen. While many may not be disposed to listen, the Witnesses have had fine results with others with whom they share the good news of God’s kingdom. As a result of such efforts, last year, a total of 12,232,924 friends and neighbours joined the 8,686,117 Witnesses worldwide to observe the Lords evening meal in obedience to Jesus’ command at Luke 22:19.
In disagreeing with the Witnesses’ stand on blood transfusion, Ray also quoted Genesis 9:4, which states: “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is blood” and Acts 15:29, which states: “That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled.” It may be necessary to add scriptures like Leviticus 17: 12 & 14, which states in part: “None of you should eat blood, and no foreigner who is residing in your midst should eat blood… Consequently, I said to the Israelites: You must not eat the blood of every sort of flesh… anyone eating it will be cut off. Jehovah’s Witnesses understand and appreciate God’s loving command to mean not taking in blood, through any means whatsoever. If Ray feels that a sacred substance like blood, which God, the grand creator, in his infinite wisdom, has commanded that we should not eat can be transfused without contravening God’s clear and unambiguous law, he certainly has the right to his opinion but that does not change God’s law, just as writer Vincent R. Ruggiero says “the truth cannot be changed by our knowledge or by our ignorance.”
I would liken this to a child whose father has prohibited from taking certain addictive substance but he instead injects it intravenously.
It is important to state that the baby of Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Onokpise in question had jaundice and as at the time of the forceful transfusion, the baby no longer had jaundice and was recuperating well. Beyond the religious convictions of Witnesses, more and more doctors and patients within and outside Nigeria opt for non-blood medical management because it is safer. Blood transfusion is especially unsafe in countries with no proper screening facilities for blood. It may interest you to know that modern medicine has gone beyond a hasty transfusion therapy to robust and effective alternatives to blood transfusion. Witnesses, in their quest to obey Jehovah’s clear directive not to eat blood, have pushed the boundaries of research in non-blood medical management. There are numerous experiences about successful bloodless surgeries and complex medical procedures within and outside Nigeria but let me share my personal experience here.
In November 2018, I was diagnosed of high grade non-hodgskin lymphoma (a very serious type of blood cancer) but, thankfully, it was at stage one and confined to the spleen. A team of hematologists at London Hematology, who carried out the diagnoses, recommended that I should have an open splenectomy, a surgery that would excise the diseased organ. They also said that because spleen was a bloody organ as such transfusion was a must. The transfusion practitioner, clinical nurse specialists and doctors all said that, being anemic as I was (hemoglobin 10+5), I stood no chance without a transfusion. After some research, the consultant hematologist, Mr. Karcsmarski, was able to get the nod of a surgeon who agreed to carry out the surgery without blood transfusion, his name, Dr. Satvinda Mudan. On December 10, 2018, the surgery was successful carried out at London Clinic, Davonshere place, London, United Kingdom, and I gradually recuperated, to the amazement of the medical team. At the anniversary of the surgery, I wrote to thank the medical team at the London Clinic and, in response, the surgeon wrote: “Dear Uche, I am so pleased to learn that you are doing so well. While I might have shown some dexterity as you say, however, the real display of courage was surely from you. I can only say that you showed great fortitude and strength of character in the face of a difficult and threatening situation not of your own making. Moreover, you impressed us all with your resolve and strength with which you hold your belief.”
Other aspects of Ray’s mis-representation of facts will be addressed in the coming days.