The management of a Chinese firm, Yiwu Baolian Import and Export Company Limited in Lagos have been accused of terminating the appointment of some of their staff who refused to practice their religion, Buddhism.
Some members of staff of the company who spoke to Punch, said the owner of the company, a Chinese woman named Fanni Lijuan, introduced Buddhism at the company’s office on Irede Road, Abule Osun, in the Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State, and has allegedly compelled them to bow to worship her Buddha and that anyone who refuses to bow would be dismissed immediately.
One of the employees, who identified himself simply as Olaniyi said
“The issue is that Fanni Lijuan brought Buddhism to the office; she puts us in front of a projector that showed us how to practise Buddhism and we were asked to bow to the teacher. They also read some books to us, but before reading, we were asked to bow three times. Employees who refused to bow have been sacked; in fact, last week Monday, they sacked two people and the company’s excuse was that it was restructuring and it did not need the affected workers’ services anymore. The workers were sacked because they refused to bow down; and after the company sacked them, the management threatened other employees that if we did not bow to the teacher, we would be similarly sacked.
She (Lijuan) usually says bowing is a sign of respect and the practise is for us to be good persons. But does it mean that the people they employed don’t have respect before now? Is it that adults who have graduated from the university do not have respect? She’s trying to convert us to Buddhism; this is wrong and against our religions and traditions in Nigeria, where freedom of worship is guaranteed. For instance, when we were in school, they would tell us to join social clubs and before you know it, you are into cultism; that’s exactly what she is doing and we are trying to avoid it. Even the manager, who is supposed to stand up for us, gave in because she threatened to sack him.”
One of the staff who was recently sacked, said their boss introduced the religious practice to them in 2017.
“Our madam started this Buddhism practise in the office last year; she started by giving us lectures and asked us to be taking notes. We also listened to voices we didn’t know. Recently, she got to the stage of asking us to bow, but I refused. So, she gave me one month’s salary and sacked me and some others. When they laid me off, I was not bothered because I am not ready to bow to anything other than God. Even if she didn’t sack me, I would have quit. But the danger is that some workers have already compromised; they have bowed because they don’t want to be sacked; and now, they are working in fear. This is bad; we can’t be in our country and be treated like that. In Nigeria, nobody can force you to worship their gods. It is only in Nigeria that a foreigner will come to do something like that. The reason you still have some people in that company is because there are no jobs outside there; we are suffering.”
A former store keeper of the company, Raphael Ewiri, who was also sacked for refusing to practice Buddhism, said
“Mrs Fanni Lijuan told everyone of us that there was a new way of showing humility according to the Chinese tradition and that we had to bow three times before and after lectures in appreciation of the Chinese sages that brought about the wisdom that had been in existence for 4,000 to 5,000 years. I felt like why should I bow three times before and after lectures? She feels not bowing is a sign of pride; she called me to her office one day and asked why we were not bowing. She was trying to cajole me that it was not religious, but a sign of humility. One day, Mrs Lijuan brought me out in front of everybody; the auditor said we should all bow to the ancient, saying she was expecting me to bow. I didn’t because I never promised her that i would bow. So, when she took the first bow, she was surprised that I didn’t bow; she was very annoyed.”
Lijuan however denied the allegation, accusing her workers of lying against her. Accoridng to her, she found out that most of them were disrespectful and wanted to teach them how to be respectful. She says bowing down while greeting indicates respect and that is what she is trying to teach them.
“I never introduced Buddhism; they are just lying. What I observed is that some of the workers are very arrogant; even their body language shows that they are not respectful. So, we are learning some ways of living; humility and respect; and what I want them to do is a sign of humility – bow your body and stop being arrogant. I did not sack anyone because they did not bow; it is totally wrong. I never told anyone to leave Christianity or Islam to practise any other religion. We have Christians and Muslims in the company; I am a Buddhist and I want to create harmony among the different religions; that’s what I want to do in this company.”