The suffering of the christian mysticism in Sierra Leone transformed the church into an active participant in the political affairs of the nation. A very negative and destructive dimension is the fact that several coup d’etats were staged in the very immediate past, all of which had a Christian as Head of State. These coups have tremendously intensified rather than ameliorated the sufferings of the masses.
A resultant effect of the burning of church structures is a corresponding decline in the membership. The Lutheran situation, though not accurately, generally reflects the state of the art for all denominations. The decline in membership could be attributed to a number of reasons. Although some Christians were killed, a considerable number migrated. This diaspora took Sierra Leoneans to many West African countries. There is presently in Lagos, for instance, a considerable proportion of Sierra Leoneans, some of whom have no intention of returning since they have married to Nigerians or have been established otherwise. Those with influential relatives secured tickets to the western world while the fortunate also entered after winning various resettlement programs.
A very serious effect of suffering in the church is that it was rendered prone to accept different church organizations that claimed to be Christians. It was during this period that The Church of Jesus of the Latter Day Saints, for instance, became popular. These bodies played upon the poverty of Christians. Doctrines that promised a comfortable life were readily accepted by most Christians who saw them as the solution to their problem.
THE CHURCH OF SIERRA LEONE’S RESPONSE TO SUFFERING
The church reacted to suffering in several ways. There was a great response to the gospel followed by a negative reaction, that is, the overemphasis placed on the teachings of the prosperity Gospel. The response of the church to suffering in Sierra Leone cannot be complete without discussing its contribution in ameliorating the suffering of people during the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone and an evaluation of this response in the latter in particular.
Response to the Gospel
The response to the Gospel significantly increased as a result of the decline in the living standards of the people. Hope was completely lost in the political system and all human institutions. There was a general consciousness that the solution to the problems in the country was spiritual. Credit should be given to the Pentecostal Churches that did a lot of evangelism which brought thousands to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paradoxically, Sierra Leone was probably the first West African nation to receive the Gospel. Yet after over two centuries, “under twelve percent of the country claims to be Christian.