Meditations: Bread for the journey Vol 1. No. 1

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This painting of the crucified Jesus being surrounded by his beloved mother Mary and his beloved disciple John drawn from from the passion narrative of the Gospel of John speaks volumes.

At the hour of our trial and persecutions. At the hour of need. At the hour of our rejection by world standards. When we are distressed two persons are always available at our side: the love of the mother (family) and the support of a true friend.

A mother never abandons his own child. A true friend journeys with you, comforts you and seeks your good at all times.

The love of a mother transcends human comprehension. It is a mystery. A mother loves till the very end. In the bad times and in good times. A mother’s love reflects the love of the Father in Luke’s parable of the prodigal son.

A true friend is not a praise or hosanna singer. He is not one who congratulates you in front and castigates you behind. He watches your back and makes sure you are fine.

A true friend becomes part of your family. He doesn’t abscond when trouble comes. Together with a loving mother, a true friend exhausts all available options to find solution to your problems and misfortunes.

May our world be filled with the true love of a mother and a friend. The meeting of the crucified Jesus, Mary his mother and John the beloved under the foot of cross has still so many lessons to teach us about love and friendship.

Love is friendship…

Friendship is sacrifice…

Love is selfgiving…

You cannot love without first of all being friends…

 

Valentine Umoh

@vu_biblia
11.07.2019

PROTECT THE BEAUTY OF THE AFRICAN FAMILY SYSTEM AND VALUES

 

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Over the past two decades the family life and institution have come under serious threats and attacks by the same ideologies that sought to destroy Faith in God in the wake of the so-called Enlightenment.

The Church which has been at the forefront of defending the sacredness and inviolability of human life from womb to tomb, has also been the great protector of the sanctity of the Family institution.

The Church herself has come under serious attacks based on her persistence and consistency in the protection of the divine institution of marriage and family life against the waves of contemporary and post-modern ideologies.

Individualism, Egoism and what Martin Buber calls ‘I – alonism’ has now been globalised and from its origin in the far West has found its way down into Africa for instance.

Naturally, the African Family system gives no room for ONLY “I”, “Me”, “Myself”, “My Nuclear Family” etc. A typical African Family is not made up of only Father, Mother and Children but also include Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, Nephews, Nieces, In-laws etc. It is a communal system that helps safeguard and brings to consciousness the family collective values and moral systems.

Over the years, what has happened to this Family system and how can we restore its former beauty? “I am because we are” is naturally the African Family Mentality. I invite you to think about what has gone wrong in our various families in this Holy week and see how we can restore its glory. Destruction of the Family is destruction of the human (collective and individual) patrimony.

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In a typically African Family Value system, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual intercourse was an abomination; abortion was unspeakable, pregnancy out of wedlock was never acceptable, same-sex madness never existed and inconceivable. Killing a brother or relative was an abomination as waging war with an in-law. Dressing naked, tattered or shabby looks were not accepted. Grandchildren were priceless and always welcome to their motherland, strangers were welcome and treated with the best hospitality. Family quarrels were settled in the family meetings and not in lawsuits. Children were taught virtues both by words and examples. Although few families were separated along the lines of Faith and Religion, moral principles were the same. Respect, love, obedience, modesty and courage were some of the key family virtues. Helping each other was not a matter of convenience but an obligation. This list is endless. Although, we may not be able to recover the already lost ideals, we have so much to learn from the family moral value system. We will be better of if we can recover only 50% of them.

Ette Norbert Okon, my grandfather of blessed memory always advised: “To be happy in life, respect the customs of grandchildren, Relatives and in-laws” – Nim mbet Ayeyen, Iman ye Ukod.

If you feel you weren’t treated well by your in-laws, uncles and aunts as is always the stories making round these days, you have a challenge to be a better in-law, Uncle or Aunt yourself. Together we can save the African Family and value system from collapse… The Family is our identity. The Church is God’s Family… and we are all sons and daughters of One God and Father…

#lent2019
VU
16.04.2019

“I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION” -YO SOY LA INMACULADA CONCEPCIÓN

 

We live in a world abounding in sin and sinners. Yet, it is a world that denies the existence of sin. Why is that? Because sin is an offense against God, and many do not believe in God. Therefore, if there is no God, there cannot be any sin. But we are surrounded by sin and we read about it and see it in the news media every day—murder, adultery, abortion, fraud, sodomy, theft, lies and so forth. Because of original sin and concupiscence, in various ways we all offend God, some mortally and some venially. Today, however, as in every 8th Day of December, we celebrate the feast of one of us, one woman, who never committed a sin—Mary of Nazareth, the Immaculate Mother of God.

What is the meaning of the term, “Immaculate Conception”? It does not mean the virginal conception of Jesus. It refers to the conception of Mary in the normal way through the marital embrace of her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. Because of the first sin of Adam and Eve, all human beings are conceived without sanctifying grace, the life of the soul. Since the coming of Christ, we can attain grace through baptism, but we are conceived and born without God’s grace. The Church teaches that God endowed Mary’s soul with grace from the first moment of her creation, so she was never under the power of original sin.

“Immaculate” means without stain. Since sin is a “stain” on the soul, which should be pure in the sight of God, the Church believes that Mary was conceived without the “stain” of original sin, which means the lack of God’s grace. Biblically, we get one hint of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in the Gospel today, the account of the Archangel Gabriel’s visit to Mary announcing the birth of Jesus. The angel said to Mary, “Hail, full of grace!” (Luke 1:28) Sometimes this is translated as “Rejoice, highly favoured one” but that is not really a good translation of the Greek in which Luke wrote his Gospel. The particular word Luke used to describe Mary as “full of grace” (κεχαριτωμένη kecharitōmenē) means that Mary was full of grace all her life. (This is signified by κεχαριτωμένη kecharitōmenē being a perfect passive particle). It means that Mary is full of grace not just at the moment the angel comes to her but that she is full of grace since the beginning of her life. Luke could have used a different word to show that Mary was full of grace only at that particular moment as when he described Stephen “full of grace” (πλήρης χάριτος plēres charitos) only for a moment in Acts 6:8 before he was stoned to death. But Luke insists that Mary was full of grace all her life. So indirectly we get a hint of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the account of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the Gospel today. Because she was full of grace, Mary was most pleasing to God in all she was and did.

The prayers of today’s Mass stress that Mary was “preserved” from sin. Jesus died on the Cross, rose from the dead and accomplished our redemption. He is the fountain of supernatural life for us. We partake of that through faith, baptism and the sacraments. So, the Church teaches that Mary was preserved from original sin by the foreseen merits of Jesus, her son and her redeemer. Mary is, therefore, the first redeemed, the first Christian; she is perfectly redeemed in every way—in soul and body and emotions. Mary had a special mission in the redemption of mankind. So, God created her as a “fitting dwelling place” for His Son Jesus, who crushed the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15); Satan never had any power over Him. He was to be born of a woman who was totally free from sin, never under the power of the devil. Just as God prepared a sinless paradise for Adam and Eve, so Mary is a “second” sinless paradise where the Son of God will dwell nine months before His birth in Bethlehem.

The Fathers of the Church compare Mary with Eve. In their view, which is based on Divine Revelation in the Bible, Eve is the mother of all the living—she gave us both life and death. Mary is the true mother of all the living—those who live spiritually forever through her son. That is why she is also called “Mother of the Church.” We were all conceived by our parents with original sin. Only Mary was immaculately conceived. In a sense, this phrase sums up the total reality of Mary and implies our whole Catholic faith in Jesus—Son of God and Saviour.

