It’s that time of the year. When priests and prophets will ‘perform’ miracles in church in hopes of luring more followers and devotees.
And some of these miracles will be fake.
Writer and Christian activist Solomon Izang Ashoms (43) knows all about that. He was recently jailed at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre prison for 20 days for failing to comply with an order directing him to refrain from making defamatory remarks about Alleluia Ministries prophet Alph Lukau.
The preacher he refused to stop talking about what the one who once allegedly resurrected a man from the dead for millions to see.
Solomon was charged with contempt of court after failing to comply with an order directing him to refrain from defaming Pastor Lukau.
Solomon started his YouTube channel in June 2020 but has been doing Christian commentary for eight years using his Facebook account.
“I first ran Parable magazine and then moved to social media, interviewing and giving commentary before moving to YouTube. I am always helping victims, and those who do not have a voice to speak about the corruption in the church. (These include) sexual abuse, money laundering, manipulation of people’s beliefs by pastors for their own financial gain.”
He is now out of jail and ready to continue the work that he believes he is called to do.
“Being locked up made me realise the importance of freedom and also the importance of family. I missed my wife and kids,” he tells Drum.
Solomon says being behind bars was hard, but he does not regret serving time for doing good.
“I was in a space with hardened criminals who are there for rape, robbery, and murder. It gave me insight into what is going on in our society. The brokenness of many men and the corruption of our society. There are drugs like Mandrax, Tik, Marijuana, and cocaine in jail. I got another perspective of the world, but I do not regret going in there, I do not regret what I said about Lukau. Pastors need to own up and stop taking advantage of desperate people,” he says.
Every morning while behind bars, he held a prayer sermon with the inmates. “We were 50 prisoners in a cell, and I led a bible study every morning. I would read, teach and pray until I was called pastor. They looked forward to it. I created relationships, and that is what church and Christianity are about, not about money, corruption, sexual assault and exploitation like what some of these pastors are doing,” he says.
He has never been arrested before.
“I have never committed a single crime in my life. When I arrived in jail, some of the wardens were familiar with my work with the church.” In the past, he had visited the prison to pray for inmates and held sermons.
But it is not the first time he stood in court for protesting against corruption in the church and he believes he did not deserve to be arrested.
“Someone like Lukau has no credibility at all. We saw this through the resurrection miracle,” he repeats.
“I am not afraid. I will do whatever it is going to cost me to speak out for the voiceless. Every day I get messages from people reporting their experiences in the church; women report sexual assault incidents. They go to the police or the leaders of the church, but no action is taken because these men are powerful and they have money,” he says.
“Lukau has always wanted to punish me, he wanted to teach me a lesson and silence me. Bushiri has also taken me to court but that didn’t go anywhere and I will not stop.”
A few years ago, Solomon organised a protest called March Against False Prophets.
“Shepherd Bushiri felt that the march was about him and he took me to court but the judge threw it out and the march carried on,” he says.
Solomon has also spoken about Bishop Stephen Zondo, who is currently facing several counts of rape.
“I have spoken about Zondo for the last five years. Zondo is just a businessman using the pulpit to make money. He [allegedly] intimidates people and abuses power. I believe he started well but later on, he became greedy and went off the rails. He is not a bishop and he hates me for exposing that.”
In his commentary, Solomon also shares his opinion on pastor Tim Omotoso who is currently on trial for allegedly luring girls into his ministry to allegedly sexually violate them.
“Tim Omotoso is out in Port Elizabeth. I knew about him before he appeared in court on the Cheryl Zondo case. Omotoso tried to take me to BCCSA for an interview I did with the SABC when I gave a history of how he started,” he says.
“That case was dismissed by the BCCSA. Omotoso is an old man seeking power and influence. He is talented as a musician and used to play for a Nigerian band. Starting a church got him into a lot of trouble. He is not building families and communities. He is proud and pompous, and, sadly, we allow people to be leaders of our society.”
The husband and father of two is willing to die for what he considers right. He wants to protect his family and he fears for his life, but he is not backing down.
“I’ve spent about half a million in court, R200 000 of my own money and R300 000 from people’s donations who believe in what I am doing,” he says.
“I am willing to die for what I believe. I didn’t choose this, it chose me. I have thought about it and discussed it with my wife. It was a hard conversation to have but I am living my truth. God protects me but some people might want to kill my body. But I will not stop,” he says.
Solomon and his family have been threatened before and he had his home broken into in the middle of the night while his family was sleeping.
“People have come to my house three times to try and kill us. My life has been threatened. People came in the night to intimidate us. My wife had guns pointed at her when she was seven months pregnant but my passion is justice and truth,” he adds.
“I hate injustice. I hate to see people being taken advantage of in the church. I stop when I see a man abusing a woman. I hate to see the vulnerable and voiceless being taken advantage of. We need to do things truthfully. I hate to see deceit by leaders who make money to enrich themselves.”
Born and raised in a strict Christian home, Solomon lost his ways in his youth and later decided to dedicate himself to truth and justice and he attends Every Nation church in Johannesburg.
A Christian and activist, Solomon was ordained as a pastor a few years ago.
“I was once an assistant pastor, but my pulpit is in the media,” he says.
“I believe Christians should not be hypocrites, they shouldn’t cheat on their wives, they should live by example. They should not exploit and abuse people for financial gain. We are not perfect, but we try to be good people.”
Being in and out of court has taught him to be strategic in how he addresses issues of religious belief. “To avoid being taken to court, I will continue spreading the same message but selecting my words carefully and how I address things to minimise legal implication.”
Solomon believes there are still some good pastors from whom many can take notes.
“We can look up to people like pastor Musa Sono who is a good example, and Pearl Kupe and many others. There are out there and many in the rural areas who people should not follow pastors but follow Jesus.”