Not Yet Uhuru for Nigeria at 60 – Archbishop Martins!

Not Yet Uhuru for Nigeria at 60 – Archbishop Martins!

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, has said that the country’s leadership has not done enough to address the underlying issues fanning insecurity and disunity in the country.

In his 60th Independence anniversary message to Nigerians signed by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, Archbishop Martins, while acknowledging the need for all to thank God for keeping the country as one despite her numerous challenges, regretted that not enough has been done in practical terms by successive leadership to foster a deep sense of patriotism and oneness amongst the various nationalities that make up country.

He said it was shameful that 60 years after gaining independence from the British, the country was yet to get its acts together; we still lack the quality leadership needed to guide the country in the path of peaceful coexistence, economic prosperity and security of life and property.

Hear him: “We thank God that we are alive to mark the Diamond Jubilee of our country’s independence. We are an independent country still searching for how to become a nation where no one is oppressed, and everyone feels a sense of belonging. In spite of all odds we have survived for 60 years and so we must thank God and praise the resilience of Nigerians. However, this year of our Diamond Jubilee has turned out to be one of the most challenging for most Nigerians. We were still battling with the effects of insecurities in the land when COVID-19 struck and made life impossible for those who lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. To make life even more impossible, there was an increase in the rate of VAT only to be followed by the imposition of stamp duty on house rent and Certificates of Occupancy. The dust raised by that had hardly settled when we were slapped with an increase in electricity tariffs which was followed a couple of weeks later by an increase in the pump price of petrol.

Life is becoming harder and harder for majority of Nigerians and government needs to take radical steps to ease the burdens they are carrying. Everyone, led by Civil Society Organisations and NGOs and the Labour movement, needs to do something in their areas of competences in order to bring the suffering of people home to government. If people must bear the burdens of the day, government must also show good faith by cutting down on the cost of governance.”
The Archbishop also reiterated his call for a major restructuring of the country along the path of true federalism in order to give the various ethnic nationalities a sense of belonging.

The Archbishop continued: “The landmark celebration of 60 years should make us reflect on the reality of our existence as a country. A cursory reflection shows that we are far below where we ought to be if we take into consideration the human and natural resources with which the country is blessed. It would seem that the structure of our country that was distorted with the advent of the military into governance has remained the obstacle to our growth.

Selfishness and lack of regard for common good that covers all the different nationalities that make up our country has made it impossible for us to be the Federal Republic that we were meant to be at independence.
It Is necessary to continue to harp on the need to return to the original concept of Nigeria as a Federation that recognises the uniqueness of the federating units and gives each its right to govern aspects of its life while we remain one country, united in our diversities.

The current structure, as many have rightly pointed out, has given too much power to the centre that the states and local governments have been reduced to appendages that
go cap in hand to Abuja to seek for their survival from the Federal Government. We must return to a true federalism in order to become the nation that we want to be.”

According to him, agitations for self-determination as being promoted by some groups would continue to grow as long as the nation’s leadership continue to pay lip-service to the genuine needs and desires of the people. The Archbishop said: “Nigerians are indeed a special breed of people blessed by God. That is why we excel in almost all spheres of human endeavors at the international level. What we need here at home is an enabling environment that would bring out the best in us. As it is, our best is yet to come.”

In conclusion, Archbishop Martins called on all citizens to pray for our country and her rulers that we may overcome the present challenges and remain a united country where no person is oppressed and all are proud to serve our sovereign Motherland.

“I Know the Bishop’s House”

“I Know the Bishop’s House”

By Tochukwu Onyeagolu
“I know the Bishop’s house. It is very beautiful.” This was what an Okada man who escorted me to the family of Late Mr. Chukwuemeka Aniwetalu of Umuazu village, Nteje told me. I almost missed the point when he said: “Bishop’s house.” I know that Nteje is not a diocese. I also know that the people of the town have no bishop yet. So I was wondering which Bishop’s house he meant. The Okada man must have read through my puzzled look for he added immediately: “Archbishop built a house for a family in this town.” That was when the power and the impact of what the Archbishop did struck me.

Never has a gift become too powerful as to break into a place and create a name for itself. But that is what the Archbishop has done. He did not just build a house for someone in need. He had rather succeeded in creating a moving human story, a story that will reecho for long among the people of Nteje. Oliver Wendel Holmes has words that capture so beautifully the significance of what has taken place in this community. “A man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” The story of the bishop’s house has no doubt enriched the narrative of Nteje community and the mind of her people.