Although it was only on Dec 8th 1854 that Pope Pius IX solemnly declared that Our Lady was conceived free from original sin and that this was then a dogma of faith to be believed by all the faithful, it had been the belief of the faithful for centuries before that. Our Lady appeared in Lourdes-France four years later in 1858 to little Bernadette, and when the little girl asked the beautiful lady her name, she said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” And thus, confirming the Pope’s decision to declare the dogma of the Immaculate Conception four years earlier. The poet got it right when he summed up the reality of Mary in five words: “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”

Because she gave birth to the Saviour, Mary is our mother in the order of grace. In every way she cooperated with God in the redemption: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Thus, she was totally open to God, available, humble and obedient.

Children naturally tend to imitate their parents. We see in Mary all the virtues of a perfect Christian. We should strive to imitate her, since she is our mother. We should strive to imitate her faith, her hope and her love—her love for Jesus and her willing cooperation in his work of redemption, even to offering him to the Father on Calvary. We should strive to imitate her sinlessness by avoiding all mortal sin and all deliberate venial sins. We should ask her to obtain for us the grace to avoid all deliberate sins—so we can be a “fitting dwelling place” for divine grace.

In the New Testament Mary’s last recorded words at Cana in Galilee are, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). If we love God, we should try to do that. When we receive God’s Son and Mary’s son in Holy Communion today, let us say to him: “Be it done to me as you desire.” “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

For further knowledge read: Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 411, 490-493.

Oremos: “Virgen Santa, en tus días gloriosos, no olvides las tristezas de la tierra. Echa una mirada de bondad a los que están sufriendo, luchando contra las dificultades y no dejan de mojarse los labios en las amarguras de la vida. Ten piedad de los que se amaban y quedaron separados. Ten piedad del aislamiento del corazón. Ten piedad de la debilidad de nuestra fe. Ten piedad de los objetos de nuestro cariño. Ten piedad de los que lloran, de los que rezan, de los que tiemblan, da a todos esperanza y paz.” Amen.

Valentine Umoh
First published: 7/12/2017
Revised Edition: 7/12/2018

OH MONEY: WEAK AND DECEPTIVE!

OH MONEY… How weak and deceptive you are!

Money can buy a house but not a home; money can buy a book and certificate but not knowledge; money can buy a clock but not time; money can buy a bed but not sleep; money can earn a title but not respect; money can earn many friends but not friendship and true love; money can bribe the court but not justice nor integrity; money can falsify documents but not kill the truth.

In the end both Lazarus and the Rich man will die. So money is helpless in the face of death; can’t even defend man against a mere cancer and other terminal diseases. So we work all day to earn what cannot even guarantee us true happiness; we neglect the important keys to happiness and inner peace. We destroy family relationship and friendship. We end marriages and abandon our loved ones in their need all in pursuit of MONEY!

Young girls and boys on Instagram and other social media are now posting nudes to get many followers and credit via the Google Ad Sense. Yes, if you don’t post nude you won’t get many followers so they think. Many turn fashion models and designers on Instagram just to attract unsuspecting customers to their main business (don’t ask me) via the DM. All in a bit to achieve self sufficiency and independency. After gaming and gaining all the money they will soon discover that they still have many unsatisfied needs. Indeed, the deepest human needs are never satisfied with money. Money is weak. Love, joy, happiness and peace are never guaranteed by how much is in your account.

Man finds fulfilment in not how much he gets but how much he is able to give back to society: family, friends and country. Giving back is not how much money you give back to the society but how much your knowledge effected change in your immediate environment; how much time you dedicated to your family, friends and country. You give back to society by the good home you are able to raise and build. One good child raised is a gift to the society. Society is already suffering from the multiplicity of problems emanating from broken homes and marriages. If you build just one peaceful, happy and united family, you will have given back so much to the society.

No one is gonna live forever, but everyone wishes to have lived a fulfilled life. Living a fulfilled and happy life is never guaranteed by money but by your attitude towards life, your neighbours and the society. Share the little time, talents and treasures you have and help make the world a better place!

O Lord teach us the number of our days that we may learn wisdom of heart!

Valentine UMOH
05.11.2018

MEDITATION ON THE PSALMS VOLUME 1.

Psalm 1

“1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

This short Psalm of just six verses serves as an introduction to the entire book of Psalms. When read and prayed meditatively, this psalm reveals so many things that no one single commentary can capture. It is important to understand that the Hebrew Bible places first the Law, the Prophets and the Writings in its Canon. For the Hebrew Bible, the Law of the Lord is paramount, every other part of the scripture becomes important to the level that they reemphasized or meditated the Law of the Lord. This explains why this first Psalm is referred to as a summary of the not just the entire book of the Psalms but also the Biblical block known as the Writings.

Attention is to be paid to verses one and two. A truly blessed man, is he who delights, meditates, contemplates and keeps the Law of the Lord. On the contrary, a wicked man is one who despises, treats with contempt and disregard the Law of the Lord. Keeping the Law of the Lord then becomes the paradigm for true blessedness.

Verses three and four draws a kind of conclusion from keeping or not keeping the Law of the Lord: while the blessed man because he keeps God´s law yields fruits, the wicked man is like a chaff driven away by the wind.

Verses five and six establishes a very important fact: there are only two ways in life namely, the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness or evil. The Psalm does not know of any middle way: On judgement day, God will reward righteousness, but wickedness will be punished.

When this Psalm is read alongside the New Testament, its complete sense is revealed. So, the question comes: what then is this Law of the Lord? At this point references could be made to Matt 5 – 7 (the sermon on the mount and its parallels in Luke); the event of the transfiguration and the event of the Last Supper (especially the washing of the disciple´s feet) and the Mandatum novum. These events present Jesus Christ as the New Law giver: “you have heard that it was said to the men of old … but I say this to you …” “and they appeared to him Moses and Elijah …”, “I give you a new commandment …”. The Law of the Lord is Love. St. Paul explains the meaning of love so well in 1Corinthians 13: 4-7. Above all, love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love does not kill or injure the other. Love does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.

So, whenever you consciously work against the good of your neighbour as well as the good of the community, you are not observing the Law of the Lord. Whenever, you remain silent in the face of oppression and falsehood, you are not keeping the Law of the Lord. Whenever you promote and appraise wrongdoings, you are not keeping the Law of the Lord.

However, God is a God of Mercy and compassion; always ready to forgive but not without your conversion and changing your ways. The prophet Isaiah captures this attitude of God very clearly: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7).

© Valentine Umoh 2018
Studies Biblical Theology @ Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona

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A LETTER TO MY FRIEND: “GOSSIPING IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE”

Dear Friend,

I write you this letter to encourage you because I know that life can be tough, and when the going gets tough one can easily get distracted, discouraged and could even miss the mark. Among other things that tries to pull down promising young talents on the way to achieving their goals and dreams like you, are gossips, rumours and calumny. A saying has it that “strong minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events and weak minds discuss people.” This saying seems to be correct and has stood the test of time. The weak minds here perfectly describe the category of gossipers. Never get distracted by gossips dear friend. Yes, it is true that a man´s enemy is always within, so those who gossip about you aren’t far from you, they could be your kinsmen, friends and folks. Yet, never get discouraged.

