October 3, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Founder and General Overseer of Christ Revival Evangelistic Ministries a.k.a. Sanctuary Praise Church, Evangelist Victor Ajisafe, has admitted he misrepresented the history of Sierra Leone by stating that there was nothing like Islam in the country’s history, thus tendering his unreserved apologies to the government and people of Sierra Leone.
According to a press release bearing the logo of the Sanctuary Praise Church, Evangelist Ajisafi stated that: “With reference to excerpts of the audio and video clips of the sermon which I preached and went viral on social media on or about the 25th September, 2017, my intention was not to stir up violence or dissensions, not to tear up the much cherished religious tolerance we enjoy as a nation or to insult any person or nation.”
Evangelist Ajisafe was also quoted as saying, “I hereby tender profuse apologies to His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone, the Islamic Community, Sheik Mufti Ismail Menk, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the Christian Community.”
In the said release, he admitted that he later discovered that Sheik Mufti Ismail Menk never stated in his celebrated sermon at the national stadium that Sierra Leone is an Islamic state.
“I have also discovered that the late ex-President, Dr. Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, did not join Sierra Leone to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). I hereby apologise to the family of the late president and the SLPP,” he was quoted as saying in the release.
Evangelist Ajisafe said he was sent by God to “this blessed nation”, where he has lived, raised a family and laboured in God’s vineyard for the past 27 years, adding that, “I deeply love our nation, Sierra Leone and therefore will not do or say anything that will jeopardize its peace and security.”
But Head of Media and Public Relations of the Sierra Leone Police, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Ibrahim Samura, declined to comment on the content of the press release in which Evangelist Ajisafe had tendered his apology, confirming that the man of God is still in police custody, although he could not guarantee his release either on bail or otherwise.
“The investigative process of the Evangelist Victor Ajisafe’s alleged offensive sermon has been completed and the file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for his perusal and legal advise,” he revealed, adding that whatever might be the outcome of the matter depends on the advise of the DPP.
While addressing his congregation on Sunday (24th September, 2017), Victor Ajisafe referred to Islam as a “violent religion of lies and deceit” and that Muslims have been responsible for “every terrorist act in the history of the world”.
On Monday (25th September, 2017), audio and video recordings of the said sermon went viral on social media, prompting an immediate condemnation from both the Muslims and Christians. The popular preacher was arrested that same day and placed under protective custody at the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters, and remains in detention even as at press time.
The Independent Media Commission (IMC), which regulates the media in Sierra Leone, has summoned the management of a radio station -‘Radio I Am’ – owned by Sanctuary Praise Church and ordered that it remains off-air.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs was the first to issue a press release cautioning the general public to be calm. The ministry’s press release stated that, “Immediate steps were being taken to ascertain authenticity of the original audio clip purported to be the voice of a religious leader preaching hate messages based on a totally false and unfounded foundation.”
Meanwhile, reports say members of the Pentecostal church were denied access to the church premises last Sunday, although many had turned out in their numbers to mark the first Sunday in October.
ASP Ibrahim Samura, in a bid the justify what many observers and legal analysts says is a step too far and an infringement on the right to unhindered faith-based worship, said that the authorities had withdrawn the church’s license, adding that that amounts to suspension of all activities, including Sunday worship.