Today in Nteje, it is common to hear ordinary people, men and children talking about the Bishop’s house. Even market women have a new staple on their gossip menu. And the questions on our lips have been: “How did a gift transcend itself to become at once a story, the story? How did a gift transform a place to give it a new identity? How did the gift of a new home gravitate away from the mundane plane of things to assume something of a legendary proportion?” I think it has to do with the character of the giver. Every gift reveals something of the giver. The Archbishop, in building the house, gave himself whole and entire. Now to the major story as it happened.

When the pathetic story of the beautiful Adaoma Aniwetalu, a young girl with special needs, was brought to the knowledge of His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke to help her acquire basic education, Adaoma and her people were not prepared for the surprise that was immediately underway. In a gesture reminiscent of the sort of encounter between God and his servant Solomon, the Good Shepherd of Onitsha Archdiocese became a sign of divine providence for Adaoma and her family. Just like in the case of Solomon and how God blessed him with other things beside wisdom, the Archbishop gave Adaoma not just the needed scholarship to realize her dreams but also provided her with a home and a life worthy of the dignity of any child of God. All thanks to the Bishop’s inspiring sense of charity, many well-meaning people of God in Anambra State and beyond were excited to rally their resources in service of this great course. The good shepherd called out to them, they heeded with zeal.

Archbishop Valerian Okeke gives, in a classical Christian way, whole and entire, with no strings attached. This was my sentiment as I stared at the beautiful yellow structure with patches of orange colored designs adorning the front view, a house built for Adaoma by His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke in collaboration with many good-spirited individuals. I have known a few generous people and the many amazing things they have done for the poor. I have read tales about Greek mythic heroes, tales of Prometheus defying the gods to bring fire to mankind. While all these stories are moving and powerful in their own right, yet they could not prepare me for the spectacle of the ‘Bishop’s house’. It has class and it has elegance. The inside is tastefully furnished to plush standard. Are you asking of solar-powered inverter system, standby generator, borehole, CCTV security camera, furniture, kitchen fittings, and modern convenience? They are all there and much more. Some people referred to the house as full option, that is, a house built to taste and equipped to the last item needed for human habitation. It is simply a house built by a man for whom perfection was not a distant pursuit but a minimum ante. It is indeed a bishop’s house, built as if the Archbishop himself intends to call it a home.

It has been said that the power of wealth lies not in what it allows us to do for ourselves, but what it enables us to do for others. No place has the meaning of these words played out more than in what the Archbishop did for Adaoma. In fact, if wealth has any purpose and meaning, it has achieved it in the life of Adaoma,( now also called Ada Jesus)

“Thank you beloved Archbishop, my big daddy. Without you, I won’t be where I am today.” These were her exact words as the emotional Adaoma appreciated the Archbishop, calling herself Adabishop. Her gratitude to the Archbishop was so meaningful, such a poignant reminder to everyone around, of the deep human reach of the gift this beloved prelate has given.

Do you know what it means to know God? Jonathan Sacks, a Jewish Rabbi answered: “To know God is to act with justice and compassion, to recognize his image in other people and to hear the silent cry of those in need.” Rabbi Sacks was not giving vent to his personal opinion when he said this. He was rather reechoing the message of Prophet Jeremiah to his Jewish audience. “He took up the cause of the poor and the needy; then it was well. Is this not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.” (Jer 22:16) This is the story of a gift, a gift that reveals what it means to know God. The gift is the Bishop’s House. It is very beautiful.

Amid pandemic, Nigerian Catholic farmers face growing attacks by herders

Amid pandemic, Nigerian Catholic farmers face growing attacks by herders

By Patrick Egwu
On a sweltering Monday afternoon, Jeremiah Ancha sat on a wooden bench in front of a makeshift camp for displaced people in Benue state, in Nigeria’s middle belt region. Widely known as the country’s food basket because of its extensive agriculture, the state takes its name from the lower Benue River, which flows through it.

Ancha, 48, used to cultivate local crops like millet, corn and cassava on his farm in his home community. But increasing attacks by cattle herders from the Fulani ethnic group have forced him and his neighbors to desert their farmlands and ancestral communities for safety.

In January 2018, according to Reuters, 73 people mostly local farmers in Benue, were killed and about 100,000 were displaced. Since then, the number of displaced people has spiked to about 500,000, according to the International Organization for Migration and local emergency agencies that respond to the humanitarian needs of some 20 camps for displaced people in the state.