What is gossip? Wikipedia defines gossip as “an idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” Cambridge defines it as “conversation or reports about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or not true.” So, a gossip also called gossipmonger is “someone who enjoys talking about other people and their private lives.” The underlining words here are “personal or private affairs (lives) of others.” The Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible condemns gossip strongly.

Gossip is that thing you cannot say to the person, or persons face-to-face because they are false premonitions or the creations of your own fantasies. They are lies and prejudices aimed at discrediting the integrity of the other. They are used to score cheap points by those who are interested in listening.

Those who discuss about people at their back are either afraid of them or have an inferiority complex. I encourage you dear friend, never be taken aback by gossips, they are just gossips. The objective of gossips is to slow your pace, to weaken you and to discourage you. Never give in to them. And never join their company as well.

In case you are still uncertain or in doubt of what gossip is, look at this assessment: Does the chat or discussion rejoice in the misfortune of others? Does it have a negative emotional charge or seem to perpetuate conflict or negativity? Does it hurt or damage the one being spoken of? Would you say it in front of this person´s face? Is it an unsubstantiated rumour about another´s situation? If so, then have no more doubts, these are gossips.

When they gossip about you, it means that you are ahead of them. They feel surpassed by the heights you have reached. Never react, when you do, you are sending signals that they have succeeded. They are happy to see you feel bad or saddened. Gossips and rumours belong to the same family and the have the main objective. Only the unfocussed fall into their prey, the determine and firm heart, hear the gossips and is emboldened.

The developers of most of the apps we are using today in the cyberspace for instance, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, WhatsApp and other infotech apps never sat down discussing nor discrediting the inventors or creators of the earlier apps rather they analyzed ideas and the principles and sought ways of creating other apps to meet contemporary needs. Great minds compete on the level of ideas, creativity, productivity and efficiency. So why sit down and gossip about those who are making genuine efforts, why seek to discredit the other instead of seeking ideas to advance and improve yours. Man is a bundle of possibilities, intelligence and potentialities. Lack of focus is a cankerworm. Gossips belong to the group of individuals with a missed priority.

A gossip is like a bad defender in the game of football who attempts to pull down or impedes the progress of an attacker approaching the goal. In such cases, the defender usually gets penalized with a yellow card or red card and a freekick or penalty awarded to the opponents depending on the gravity of the pulling and the proximity to the goal line. Like the work of that bad defender, gossip can kill morale and disrupt productivity. When this happens, the gossipmonger has achieved his or her aim.

Surely, my dear friend, I know you are not a gossip yourself, but if you are, I advise that instead of wasting time gossiping about others, me bethinks that it will do you good to convert that time and energy into something productive to yourself and fix up your future. Gossiping doesn’t subtract anything from the supposed-victims, it only shows that you are lazy, destructive and have bad will. Live your life and let others be.

I will conclude this reflection dear friend with a story. Once upon a time, an old man spread rumours that his neighbour was a thief. As a result, the young man was arrested. Days later he was proven innocent. After being released, he sued the old man for wrongly accusing him. In the court the old man told the judge, “They were just comments, they didn´t harm anyone.” The judge, before passing sentence on the case, told the old man, “write all the things you said about him on a piece of paper.” “Cut it up into little pieces and on the way home, throw the pieces of paper out of your car window. Tomorrow, come back to hear the sentence.” The next day, the judge told the old man, “Before receiving the sentence, I want you to go out and gather up all the pieces of paper that you threw out of your car window yesterday.” The old man said, “I can´t do that! The wind spread them all over the place and won´t know where to find them.” Then the judge replied, “The same way, simple words and comments may destroy the honour of a person to such an extent that a person will not be able to fix it. If you can´t speak well of someone, don´t say anything at all. Let´s all be masters of our mouths, so that we won´t be slaves of our words.”

Now the lesson dear friend: “Gossips are worse than thieves because they steal another person´s dignity, honour, reputation and credibility which are impossible to restore. So, remember this: when your feet slip, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips, you can never recover your words!”

My Fatherly advice dear friend: If you are a gossipmonger, you can covert that time and energy to something productive; if you are or have ever been a victim of gossip, never lose your confidence, be strong and keep moving.

From whichever angle you look at it from you will see it, my dear friend, that gossip is counter-productive. Concentrate on your goals and strive into becoming the person of your dreams!

With love,

26.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

THERE IS SOMETHING IN A NAME. BE PROUD OF YOUR NAME!

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If there is any important event for the parents of a new born baby, it is the naming ceremony. At such important ceremony, the father of the child (or whoever is responsible for naming the child) gives the name for which the child is to be known and addressed. Apart from the circumstances of the birth of the child, religion and culture influences the name given to every child at birth. As such, a mere glance at a person´s name, it is easier to determine his or her religion and cultural heritage.

In the Ancient Near East (Israel, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia), names were thought to be extremely powerful and act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. For them, names had metaphysical signification. Right into the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful (every name has a meaning and significance) and a change of name indicated a change of status. Every biblical name had a meaning and biblical characters were given names at birth that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. Varied examples abound.

In the Christian dispensation, new names are given to Christians at Baptism (also at confirmation) to reflect their new Christian status.  With the advent of modern civilization there was a systematization of names. Now at least a person´s official name must contain two names: his own personal name and surname. Both names now consist a person´s identity. The number of names may vary from one culture to another. In all of these, there is nothing as valuable to a person as his name. For instance: “My name is Valentine Umoh.” The first is my baptismal name which have become my first name, personal name and perhaps the most common. The second is my Surname, what is now referred to as Family name. The culture I come from allow us to use our Father´s first name as middle name. In that case my official name becomes: Valentine Anthony Umoh. That is my name and I value it.

I am writing this because I want you to know or to remind you that “there is something in a name; there is beauty in a name.” Be proud of your name! If there is anything we cannot control, it is birth. Birth is a given because life is a given. You do not decide where to be born, or to which culture to be born into, neither to what family nor to which parents. Those are the givens of life. You need to be proud of your religion, family and culture. These are perfectly reflected and engraved in your name.

Yes, there might as well be a case, where a child grows up and feels uncomfortable with the name he or she was given at birth and decides to change it. Well and good! But to whatever name you change into be proud about and live with it. There is something in a name.

I find the current trend of people twisting the spellings of their names or preferring some school nicknames to their real names quite unfortunate. For me, it shows the lack of understanding of the metaphysical undertones behind the giving of names. You can find this readily on Facebook and other social media. It is a trend that needs to be checked, if not we will lose something as valuable as personal identity which in this case is represented by names.

Your name is the most important aspect of your self-identity, self-image and self-esteem. I am tempted to suppose that those who twist or change their names on Social Media like Facebook are either Fraudsters, scammers or they have a false sense of identity, low-self esteem or inferiority complex. So, are you ashamed to let people know that your surname is ASUQUO, ETIM, OKON, UKOHA, UMEH or ABUBAKAR? What are you ashamed of? Your religion, your family, your language or ethnicity or culture? That is too bad. You know what? You can´t really change that, so you got to live with it. Attempting to change that by twisting the spelling of your name or preferring your nickname is like living a false life. Be proud of your name. Let the world know that is your name. Or are you afraid of the world? Then you better not be born at all.

