Sierra Leone News: Ajisafe Held in Custody, Church Suspended
By Stephen V. Lansana
Founder and President of the Sanctuary Praise Church, Evangelist Victor Ajisafe is being held by the police for questioning and for his own protection after it is alleged that he used inflammatory message against the Islamic religion during his sermon, the police said on Tuesday.
The government has, with immediate effect, temporarily suspended operation of his church. “The temporary suspension of the church will stay in place until the Criminal Investigations Department of the Sierra Leone Police concludes ongoing investigations,” The Ministry of Social Welfare said in a statement.
“Evangelist Victor Ajisafe is helping the police with the investigation and the public will be informed accordingly as the investigation progresses,” the police said a statement.
“The attention the Sierra Leone Police has been drawn to an audio message making the round on social media coming from Evangelist Victor Ajisafe …”
The police view such an unsavory message as inimical to the peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance for which Sierra Leone is known. “Such a message has the potential to cause public provocation, incitement and disorder and undermines national security,” the police said.
The police called on Muslims and the general public to stay calm and go about their normal business, as they are working with the Inter Religious Council, the Ministry of Social Welfare and other stakeholders to ensure that sanity is maintained.
The Independent Media Commission, a body charged with regulation of mass media in Sierra Leone, said in a statement on Tuesday that “it has listened with dismay a sermon preached by Evangelist Victor Ajisafe of the Sanctuary Praised Church. The Commission found the sermon inflammatory and has a tendency to affect religious tolerance in the country.”
“The Commission noted that the Muslims and Christians in the country have co-existed peacefully and such comments by an Evangelist have no business and place in society.”
“The management of ‘Radio I AM’ [which is owned by Sanctuary Praise Church] has been summoned by the Commission to appear before the Complaints Committee, failing will make the commission to take appropriate action,” it said.
The Commission also warned all media houses to desist from publishing and broadcasting such statements that will incite violence and public disorder and cause religious dissatisfaction.
The United Council of IMAMS- Sierra Leone admonished all Imams, Islamic organisations and the general Muslims to maintain peace and order as Islam preaches. “It is really unfortunately to hear a misleading and misguided audio that is provoking the long outstanding and peaceful co-existence of our sweet religious tolerance in the country.”
The Council calls on all Muslims to stay calm as the Council and other Muslims organizations are working hand in glove to defend the rights and privileges of Muslims and Islam according to the teachings of the Prophet and Allah Ta-Alah.
The government said in a statement that, it will take immediate steps to ascertain the 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”.
The government said such messages have the propensity to derail the longstanding Religious Tolerance credentials which Sierra Leone takes such immense pride in.
The government said it will take appropriate steps under the law, and calls on all men and women of faith to keep calm and not attempt to take the law into their hands in any way; including through the dissemination of counter audios on social media. “This matter is being strongly looked into,” it said.
Sierra Leone could be the best model with regards to religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence and bonds of unity. Religious tolerance is one of the greatest favours from God to Sierra Leone, where Muslims and Christians could be seen living and working together in peace and harmony.