Ancha, who fled his village with his wife and five children, still remembers the traumatic events of that day.

“Our house and farmlands were destroyed when they came, and even now, they still attack at night,” he says. “Since they attacked our village, this is where we have been living.”
Photo: Jeremiah Ancha, pictured in a camp for displaced people in Benue state, in Nigeria’s middle belt region, escaped with his two wives and children when the herdsmen attacked on Jan. 1, 2018. (Patrick Egwu)

For decades, the middle belt region has seen rising conflict between local farmers and cattle herders, who migrate regularly with their livestock from the northern part of the country to the south, which has arable land for grazing. This causes friction between the herders and farmers who accuse them of invading their ancestral territory and destroying their farmlands.

The government’s proposed policy of allowing open grazing has sparked controversy. Open grazing is the practice of allowing cattle to roam freely in open fields and other land. In doing so, however, the cattle destroy crops, and many people oppose open grazing, calling for the construction of ranches instead. Climate change has aggravated the problem, as the herders are faced with drought and the encroachment of the desert onto grazing land in the north.

The conflict is worsening Nigeria’s displacement crisis. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of internally displaced people in Africa rose from 6.4 million to 17.7 million, and more than 2.5 million of them are in Nigeria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. The humanitarian crisis in the camps is exacerbated by food insecurity and severe malnutrition, the agency says.

Sub-Saharan Africa also hosts more than 26 percent of the world’s refugees — 6.3 million in 2018, compared to 2.3 million in 2008, according to the UNHCR. This is partly because of ongoing crises in Nigeria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The government in Benue, the state most affected by the grazing conflict, passed an anti-grazing law in 2017. The law bans herders and their cattle from entering its territory for grazing and imposes a five-year jail term for offenders.

The cattle herders are mostly Muslims, while the farmers are Christians. In Nigeria, a large and diverse nation, Islam is dominant in the north and Christianity in the south. Benue, in the middle belt, is predominantly Christian, with a few clusters of Muslim communities.

In 2018, two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners were killed by herders in Benue during an early morning service. Local parishes in the region have also been attacked, and other killings of Christians have sparked protests across the country.

The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria and parishioners in the country have regularly condemned the killings and staged protest and demonstrations.

According to the International Crisis Group, the herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria have at times been deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s northeast. In 2016 alone, an estimated 2,500 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced across the country.

A recent report by the group said the attacks have increased tension between the cattle herders and farming communities, with over 8,000 people killed and more than 200,000 displaced since 2011. Many have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Critics say the government’s response over the years has been inadequate. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim from the Fulani north. Nigerian Catholic communities and other Christian leaders have accused him of protecting his cattle-herding kinsmen and not doing enough to end the killings. The Catholic bishops have urged parishioners to protect themselves, saying the government has failed to protect them.

Attacks have increased since Nigeria imposed a lockdown March 30 in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The middle belt region, which produces a large percentage of the country’s food for domestic consumption and export, has been affected most. More than 50 people, mostly Christian farmers, have been killed by armed gunmen since the lockdown began, according to CSW.

By Sept. 4, Nigeria had registered more than 54,000 cases of COVID-19, with 1,051 deaths and more than 42,000 recoveries, according to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which is responding to the pandemic along with the Ministry of Health.

“Last week, some villages were attacked and more than 10 people were killed in the process,” Paul Tekina, another villager at the camp said. “When this happens, the police go there, but before they arrive, the attackers have already disappeared.”

Besides the human toll, the conflict has caused a drop in agricultural income in the region. A 2015 report by Mercy Corps, a global aid organization, says Nigeria’s economy is threatened by decades long disputes between farmers and pastoralists in the region, and that ending the crisis could add $13.7 billion in annual revenue to the treasury.

The U.N. World Food Program warns that by the end of 2020, COVID-19 could push the number of people suffering from acute hunger to more than 250 million, many of them in Africa. The World Bank predicts the pandemic will drive sub-Saharan Africa into its first recession in 25 years and could also spark a food security crisis on the continent because of declines in food imports, higher transaction costs and reduced domestic demand.

Now that they are away from the places where they were attacked, Ancha and other farmers, most of whom are Catholic, have started cultivating farm produce for this growing season, which began in March. Agricultural extension workers and volunteers from urban areas are also assisting the farmers with awareness programs about how to adapt to climate change during the farming season.