Changing your name to: Psquare, TuFace, Shakira, Beyonce, Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, Baby, Sugar, Noble, Princess, Buhari, Saraki etc doesn’t really change your metaphysical composition neither does it change your true identity as that Oron girl, Annang boy, Igbo girl, Tiv girl, Hausa boy, etc. It only reflects that you are suffering from a false sense of selfhood and personhood! Those models have made their names and written their names on the signs of times. They didn’t borrow your name, they used theirs. Try to also use your name and make it known (popular if you like). If you are not proud of your name, no one will! If you don’t make it known, no one will! Don’t forget that your name is your identity.

One last note. The last time I checked English adjectives do not qualify as proper names of persons (Anthroponym), they are always Proper nouns. This is a reminder to those who add: sweet, hot, sexy, noble, etc to their names. These are adjectives which also could be used as complements and not as names of persons. Again! What name is there in your international passport, voters card, National ID, WAEC certificate and Baptism Card? Those are your true identity in case you have forgotten. Let those names reflect on your social media platforms and be proud of your name. There is something in a name, do not change or twist the spelling of your name for nothing, nor trade your true identity for what is trending. What is trending doesn’t last: Your true identity is your identity. Learn to value what you have. Value your name and make it known.  

“A person who can´t be proud of his or her name and age is living a false life!”

14.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

WHY ARE WE STILL PLAYING POLITICS WITH ELECTRICITY?

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Statista.com “Ranking of the countries with the highest quality of electricity supply in 2017/18 writes: “In today´s culture, many people cannot imagine life without electricity. It has become a global necessity and a part of the everyday life of many people. Life without electricity is almost impossible – it can be difficult and slow. The importance of electricity can be seen throughout various fields of human activity: engineering, communication and transport, entertainment, and surgery…”

Ricardo Falcon on June 26, 2015 in an article titled “How can Africa develop its electricity infrastructure?” writes: “Little is as critical for economic progress as a reliable electricity supply. In Africa, the lack thereof has taken a heavy toll on regional integration, productivity and competitiveness.”

On March 11, 2016 CNBC Africa reported that “Only four in 10 Africans have access to a reliable power supply, according to a survey by Afrobarometer.” The report uses Nigeria as an example and reads: “In a striking example, 96 per cent of Nigerians are connected, but only 18 per cent of those connections work “most of the time” or “always.”

Yomi Kazeem on April 19, 2016 drew up a comparative analysis showing the percentage population with access to electricity, population rate connected to a national grid and the share of these connections with stable and reliable power in Africa using the data provided by Afrobarometer. He concluded: “These charts show reliable electricity is still a luxury for more than half of Africa.” According to the charts, countries like Mauritius have 100 % of the population connected to national grid and a corresponding 100 % of these connections have reliable power. Again, South Africa have about 96 per cent connected and more than 80 per cent with reliable power. However, Nigeria has an access rate of 90% and a connection rate of 96% but a low reliable power supply rate of 18%. So, how did countries like Mauritius and South Africa achieve their electric power stability and reliability? And why is so hard for this supposed ´giant of Africa´ (Nigeria) to follow suit. Are we also playing politics with this necessity of human life?

It is very sad, offensive and annoying to read that “more than a century after the intervention of the light bulb, a majority of Africans are still in the dark, either intermittently or constantly” and the CNN or World Bank reports which confirms that “The 48 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a combined population of 800 million) generate roughly the same amount of power as Spain (with a population of 45 million). As embarrassing as these reports are but reality is upon us.

While these same reports acknowledge that “there are signs of improvements” because Renewable energy investments are on the rise, these reports note that “hydropower has a huge unlocked potential: while it already represents one fifth of the overall production, only 10 percent of the estimated potential is being utilized.” And now my question: what is hindering the utilization and unlocking of the potential of hydropower for which I know Nigeria is blessed with? What about the solar energy? Is it that we lack the manpower or the technical know-how about these things? Or is it about money? How much do our political office holders run away with in the name of salaries and allowances? And what is the need for excessive foreign reserves without meeting these bare needs? If we could employ Julius Berger and other foreign companies to build our roads and bridges, can´t we employ a foreign energy generation company to help us generate and manage electric power? Even if we lacked the money, can´t we borrow to facilitate this, if we could borrow to pay salaries? Let it not be what I am thinking, that we are playing politics with a basic need like electric power generation and supply in this country.

Just imagine the embarrassments. Due to the lack of reliable electric power supply, Nigeria with over 200 million population has become the dumping ground for all types and brands of generators from China, Japan and other Asian countries. An average Nigerian owns a generator even if it is the so-called “I better pass my neighbour.” Yet every day we talk about creating employment opportunities, we discuss about improving the economy. We discuss about improving education, the health sector etc.  How can this be possible without reliable electricity? For instance, energy can facilitate the development of schools, and help teachers gain access to a wide variety of teaching mechanisms especially in this computer age. There is no short cut if we must realize these. The simple key is a reliable electricity. This is the key. In this 21st century and the growing impact and indispensability of the cyberspace, just point out to me any aspect of the economy and human life that doesn’t require electricity. I tell you, there is none!

It is time, our leaders become proactive and stop playing politics! They should collectively find ways of solving our electricity problems. But come to think of it, how much will this cost? What did it cost Mauritius, Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa? For me, it cost nothing but the political will and the determination to achieve this. We should start thinking of the good of this country than our individual pockets, if not posterity will not forgive us. Please help me tell our leaders to stop playing politics with electric power generation: We need stable and reliable electricity in this country! It is not a luxury rather a basic need.

11.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

 

 

BE FAIR TO YOURSELF… DO NOT LET WHAT YOU CANNOT DO DETER YOU FROM DOING THAT WHICH YOU CAN!

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As far as the reality of life is concern, all human beings have their respective goodness and badness. We all have our various points of strengths and points of weaknesses. Every human being has an innate goodness and virtue in him. And there is no one that is so perfect to the point of excluding all possibilities of defects. The abundance and varieties of unique individual talents already makes this point clear enough. For instance, to one is given the natural talent of the art of public speaking, to the other of writing, to the other of singing and composition, artistic and aesthetic appreciation etc. One student is extraordinarily gifted in the sciences, the other in the literary subjects, the other in calculations etc.

Yes, you can! They will tell you it is all about determination, confidence and believing in yourself! While this is true that “you can”, in some and certain instances, you must also be courageous enough to accept that which “you can´t”. So, rather than focusing your energy on that which you can´t, your energy should be channeled to those things you can. We spend so much time talking about things we can´t (things we are not able to do) to the point of neglecting those which we can (things we are able to do).

Be fair to yourself. The journey of life is the journey of self-discovery. The Ancient Socratic saying “Man know thyself” captures this very fact succinctly. The educational process is a learning process that is aimed at helping you discover yourself. Part of this self-discovery is the discovery of “what I can do.” The other parts will consist of “Who am I”, “Where am I” and Where am I going” etc. The question: “What can I do?” also embodies the negative question “What can´t I do?” Trying to do everything is an attempt to be ´a jack of all trades´ which only leads to mediocrity instead of excellence and proficiency.

The Nigerian Educational process modelled according to the Western education, exposes every individual child to all the possibilities in the primary and secondary schools. In the last years of the secondary education, a child already identifies his or her strong points and will wish to channel his or her time, efforts and resources to that which he or she can do better. In the university, obviously, there is a certain level of specialization based on that which one can do best. There are also others who feel they can embark on something more practical, away from the so much theories of the university system. Persons like this are advised to pick up vocational training after their secondary schools. This is also a valid educational process. This educational process already tells us that we as unique individuals cannot do everything and that we are not all the same. We are all unique in our own way!

