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by Kavicandra Swami
After one year I finally made it back to Nigeria. The flight from Japan to Bangkok to London to Lagos was long but peaceful.
Upon deplaning I noted that the immigration line was especially slow. While waiting I heard a few explosions and felt the building shake a little. Even after the long wait, the baggage belt was not moving, so I went out to see if the devotees were waiting. I found them and they were in a lot of anxiety. Somehow at the army base Armory, some explosions had occured and were continuing in a chain reaction.
We drove off through tens of thousands of panicking people who were just running to get away from what they thought was war. Explosions were shaking the whole city. Big fires were flaring and black smoke was covering everything.
We made it to the temple and had a very blissful kirtan for a few hours. The young children in Africa are especially nice and love to dance. We forgot about the explosions. The next day we learned that about 1000 people had died in the panic, either trampled or drowned when they just waded into unknown waterways. News travels slow and panic travels fast. No one knew what was happening. Had they remained at home, they would have been safe.
We had a big program planned for the day after, but since it was in the hardest hit neighborhood, we had to postpone it. So we begin our efforts to preach here. They Christians open something like 1200 new churches every month. So competition is heavy. On the highway there are so many billboards advertising various missions that one cannot read them all. One is talking about saving 30 million souls for Christ by 2005. They have names like Deep Life Bible Church and other more esoteric ones.
We passed one huge compound called "Prayer City—where intense prayer goes on 24 hours a day." That is only on the weekends, but it really gets going, with big crowds of people praying and shouting. One church has an auditorium that can seat 50,000 people. We have about nine temples and a few hundred dedicated devotees. When devotees first came, many joined and we became very popular. Now the churches do a lot of anti-cult preaching, and it is more difficult.
Also, the economy went from best to worst. I don’t know if moving around here compares to HH Indradyumna Maharaja’s adventures in Siberia. Lagos is a city of twelve million people. It is very hot and dirty. There are no traffic signals anywhere or any lines to mark the lanes on the roads, but somehow the cars move, albeit often it is difficult to perceive the motion.
The jam is so bad that one can buy almost anything, includings TV sets, from boys who run alongside the cars. But so far I have done one TV show and one radio show. That was on ITV "Independent Television." They were live shows with call-ins. We got a lot of calls with the old "Do you believe that Jesus is the only way?" but some intelligent questions came in.
The director of the station is very favorable, and the devotees do a weekly radio show. In Lagos we have three TV shows booked and are hoping for more. My old friend Charlyboy, "the general of the people’s army," has two extremely poplular shows, and if I can catch him in his busy schedule, we will do his shows again. He is on all African TV and the youth love him. He knows devotees from his days at Harvard and is quite favorable. The internet connections are not good here so I will not try to send any photos, which would make it much more clear.
© CHAKRA 13 February 2002
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