Reverend Victorine-Iris Nkiruka is the founder of Winning Side of Life Ministries and the Victorious Virtous Women International, a faith-based organisation. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, she speaks about her life as a minister of the gospel and a women’s rights activist.
You are a woman of many parts; a minister of God, Human Rights advocate and entrepreneur, what is your driving force?
My driving force is God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God. He lives in me and makes things happen. For without Him we can do nothing. My life, my being and all I do and will still do, all comes from Him. And I am always so grateful, thankful to God. Gratitude gives one strength and more wisdom from God.
Many people, especially in this part of the world, have stereotype of who a reverend is and how they should behave. How easy has it been for you to combine advocacy with ministry?
How a servant of God should behave has nothing to do with being an advocate. As a matter of fact, it fits in because you find yourself fighting and speaking for those who can’t fight or speak for themselves. I see it as a higher calling, especially to those outside the walls of the church who really need help. So I am not just a voice in the kingdom, but also a voice to the voiceless outside the church. And on the contrary, pastors or ministers of God are in a better position to expose such ills because they have a platform that reaches many that an advocate on the street or elsewhere cannot reach. So ministers should use their platforms to condemn any form of abuse, they should enlighten and help victims and even abusers as well. I say abusers because in most cases, they are people who have anger issue, spiritual, emotional or psychological problems. All these could be addressed from the pulpit; that is the spiritual angle and after that, advise them to visit trained specialists. Being a reverend is in fact a plus to being an advocate.
Girls have become endangered species in Nigeria today. Some fathers too rape their daughters, how can we tackle this issue of rape?
You are very correct. And it’s indeed very worrisome. I guess there are many ways to tackle it, but first of all is through exposure and enlightenment of the society, which is very necessary and a matter of urgency.
I say exposure because most of our young girls are not exposed or brought up to speak for themselves, when things go wrong or are going wrong, especially in the home (where most of these rapes take place). Most are not taught to speak up. You see there are so many angles to it and all hands must be on deck, the government, the family, the school and even the society. There should be more awareness and campaigns everywhere. There is need to sensitise the public and let them Know the after-effects too. Mothers in particular need proper education and enlightenment, especially on how to protect their children from rapists and predators. We shouldn’t assume that all mothers know how to or what to do. There are some who don’t know the danger of leaving their daughters with male relatives, stepfathers and even some biological fathers. They should be taught what to watch out for, especially in the behaviours of those under their roofs; from father to domestic workers. These days, it is not even safe to leave your girl-child with male teachers in school, let alone bringing them home as private lesson teachers without an adult supervision. But most parents still do it. So, one way to tackle this menace is to educate the public (like we are doing now), teach mothers ways they can protect the girl-child. As I always say, please, please stop inviting male relatives to come and spend vacations with your female children if you don’t have any female adult to protect them. It does not matter whether he is your brother or cousin because most times, the perpetrators are people we trust the most. And why do they always succeed? Because the children trust and have confidence in them.
That is what happens between pastors and female/male members; because of the trust the victims have for the abusers, they can’t say no or want to report to anyone, especially after being threatened.
How can parents protect their children, both boys and girls from rapists and predators when they are not at home?
Let me add this to what I said earlier, parents, government and the society at large need to help protect our children from rapists and predators. It is something that concerns most of us and should indeed be very worrisome to all. Because if it’s not your child today, it might be your sister, grandchild, cousin or future wife tomorrow. Rape and the after-effects of rape are not things that go away easily. They stay and affect the victims almost all their lives if not properly handled after the act. That’s also where the government has a lot of work to do. There should be so many counselling centres all over the country to assist victims of rape and domestic abuse recover from the after-effects ( nightmares, psychological, mental and emotional) of the abuse. I will like to also add that our girls should be taught not to always visit male friends alone and avoid night walks and visits. All should be seriously involved.
Nowadays we hear stories of pastors raping church members, how can the body of Christ put an end to this ugly situation?
Yes. It is indeed ugly, terrible and sad. And to know that such things happen in the body of Christ is really disgusting and heartbreaking to the abused and others. I guess this is an opportunity for me to apologise to everyone out there who has been a victim or is still a victim of rape or sexual abuse and violence in the Church. I pray the Lord heal you and help you recover from its effects and the bitterness that come thereafter. And also for the betrayal you feel in your heart today. May the Lord help you and make you whole again. Back to your question, if the Church is serious to put an end to it and all the sexual immorality that is going on in the church today then, they should go back to the messages and teachings of old. They should be born again,again. They should start teaching and preaching the holiness, consecration, purity, the effect of sin in a christian’s life, messages.
Pastors, please preach and teach spirituality. Hell is real and I tell you, a pastor can’t preach that regularly and do otherwise. The word of God is Spirit and life. Any pastor that preaches holiness in Spirit and in truth has no reason raping or living an immoral life. That spirit of sexual perversion can’t hang around the fire of holiness. The truth is that they know what to do. Let them clean up, period. Don’t mind the people doing it; they know they are not truly born again or have backslid a long time and are just using the title or office of a pastor/bishop to cover up. Let me tell you, such people can’t stand the fire of purity and consecration which one has to go through to enter the place of deep intercession. Those who are drown in this mess just need to cry out to God for mercy, repent and ask for a new heart. The second way the Church can help is to set up disciplinary committees in various churches where members can report such acts to, no matter who is involved. And it shouldn’t end there. The girls/boys should be encouraged to always come forward to report such acts. Tell members not to shy away or allow themselves to be manipulated and intimidated by such pastors and male members who indulge in such shameful acts.
Also, what role should government and the society at large play in putting an end to the issue of domestic violence?
In the case of domestic violence, it is somehow different from rape, in that most times, the victims also contribute to the cause of the abuse. For example, the woman might be very quarrelsome or troublesome. And if she is married to a man who has anger issues, then you can’t stop violence. Why I cited this example is for us to know that the way the government and society can play an active role to put an end to violence in the home and even outside the home is to start a radical campaign against domestic violence. This time, reaching out to all because we have ways everyone can contribute to stop or minimise it in the society. Media is a powerful tool and even churches, mosques and NGOs. Everyone needs to be educated on the dangers and effects of violence which has sent many to their early graves. Educate the society on the need to possess the virtue of patience, tolerance, good behaviours, to be more loving and kind towards each other. You see, there are a lot of hostility out there, probably because of the situations in the country. Most people don’t seem to be happy and a man or woman who is not always happy flares up at any slightest provocation. So people constantly need to be hearing about the dangers associated with domestic violence and how to prevent it. I am sure it will go a long way to help. Another way is for the government to make sure perpetrators are brought to book and made to serve necessary punishment. It will serve as a deterrent to others in the society.
Divorce is not encouraged in Christendom. What should a Christian woman do when her life is being threatened as a result of domestic violence?
It is not only in Christendom, everywhere in this world, no one wants to get married and quit the next day. But like you said, when her life is being threatened she should run. When I say run, I mean run as fast as your legs can carry you. There are no two lives. Only one and it’s only the living that gets married; so why should you stay and die eventually. The man will not even wait for up two, three months before getting another wife. So woman, if you notice that it has become a life or death issue, please take a bow, not minding what people will say. It can be a temporal or permanent separation depending on how bad the situation is and how it is handled. But i will advise you go away first, stay safe and let the situation calm down.