Be fair to yourself! There is no need to sit down and wish you were this other person or that other person. Within you lies a unique beauty, goodness, capacity and ability. Discover yourself and maximize the time you have and perfect your strong points. Do not let what you cannot do deter you from doing that which you can do!

09.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

THE CHALLENGES OF MISSION IN NIGERIA[1]

Challenges of mission1

Mission has always posed questions and challenges to those who genuinely engage in it. In the past, the challenges were primarily of a physical nature, consisting in the acceptance of uncommon privations for the missionary.[2] Today the challenges transcend the physical and affect many other dimensions due to the complexity of modern society. Generally, “mission is quite a herculean enterprise, and very demanding. The Church right from her inception never found it easy and she still finds it really tough.”[3] The Church in Nigeria faces a lot of challenges in her mission to enshrine the Gospel message and values in the hearts of the Nigerians.

Many authors have pointed out some challenges or the other to mission. For T. Okere it is primarily the problem of inadequate missionary method.[4] B. Ukwuegbu thinks that the lack of an explicit confrontational evangelization is the major challenge to mission in Nigeria.[5] For J. Ukpong, the socio-economic contexts and problems make mission an uphill task here.[6] A. Vasumu et al conceive it as the problem of lack of proper catechesis, syncretism, secularism and illiteracy.[7]

The CBCN highlights the setbacks and some areas of weakness with regard to mission to include: lack of genuineness of purpose in the so-called vocation boom to the priestly and religious life; lack of vocations in some parts of the country; a sense of male, clerical domination in the Church; lack of personal conversion among the teeming population of Nigerian Christians as evident in the high level of corruption in the country; lack of sufficient catechesis; religious syncretism; Pentecostalism; proliferation of ethnic and religious violence in the country; lack of proper coordination and documentation of the mission ad extra activities of the Church in Nigeria.[8] The problem of ignorance, diseases and misery (poverty), postmodernism, ethnicity and cultural differences, lack of proper inculturation, failure of inter-religious dialogue, division among Christians, proliferation of churches, the improper and inadequate use of means of social communication are among other problems and challenges that befall missionary activity in Nigeria today.[9]

From the above barrage of challenges this study, while claiming not to be exhaustive chooses to concentrate and focus on some of these challenges.

INADEQUATE MISSIONARY METHODS

Pope Paul VI in his address to the College of Cardinals on June 22, 1973 said:

The conditions of society today require us to revise our methods and to seek out with all our energy new ways and means by which the Christian message may be brought to the men of our times, for it is only in this message that they can find the answers to their doubts and the inspiration to carry out the obligation arising from their mutual dependency.[10]

On another occasion, the Holy Father asked: “What method should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effects? Does the Church not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put into people’s heart with conviction, freedom of the spirit and effectiveness?”[11]

In his 1982 Address to the Nigerian Bishops, Pope John Paul II called them to a new era of evangelization that will be new in its Zeal, new in its Methods, new in its Expression and new in its Strategies: “in this pastoral visit, I express the hope that it would initiate a new era of evangelization. This is my earnest prayer, that zeal for evangelization will envelop the Church in Nigeria.”[12]

The above seeks to show how important method and strategy are to mission. Mission succeeds and fails by means of the method employed. The changing Nigerian society demands that missionary methods and strategies be revised and updated. To better appreciate why missionary methods today are considered inadequate a glimpse at some of the methods used by the early missionaries will suffice. These among others include

a) The Ruling Class Method[13]

The first missionary method of evangelization used by most early missionaries was that of finding favour with the Ruler and the Upper class of the place they visited; with these they could convert them and their household and through them their subjects. This was precisely the method used by the Holy Ghost Fathers. For instance, within the old Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province they converted the traditional ruler Samuel Obi Anazonwu and Chief Idigo of Aguleri and their families. Both not only surrendered vast portions of their lands to the Church but also became the flag bearers of evangelization in this zone together with their families

b) Christian Mission House[14]

Following the abolishing of slave trade by the British Parliament’s Act of 1807, there were movements of slaves from those countries where they were sold. This gave rise to the problem of settling the slaves who could not go back to their original homes due to the loss of contact and segregation. The missionaries took it as a challenge to settle the ex-slaves and the proximate thing to do was to keep them in camps called Christian villages which later graduated into Mission houses. With Fr. Lutz one sees concrete examples in Onitsha, Aguleri, Nsugbe and Nteje. In doing this, the early missionaries were convinced of doing service to God and that eventual conversion was obvious. There was also the sense of removing those free slaves from being contaminated by impurities and ungodly ‘paganism’ of their society. The freed slaves did eventually become the foundation members of the Church especially in the Southern part of Nigeria

c) Humanitarian/Charitable Work[15]

Following the abolition of the slave trade, the atmosphere favoured humanitarian and charitable works. The situation was already gleaming in Africa as many thought of bringing something better to poor Africans so as to uplift their ugly situation. Fr. Lutz on arrival at Onitsha after experiencing the mission in Sierra Leone had at the back of his mind ‘integral human development.’ Celestine Obi puts it thus:

For him evangelization meant more than teaching the natives to read the bible in their own language, he came to win the whole man- body and soul for Christ. Charity, commiseration and seeking the well-being of the natives marked his evangelical method.[16]

As such he not only built schools, but also leprosarium, dispensaries, hospitals and workshops to cater for all kinds of persons. The sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny who came from France helped in giving medical assistance to both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In Western Nigeria, for instance, the S M A Fathers, Francois and Coquard opened the first dispensary and orphanage in Lagos. This method was very effective, but the motive was sometimes misguided.

Other Early Missionary Methods include: The Sponsored Mission or Portuguese Padroado System, the School Apostolate, Dialogical Method and Catechesis. All these methods did have their various strengths and weaknesses.

The paramount questions now are: since there is still the need for both primary and secondary evangelization in Nigeria, how is the Church in Nigeria responding to these missionary needs? What missionary methods is the Church adopting today?

A survey of the missionary activities of the various Dioceses, parishes and organizations that make up the Church in Nigeria, as well as written documents on Missionary efforts in Nigeria,[17] indicate that some of the methods adopted by the Church in Nigeria today are similar to those she inherited from her early missionaries. These will include among others; promotion of indigenous clergy and religious orders, creation of new dioceses, parishes and ecclesial basic communities[18], human promotion, evangelization through means of social communication, charity apostolate (care of the poor, sick and needy), school apostolate and inter-religious dialogue. A brief highlight on these latter methods will also serve the purpose of this study.

a) Promotion of Indigenous Clergy and Religious Orders

Pope John Paul II, following the indication of the Second Vatican Council in the document Ad Gentes Divinitus, wrote that the evangelization of all peoples is the direct responsibility of the bishops both as members of the College of Bishops and as pastors of the particular Churches. Religious institutes and diocesan priests also share in this direct responsibility for mission apart from the mission of all the baptized in Christ.

The first missionary approach of the Church in Nigeria is to ensure that there is a stable growth in priestly vocations and indigenous religious orders. The Nigerian factor of the segmentation of the country along geographical, ethnic and linguistic lines has made such an approach, an imperative for any successful mission. The success of mission in Nigeria largely depends on this factor and method because the gospel must consider the ethnic, linguistic and cultural peculiarity of the people if it is to be embraced.