“Now we cultivate what we eat here,” says Ancha, who lives with his wife and five children at the camp, about two hours by road from Guma, his home community. But he looks forward to the day when he can return to his ancestral home, where he had lived all his life until the attack. “If this continues, we will remain here,” he says of the attacks, “but if it stops, then we can go home and start all over again. Everyone here wants to go home.”

[Patrick Egwu is a Nigerian freelance journalist currently based in Johannesburg, where he is an Open Society Foundation Fellow on Investigative Reporting at the University of Witwatersrand.]

US CATHOLIC CHURCHES UNDER INCREASING ATTACKS

US CATHOLIC CHURCHES UNDER INCREASING ATTACKS

A 90-year old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at St. Patrick Cathedral, El Paso, USA was vandalized on September 16, 2020 morning at around 10:00am.

According to a report by Catholic Media on its Facebook wall, “a suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church”.

In recent months, several Catholic churches in the USA have faced attacks and acts of desecration. At least twenty attacks on Catholic churches, statues, businesses, cemeteries, parishioners, and personnel” occurred since May 2020, and it’s evident that “Catholics are under attack in America.”

Many of the attacks reflect a deep-seated hostility towards Christianity, and the liberal media and politicians have chosen to ignore such attacks on Christians conveniently. The media outlets, which often amplify attacks on Muslims anywhere in the world, have tended to downplay malicious attacks against Christians.

America’s founding fathers believed religious liberty to be essential to the new nation, securing it with the First Amendment’s protections. However, the rights of Catholic churches and Catholic religious institutions are under increased persecution by liberals, atheists, and other violent groups backed by liberal politicians.

“The trend of desecrating Catholic spaces and property must stop,” U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) wrote in an August 11 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. We, as Christians, have a moral obligation to vote for a Government that will protect our churches and freedom of worship.

A far-left led liberal government will have no interest in protecting Christian religious rights, and the situation is the U.S. could become much worst than what is going on in Europe. “Violence against Christian sites is most widespread in France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Italy, and Spain, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments are being vandalized, desecrated and burned daily, according to government statistics. Research by the renowned “Gatestone Institute” found that approximately 3,000 Christian churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments were vandalized, burned, looted, or defaced in Europe in 2019 — at more than five a day, a record year for anti-Christian hostility on the continent. In an editorial, Catholic Media notes that in majority of these types of attacks, the perpetrators are never caught or appropriately punished, and we cannot let such hostile acts happening in our country, so we must act in this election.

“It’s high time for Christians to stand for our faith more than our lives. We should vote in this election, just like our life depends on it, not just this life on earth, but the lift after death as well. Our Christian faith and traditions are critical to the salvation of our souls after death, and our right to practice our faith without fear must be protected”!

Catholic Bishop closes Church in Makurdi over desecration

Catholic Bishop closes Church in Makurdi over desecration

The Catholic Bishop of Makurdi Diocese, Most Rev. Wilfred Anagbe, has suspended all pastoral activities at St. Peter’s Parish, Low-Level, in Makurdi, following a desecration of the Holy Eucharist and the looting of sacred vessels in the Church.

Rev. Fr. James Utav, the Diocesan Deputy Director of Communication, confirmed the development on Tuesday, in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

According to him, the Bishop, while reading the decree sanctioning the suspension of pastoral activities, said the Parish would henceforth be closed from the celebration of Holy Mass and all other activities in line with Canon 1211.

“The suspension, which took effect on September 15, 2020 followed two sacrilegious attacks on the Parish on 12 August and 13 September by yet-to-be identified persons.

“The decree sanctioning the suspension states that the Parish will be closed from celebration of the Holy Mass and all other pastoral activities in line with Canon 1211 with effect from today, 15 September, 2020 until further notice,” he explained.

He quoted the Bishop as revealing that the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the main Church building were broken into, during the attacks.

“The sacred specie of the Most Holy Eucharist was desecrated and sacred vessels looted thereby defiling the Church.

“The closure is to enable us to adequately prepare for penance required by law in order to repair the injury this profanation has done to the sacred body of Christ.

“Pastoral activities shall resume only after a proportional satisfaction is made with regards to this sacrilege and we are also fully guaranteed of a better security outfit and structure for the parish in accordance with canonical requirements.

“When that is done, the entire worshiping community of this Parish, among other things, must perform a novena of reparation to be concluded with a rite of atonement in line with diocesan liturgical norms,” he further quoted the Bishop as saying.