Of Black Churches, Black Scientists and the Nobel Prize for Medicine

by Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth

According to a report in the Michigan Chronicle, a United States Newspaper, well over $430 billion had been donated to Black Churches as of 2013- a figure which averages out at least 12 billion- 13 billion a year. What do the Black Churches do with all this money?

Jesus the founder of Christianity is said to have healed the sick with his miraculous powers but Pastors should realise they are not Jesus? Its not uncommon in a place like Nigeria for a sick person to turn first to his or her Pastor before going to a Medical Doctor. The Catholic Church seems to be an exception. According to the pontifical council for the pastoral care of Health Care workers it manages 26% of the world’s Health Care Facilities with 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs and 5,500 Hospitals. 65 per cent of them located in developing countries. In the wake of the Ebola crisis in Lagos, the then Governor Raji Fashola had cautioned Lagosians that prayer could not cure Ebola. If Lagosians had not listened to Fashola and shunned risky behaviour as advised it could perhaps have led to a humanitarian disaster bearing in mind the dense population of Lagos.

If prayer cannot cure Ebola what else can prayer cure? The miracle of prayer is a miracle somewhat accidental but the miracle of Modern Medicine is the miracle of the multitude. Take Joseph Lister for instance, a surgeon; with the aseptic techniques that he developed he is said to have saved more lives than all the wars of the 19th century had sacrificed. Since Jesus loved healing the sick Black Churches should devote their resources to Health Care and Heath Research. There are a lot of ailments affecting Blacks worldwide but are not receiving enough attention from medical researchers in the western world. If Black Churches can support Black Scientists to find cures for these ailments maybe some of these black scientists would end up winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

In more than 100 years of awarding the Nobel Prize, no Black man or Woman has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, but we have only had some ”hopefuls”. Some of the “hopefuls” from Nigeria have included Professor Oludolapo Akinkugbe, referred to as the Father of African Hypertension and recipient of the highest prize for hypertension research. We had Professor Benjamin Osuntokun, now late, then referred to as the world’s greatest Black Neuroscientist, and more recently Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor, Olufunmilayo Olapade, Director of the University of Chicago Cancer Risk Clinic and recipient of the MacArthur Genius Fellowship.

In the words of Dr. Winston Morgan, a Toxicologist and clinical biochemist at the University of East London ”Black Scientists in the United States are less likely to receive funding for health research whereas conditions such as Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease find a higher incidence amongst Blacks or those of African Heritage. It would appear that Blacks would rather donate to Churches than to Cancer Charities. In the United Kingdom there are reported 600 charities devoted to Cancer. There are about 100 different kinds of Cancer. Cancer is not one disease. There is currently something of a Cancer Epidemic in Nigeria. Can the Black Churches Help?

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