The yearly ordination of priests in the different dioceses in Nigeria and the profession of final vows in the Religious Institutes by the sons and daughters of Nigeria show the effectiveness of this approach. This is what propelled the establishment of the Missionary Society of St. Paul by the CBCN[19], The Sons/Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy Congregation by Bishop Anthony Nwedo, The Holy Rosary Sisters, Daughters of Divine Love, Society of Jesus the Saviour by Fr. Emmanuel Edeh, Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, etc.

When Pope Paul VI addressed the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Kampala, Uganda in 1969 he said: “Africans, you are now your own missionaries.” This could be interpreted to mean that for the success of mission in Africa, especially in Nigeria, a vibrant and robust network of indigenous clergy and religious institutes is indispensable.

b) Creation of Dioceses, Parishes and Ecclesial Basic Communities (EBCs)

The Church in Nigeria believes in the creation of dioceses, parishes and ecclesial basic communities. The fact that the world’s population is increasing in a geometric progression has also given rise to a relative growth in the population of Christians in the globe including Nigeria. This increase in the population of the laity which is unfortunately inversely proportional to the increase in the population of the clergy has given rise to the formation of ecclesial basic communities where some trained lay faithful are placed in charge in line with the Vatican II’s ecclesiology of the Church as people of God.[20] The logic and the theology of the creation of new dioceses, parishes and EBCs are to bring the Good News and Faith in Jesus Christ nearer to the people especially in their own language and culture. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and a multi-lingual society; thus, for the Gospel to be relevant it must speak to the people in their own particular context and life situation. With the creation of more dioceses and parishes the gap created by differences in culture, language and tribe is bridged so that people can feel at home with the faith

c) Human Promotion

The Church in Nigeria strongly believes that authentic development is centred on the human person, on the actualization of his potentials and on the fulfilment of his legitimate aspirations.[21] She is fully aware that development is not just a matter of building beautiful bridges, fanciful airports, business and holiday resorts and skyscrapers but primarily about building the human person. She also believes that “a nation is not just a geographical space. It is an aggregate of people who live a common life rooted in and inspired by common ideals and core values, a common life in which the dignity of every human person is respected.”[22] This means that a geographical space where people are forced to live together at gunpoint may be called a state, but it cannot be properly called a nation.

Hence, no national development or growth can be recorded without an integral and harmonious human promotion and development, and the Church in her wisdom is fully aware that her evangelizing mission can make little or no meaning without its inseparable connection with human promotion. No wonder Pope Benedict XVI declared in his parting words to the Synod Fathers, during his sermon at the closing Mass, that: “…as she offers the bread of the Word and the Eucharist, the Church [in Nigeria should] dedicate herself also to work, with every means available, so that no African [Nigerian] will be without daily bread. That is why, along with the task of primary evangelization, Christians are active in the interventions of human promotion.”[23] Thus, the Church as part of her missionary methods makes concerted effort to promote the human person. This can be seen in the areas of education, healthcare, aid to the needy, development projects, defence of human rights and commitment to bring about democracy and legally constituted states.

Even though every member of the Church is called to be a promoter of Human dignity, this function is specifically given to the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), acting in the name of the Church and as prescribed by the Synod. With the JDPC the Church in Nigeria not only speaks out against all forms of “unfair conditions” and “inequalities” but also works to bring an end to such structures of social evil to ensure the development of peoples which according to Pope Paul VI is the new name for peace.[24] During the Second Plenary meeting held at Bishop Nwedo Pastoral Centre, Umuahia the CBCN exclaimed:

Nigerians continue to live in fear and tension. In spite of the acclaimed efforts to beef up security in the nation, bombings and senseless killings of innocent Nigerians, continue in the northern part of the country, while kidnapping and periodic murders and armed robberies continue in the southern part. The failure of government at all levels and other security agencies to provide adequate security for all Nigerians is a grave form of abuse of human dignity. This unfortunate situation leads to distrust of government and allied authorities. It creates loopholes for evil doers to thrive and for the proliferation of arms and dangerous weapons under the guise of self-defence.[25]

The Church is, therefore, committed to the principles of Justice, Peace and Development not only in words but also in action. This is made evident in her various interventions in the process of National policy formulations. The Church is fully aware that this is one of the major ways to make herself present to the oppressed, the sick and the voiceless and defenceless of our Nigerian society. This is a veritable missionary method and stride.[26]

d) Evangelization through Means of Social Communications

Gone are the days when the Church stayed aloof from utilizing the means of social communications in her mission. Today the media – both print and electronic – play a major role in the evangelizing mission of the Church. The media aids in publicizing the missionary involvement of the Church as well as canvasses for sponsorship and support by way of financial or material missionary cooperation. The Church must really see this method as indispensable in this age of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) if she is to succeed in her mission. For example, almost all the dioceses in Nigeria have a Newspaper which creates awareness of the presence of the Church in the society and her role as the conscience of the society. Furthermore, almost all the Catholic institutions, schools, colleges, universities publish magazines and journals; all for the promotion of the continuance of the evangelizing mission of the Church. Also, there is a widespread use of the cyberspace to preach the Gospel through Church owned websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. Many also utilize the Television and Radio services for the broadcast of evangelization programmes. This is a method that must be strengthened and maintained

e) Charity Apostolate

The Church cannot be indifferent to the plight of the poor in the society. Like every other human society Nigeria is beset with the problems of ignorance, poverty, malnutrition, disease, premature death which at times are caused by human selfishness and unjust social structures. Whatever the case, the Church undertakes a missio pauperes (mission to the poor) as part of her evangelizing mission. A clear example of this is found in the establishment of Orphanages, leprosarium, Home for the physically challenged by the Church and the constant visit by Church organizations to these places in terms of giving material support. We also see this gesture in cases of displaced persons and refugees by way of relief aids to them through the JDPC. For example, on October 10, 2010 residents of Yakassawa Kwari who fell victims to flood waters from the Tiga/Challawa dams were given relief materials worth millions of Naira through the JDPC of the Catholic Diocese of Kano. Even in the 2012 flood saga, the JDPC was at the frontline of giving relief materials to displaced persons. And in 2014, the JDPC of Ijebu Ode diocese gave out over N12bn in loans to the needy. The Scheme, which had empowered about a 100,000 beneficiaries, who are women in small and medium scale agric-business and allied sectors across the South West of Nigeria was designed to boost the women and the agricultural sector of the economy. The loan which was meant to promote small and medium enterprises in agro-produce, expand existing ones, as well as empower women, could be repaid over a period of 10 years.[27]

f) School Apostolate

The Church has considered school apostolate a very indispensable and pertinent tool for evangelization. Francis Bacon says that “knowledge is power” and man is a being that is in constant pursuit of knowledge. The Church has throughout the ages recognised this demand so that she uses school apostolate in the work of mission. To take a concrete instance, the Church has numerous schools and institutions of learning from where she spreads her teaching. The Church uses her schools for enlightenment on the faith and for catechesis. When the early missionaries came to Nigeria, they built schools alongside churches and these helped to facilitate evangelization and indoctrination as what was not fully taught in the Church was completed in the school. Today as before the school apostolate is still a veritable missionary method; though it may not be strong as before. The Church in Nigeria lays a serious and strong emphasis on education and she notes:

