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A Synopsis of Koinonia's Apostle Joshua Selman’s Speech at Harvard University; The Role of Religion in Resilient Societies

Apostle Joshua Selman, Koinonia, Religion, Christianity, Church, Society, God, Jesus.

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Oyemaja; A Synopsis of Koinonia's Apostle Joshua Selman’s Speech at Harvard; The Role of Religion in Resilient Societies

On March 26, 2024, the Center for the Study of African Societies and Economics at Harvard University warmly hosted Apostle Joshua Selman, the esteemed founder of Koinonia Global Ministries. His lecture at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge titled "The Role of Religion in Resilient Societies: Lessons from Africa's Development Journey" touched on the profound impact of religion on fostering resilient societies, drawing from his extensive experience and deep understanding of African societies, governance, and resilience.

Apostle Joshua Selman started by providing the statistics of WHO establishing that about 60% of healthcare delivery in Africa is orchestrated by churches and or faith-based platforms. He blamed the situation on the fact that public health provision is hampered by weak governance, management flaws, and limited financing seeing as African countries would normally allocate only 10% of their budget to cater for healthcare making it characterized by a shortage of healthcare workers, depleted health systems, limited availability of essential drugs and poor health infrastructures. Selman, whose ethnicity is from the Northern part of Nigeria laid emphases on how this is the reality of the country and the Continent in general.

Stressing the dominance of Churches in building healthcare across the continent, Selman described the infallibility of churches in offering preventive and curative medical services, particularly in the rural and local communities, provision of significant contributions towards primary healthcare programs in underserved communities, ensuring medical access to the most vulnerable and marginalized group, maintaining state abandoned services to bridge the gap in healthcare delivery, These actions by the church have without doubt demonstrated the church’s strong presence in uplifting the standard of such communities.

Speaking on Economic empowerment viz a viz entrepreneurship, job creation, and social aid, Selman mentioned that the church has increasingly engaged in Africa’s economic and social development by providing various support and value-adding economic empowerment services for the wellbeing of Africans. He gave examples of spiritual support and material contributions to the poor, needy, and less privileged within their communities alongside putting together empowerment programs. He stated that his church had launched an agricultural empowerment program and millions have been spent to put the program together. He described the program as a rapid response to the economic instability being faced in Nigeria despite being the largest Nation in the continent. He went further to discuss the church’s active involvement in collaborating with private organizations and government bodies to help create jobs, give professional training and workshops, and set up business programs for many individual and local individuals.

On Peace and religious tolerance, Selman described religion as a force of both good and ill in the stability of the African countries. He gave examples of the incidences including the Boko haram insurgency in northern Nigeria driven by extremist views, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda formed in 1987 by Joseph Cony intending to overthrow the Ugandan government and establish a Christian theocratic state. He mentioned that religion has been a major undertone in various conflicts, giving an example, he referred to the conflicts of the Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the middle belt regions presumed to be fuelled by land scarcity, grazing rights, and climate change when indeed, there is a strong religious undertone as the herdsmen are usually of extremist views as the land they grab usually belongs to the Christian bodies. On the contrary, he described religion as a means of peace and peacebuilding in Africa by contributing to possibilities for development. Giving an example, he referred to the civil war in Mozambique between renamo and the frilimo forces which left about one million people deceased, the churches in Mozambique churches played a mediation role which helped in ending the war. Similarly, interfaith religious groups have also played strong roles in peacebuilding in civil conflicts like in Cote de Voire and the Central African Republic. He mentioned that churches have also played a significant role in the release and freedom of kidnap victims and abduction, providing constructive rehabilitation. He proceeded to state the role of the church in resolving ethnic and religious clashes in many parts of the continent and has become partners with the government and law enforcement agencies in the promotion of peace, tolerance, and mutual respect by organizing peace concerts. He referred to one peace concert organized by his church which started in Zaria, Nigeria, the concert brought together people of different faiths, and tribes which ended very productive. Aside from the peace concerts, he proceeded to mention other programs organized by religious bodies to promote peace including; interfaith forums, sports activities, and public discussion in many parts of Africa to bridge the gap of intolerance and promote peace and mutual respect.

Speaking on challenges and criticisms, he mentions that faith, spirituality, and religion have had their fair share of limitations, compromises, excesses, and ill practices, leading to criticisms from various quarters and strong reservations about the overall relevance and practice of faith in the recent society. Stating the problems, he highlighted issues such as; neocolonialism by the religious and political elites, advocacy of laziness and irresponsibility through wrong and extremist teachings, lack of transparency and accountability in leadership, and moral failures within faith-based systems.

He concluded by iterating the significance of faith and spirituality in shaping the African continent although it still falls short of its potential. He suggested that there will have to be a growing orientation transcending faith, spirituality, and religion from a mere advocacy of fanatism. He also recommended the introduction of superior policies that stimulate growth and development, while preserving fundamental human rights making faith and religion remain potent forces of change and socioeconomic development.

After concluding his speech, the program delved into the questions segment. The first question asked was the apostle’s thoughts on why religion growth is equal amongst Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Africa but economic growth in Africa is stagnant, unlike the other two continents. He responded by saying the cardinal reason nations become great is because of their policies which are reflections on conviction. He blamed the economic depreciation in Africa on spiritual and economic leadership. Addressing the need for Africans to love one another, he referred to a research he had conducted on why America is America and highlighted the major result of his findings to be the quality of policies in the state. He advised self-development by relating with global minds, being better people transforming into better people, and putting together transformative programs.  

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