Iheatu John Areh is the leader of the Eckankar in Nigeria, a non-profit religious organisation with members in over one hundred countries and its spiritual home domiciled in Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA. In this interview with Iyobosa Uwugiaren, he spoke on the organisation, the fight against corruption and on other issues. Excerpts:
What’s your appraisal of the current situation in the country?
My take on it is that it will come to pass like every other situation. We are going learn from it and grow from there. Our take as Eski is that we should learn to love each other more and that’s why what you may say – challenges or obstacles are there. To help us learn more and learn more. So, it’s not a challenge, it’s not an obstacle. What is there is to teach us how to love and eventually, this shall pass away.
Do you subscribe to this government’s approach in the fight against corruption?
Well, I am a spiritual leader. I am not a politician. I am not an economist, or a physician. My recommendation to that is that we have to treat others with dignity and respect. In all countries of the world, there are things like that. I want to draw inference from Jesus’ experience, when some people were chasing a prostitute, he stopped them and said to them: ‘He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone’. They all left. That’s why I said we have to treat each other with dignity and respect. When we treat each other like that, I think all these things would be okay. What he’s doing is okay, but should be done with dignity.
Are you saying the prosecution of allegedly corrupt persons is not being done with dignity?
I don’t know. But like I said ab initio, I am not a politician, I am not a lawyer, but I am just a spiritual person. It is the court that will tell us who looted and who didn’t loot. So, I am not in the right place to say so. What we are reading are all on the pages of newspapers. I believe that the courts are the best organs to tell us.
What is your advice to the political leaders?
Four capital letters – LOVE. Again, I will want to draw inferences from the great teacher, Jesus. His disciples asked him, tell us the greatest commandment we would hold. He said treat your neighbour as you want him to treat you. What’s that? Love and that’s what Eckankar is equally teaching. Every teaching of Eckankar is all about love.
When we treat everybody with dignity and respect like I earlier said before, every other thing will fall in place because the five passion of the mind like greed, vanity, attachment, anger and lust will no longer be there.
What Eckankar is talking about is, with spiritual exercises, you may be a Muslim, you may be a Christian, you may be an atheist but once you practice the spiritual exercises according to your religion, you will find that most of the hatred, most of the anger will no longer be there.
In what ways do you think Eckankar members have been contributing to the development of Nigeria?
Where you meet them in their various offices, nobody will tell you – through their character, through their behavior – you will know they are actually Eskis because they will always try to do the right thing; they will always respect one another and they will always love their neighbours. So Eskis are very outstanding in whatever they are doing.
I am a businessman. I work with Total, and there is this diligent staff at our account section. I have always admired his diligence to duty. I’d even spoken about him with my wife. Eventually at one of our seminars, this guy was on stage. I told my wife that this guy has always been helpful and very accommodating. Eventually, the result came out at the Eckankar seminar, which made me to believe that about 95 per cent of Eskis are excellent.
Eckankar as organisation appears to maintain a low profile, what do you think is responsible?
That’s what we are doing now. There is a change. I came into office about two and half years ago as the leader of Eckankar in Nigeria. My style is that I open my doors to anybody, who wants to know about Eckankar. I have to tell you this: Eckankar does not meddle in any political affairs of any country. We are only here to teach about spirituality. When your heart is clean, everything around will be clean.
What is your take on prophecy because it is the belief of many that some of the prophecies are sometimes fictitious?
We don’t prophesy on anything. What I told you is that I know what is going to happen to Nigeria. And you asked me what’s going to happen to Nigeria, and I told you goodness. That’s my dream for Nigeria, and that’s the only thing I know. If you are prophesying, or doing that, you called them pastors, I am not a pastor. I am a clergy. They are two different things. We are pure spiritual teachers
How important is this seminar?
This area seminar is to teach people how to survive spiritually in our times. These are times of poverty, times of physical dangers – armed robbers and kidnappers; time of unemployment, time of unnecessary accident and time of uncertainties. That’s why we are holding this seminar. How do we survive? Through the spiritual exercises, we teach people how to survive during hard times.
My recommendation to that is that we have to treat others with dignity and respect. In all countries of the world, there are things like that. I want to draw inference from Jesus’ experience, when some people were chasing a prostitute, he stopped them and said to them: ‘He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone’. They all left. That’s why I said we have to treat each other with dignity and respect