Quality education produces citizens who will work for the establishment and maintenance of a just socio-economic and political order. It is the antidote for the recurring and related problems of poverty, corruption, insecurity and incompetence in our land…Quality education involves the formation of the whole person, that is, the human person in his or her spiritual, intellectual, moral and technical dimensions. It is rooted in and animated by spiritual values. Does not the evil of science without morality stare us in the face? Technical education without ethical values creates persons who promote a culture of death. The terrorists in our midst are without doubt well educated in the technique of making explosives. In the same way, religion without the use of the intellect makes us intolerant of other people’s religious beliefs. Faith without reason breeds fanatics. Artisans of a new Nigeria—religious leaders, politicians, civil servants, business men and women, parents—need holistic education.[28]

The Church in Nigeria can be proud of her track record in the field of education. In some Nigerian towns and villages, the only place of learning is a primary or secondary school built and run by the Catholic Church and her dedicated teachers drawn from her clergy, religious, lay faithful and even men and women of other faiths. Before the ill-advised take-over of the schools by the military government in the early 1970s, Catholic schools showed that Nigerian children could live in harmony in spite of religious and ethnic differences. Her schools were noted for the formation of the intellect and the conscience for competence

g) Inter-religious Dialogue

According to experts the expression “inter-religious dialogue” unfolds in four major forms: Dialogue of Life, Dialogue of Action, Dialogue of Discourse and Dialogue of Religious Experience. In each of these, the common denominator is dialogue which generally means “a communicative process that entails a mutual and an impersonal relationship between two or more partners on the platform of subject-to-subject communicative encounter.”[29] It is all about emphasizing the common elements that bind people than what separates them, understanding their common values and grounds. It is all about understanding the other and trying to live in harmony. The Church sees this as a veritable method of evangelization especially in the Nigerian situation. Her ability to make her presence felt after the example of God, the Father who welcomes all that come to him will add to her missionary progress. That is why the CBCN has on several occasions summoned the nation to peaceful co-existence beyond the ethnic, religious and political divide. Through the JDPC department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), she carries out with other faith traditions a common action in aid to the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden and as a conscience of the society. She is at the forefront of religious tolerance and freedom of worship. The Church in Nigeria really believes in inter-religious dialogue and goes all out to engrave it as one of her evangelization or mission strategies.

The above are the current missionary methods in Nigeria. Though they have created much impact, they are still considered inadequate as missionary methods per se. This is either because of their superficiality or their inability to convert. One should not forget that the end of every missionary outreach is to convert hearts to Christ. The Conciliar document on the Church’s missionary activity make it explicitly clear that mission is going out and planting the Church in places where people do not yet believe in Christ. But not only that, it also involves ministry in places in need of renewal, where there is a state of regression and weakness. In this regard, pastoral ministry is not mission in the strict sense of the term though it is closely associated with missionary activity. It is on this note that one could see that the above enumerated missionary methods today are somewhat geared towards pastoral ministry. The missionary methods she adopts does not make her ‘confrontational’ and zealous in the quest for souls as is seen in the resurging ‘Pentecostalist movements’ or ‘Independent churches.’[30]

PENTECOSTALISM, RELIGIOUS PLURALISM AND SYNCRETISM

Not only that Pentecostalism has made serious inroads into the Catholic Church in Nigeria as observed by the Catholic Hierarchy in Nigeria but their proliferation in the country seems to occasion an accelerated divide within the Christian fold such that missionary efforts by the Church is seriously challenged. In order not to ‘lose her members’ some Catholic missionaries, priests and religious tend to incorporate the Pentecostalist mentality in their mode of worship, prayers and preaching. So that in the Church today one finds some tendencies of a fundamentalist interpretation of the scripture, an overly emotional style of worship, an unhealthy preoccupation with demons and demonology, and an excessive insistence on miracles, signs and wonders. These New Religious Movements as most authors prefer to call them challenge the Church in the areas of Inculturation, Dynamic and lively worship, Catechesis or Bible study, Holistic Gospel, and true brotherhood.[31] Thus, if the evangelizing mission of the Church in Nigeria is to be relevant and successful in this present era, she must take into serious consideration the challenges posed by Pentecostalism.[32]

Syncretism on the other hand refers to a process of combining different religious practices or beliefs, which may lead to a new synthesis or to a strengthening, weakening or dissolution of old allegiances.[33] Syncretism is really an axe that the Church must grind and grapple with. Even though the Christian Faith has come to stay in Nigeria, there is still a vacuum or a gulf existing between the Christian Faith and the African Traditional beliefs and practices. Many Christians are neither fully Christians nor are they committed worshippers of the African Traditional Religion. Thus, the people among whom the message of salvation is announced are sometimes set on the horns of dilemma in trying to really part with their traditional practices and to embrace the Gospel message in its entirety. Even though several and concerted attempts have been made and are still made at inculturating the message of Christ, syncretistic practices are still shooting up in unimaginable proportions, and this constitutes a serious challenge to the mission of the Church. This challenge will only be overcome when the Church in Nigeria gets it right on inculturation.

POVERTY AND MATERIALISM

“Nigeria’s poverty level rises, hits 71.5%, Sokoto, Niger top list of poorest states” was the Monday, 13 February 2012 Newspaper headline of the Nigerian Tribune written by Gbola Subair of Abuja. In clear terms, the analyst wrote:

POVERTY in Nigeria is rising with almost 100 million people living on less than $1 a day despite strong growth, data showed on Monday. The percentage of Nigerians living in absolute poverty — those who can afford only the bare essentials of food, shelter and clothing — rose to 60.9 per cent in 2010, compared with 54.7 per cent in 2004, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said. Although Nigeria’s economy is projected to continue growing, poverty is likely to get worse as the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. “It remains a paradox … that despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year,” Statistician General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale, told reporters at a press conference in Abuja, on Monday.[34]

Poverty is to be understood here in the sense of a sub-human standard of living. It is a condition prevalent in most underdeveloped and developing countries of which Nigeria is a typical example. Poverty is often accompanied by class distinctions in society and social alienation. In Nigeria the level of poverty is extremely on the increase every day. The Church must see it as part of its proclamation of the kingdom as well as her missionary activity to help people in the country attain a level of living that befits their human dignity. However, while hating poverty and seeking to wipe it out, or at least diminish it in society, the Church must love the poor and devote time to them. The purpose of ministry to the poor must not be to keep them poor and good Christians and citizens. Rather the purpose must be to give them the hope and the means they need to conquer poverty in their lives and to serve God and their neighbour in freedom. Poverty poses a challenge to the Church in Nigeria as it is everywhere. The Church must see it as part of her missionary imperative. In this way, she will integrate it into her mission programmes and recognise that intermittent charity is not the solution. A true response to the situation must be founded on a planned programme that will help the people themselves overcome their condition of poverty.

The serious challenge here is the other side of the story. Because of the level of poverty in the country, some ‘missionaries’ or preachers of the gospel and regrettably too Catholic priests and religious tend to see the ministry as a means of getting rich and accumulating wealth. “Some Nigerian Missionaries display an inordinate desire for money and other material benefits. This is a great hindrance to the credible proclamation of the Gospel.”[35] Materialism is a serious set-back to mission in Nigeria. Many priests in mission lands mismanage and divert the funds meant for missionary promotion to their private accounts in a bid to get rich. This attitude by some missionaries has become scandalous to the extent that those who voluntarily supported mission financially (missionary co-operation) withdraw their support and resources. This is because the intention of the donors is defeated due to sheer greed and materialism.

Thus, for the Church in Nigeria to really go far in mission ad intra she must join forces with other organizations to combat the rapidly increasing widespread poverty in the country. The 1971 Synod of Bishops states that: “actions on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel, or in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.”[36] Actions to remedy the situation of poverty in Nigeria should not be considered as secondary aspects of the Church’s mission.

NEGLECT OF THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN MISSION

How many Catholic TV and Radio Stations are there in Nigeria? How many Catholic programs are aired on the TV Channels and Radio stations all over Nigeria in a day, in a week, in a month and in a year? How many Nigeria Catholic websites are there? Does the Church in Nigeria have a National Daily Newspaper?[37] How many Catholic printing presses are there? How else can her explicit and prophetic proclamation of the gospel message and values be heard except through these means of social communication? The above questions suggest that the lack a massive employment of the means of Social communication is still a challenge to the evangelizing mission of the Church.[38] The Lineamenta for the First African Synod states thus: “Given the importance of social communications, the Particular Churches should endeavour to seek the greatest possible access to these tools which would permit the Church to proclaim “quite openly and unhindered” (Acts 28:31) the Good News of Jesus Christ. If possible, these Churches could acquire themselves and run their own transmitting stations; they should at least seek to obtain air time in local and national programs. The Church should take advantage of these means to awaken people to Christianity whose message can lead to a just and peaceful society.”[39] How many provinces, diocese and religious houses have hearkened to this Synodal directive? Africae Munus directs that “The Church [in Nigeria] needs to be increasingly present in the media so as to make them not only a tool for the spread of the Gospel but also for educating the African peoples to reconciliation in truth, and the promotion of justice and peace.”[40] The Church in Nigeria must optimally employ the use of these social media if her mission is to effective today.

LACK OF PROPER FORMATION OF MISSIONARY AGENTS

Who are the missionary agents in Nigeria? The College of Bishops and the Clergy are primary missionary agents. They are supposed to work together to stimulate, promote and direct the work for the missions as well as make the mission spirit and zeal of the people of God present and as it were visible. The Nigerian Bishops and priests are currently doing their best in coordinating missionary activities not only in Nigeria but also beyond her frontiers. But the fruits of mission may likewise suggest that their best is not good enough. For, considering the facts, the number of priests in Nigeria now is not commensurate with the work they do. They are all engrossed in pastoral care and ministry. Little or no work is done in the area of primary evangelization and charity.

Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, active as well as the contemplatives are supposed to be playing a very serious and major role in the evangelizing mission in Nigeria. The birth of many indigenous religious orders and many vocations to them is a special gift of God to the Church in Nigeria. They are supposed to carry often the burden of primary evangelization in those parts of the country that are yet to be evangelized. Though their efforts so far are to be commended, more still must be done.[41] Religious institutes play a major role in the evangelization of the world. But according to the Second Vatican Council, they:

Should ask themselves sincerely in the presence of God, whether they could not be able to extend their activity for the expansion of the Kingdom of God among the nations; whether they could not possibly leave certain ministries to others so that they themselves could expend their forces for the missions.[42]

This question is very important for instance in Nigeria where many Religious institutes are almost becoming secular, competing with the secular-diocesan clergy. In fact, some of them simply have no missionary focus or target. It is among them, that true missionaries in the strictest sense of the term are supposed to be born. Considering the number of religious houses in Nigeria today, one wonders whether the missionary work is proportionate to their ever-increasing numerical presence.

Among the other agents of mission in Nigeria, the laity occupies a distinguished place. This is because through them the seed of mission is sown in the family, (the domestic Church) and actively engaged in socio-economic and political life in the civil societies, they act like the leaven of the Good News in the world:

If the mission of the Church is ever to be accomplished in the area of Justice, development and peace, lay Catholics who are competent and enlightened in the noble art of politics should devote themselves to the service of the state and courageously take on the burdens of political life.[43]

The laity are the primary agents in the task of inculturating and evangelizing the moral values of postmodern society. Among the laity a special mission is assigned to the Catechists. If this task is neglected, the Church will become more and more an irrelevant “ghetto Church” and will be isolated from the creative currents of postmodernity.[44] Many lay faithful have hearkened to this clarion call of the Church in Nigeria and are already putting up their best to permeate the polity with the Gospel values. On the contrary those who are not measuring up to expectation need to hear the Synod’s advice:

Many Catholics [Christians] in high office have fallen woefully short in their performance in office. The Synod calls on such people to repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church [Christianity] a bad name.[45]

The problem with all the above agents of mission lies with either the improper formation or the lack of it. Due to this lack, there is proportionate lack of personal conversion on the part of the agents themselves. Pope Paul VI and John Paul unanimously agree that “the evangelizers must first be evangelized themselves.”[46] That is why the proper formation of missionary agents is indispensable if the Church wants to take her mission serious. Some are not even convinced of what they do. This is blamed in part on insufficient catechesis. The great majority of adult Catholics in Nigeria ended their catechesis with the lessons they received while preparing for confirmation either as teenagers or young adults. Thereafter, they have received no further religious education to match their academic or professional education. As a result, they have not been challenged to a personal and mature commitment to Christ and his Gospel. They are simply nominal Christians, even Church goers.[47]

This lack of personal conversion is evident from the fact that though in Nigeria we have many Catholic flocking to the church for liturgical activities and devotional exercises, there is a sharp contrast between their lives within the Church premises and their conduct outside, in their places of work and business and they are prepared to engage in all manner of sharp and corrupt practices that bedevil the Nigerian society even while professing to be good Catholics.[48]

The foregoing excursus has been an attempt to critically examine some of the most serious challenges the Church in Nigeria faces today with respect to her missionary mandate. And somehow ‘possible’ solutions have been proffered to these challenges. What remains now is the positive reception of these on the part of the key players and the respective follow-up actions.


Notes

[1] This work originally formed the Chapter Four of my Memoir titled: “The Challenges of Mission in Nigeria: Fifty Years After Ad Gentes Divinitus” Submitted to the Theology Faculty of Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri as a partial fulfilment for the Award of the Bachelor´s Degree in Theology, June 2014. It is also a development of my previous article titled: “A Critical Assessment of Mission Approach in Nigeria” Published in NACATHS Journal of African Theology, (Vol. 23, March 2013). Now it is here edited.

[2] Cf. T. Bellagamba, “Many and Mission Today” in Africa Christian Studies, (Vol. 5, No. 1, Nairobi, March 1989), p. 30.

[3] M. Warren, “The Missionary Obligation Today” In International Review of Mission, (Vol.39, no.1599), p.118.

[4] Cf. T. Okere, Church, Theology and Society in Africa, (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Pub. Co. Ltd., 2005), pp. 64-69.

[5] Cf. B. Ukwuegbu, Confrontational Evangelization: Foundations, Features and Prospects (Onitsha: Effective Key Pub. Ltd., 1995), pp. 100-119.

[6] Cf. J. Ukpong, “Proclaiming the Kingdom of God in Africa Today” in J. Ukpong (ed) Proclaiming the Kingdom: Essays in Contextual New Testament Studies (Port Harcourt: CIWA Publications, 1993), pp. 154-157.

[7] Cf. A. Vasumu et al, “Mission and Discipleship: A Call for Self-emptying” In NACATHS Journal of African Theology (Vol. 22, March 2012), pp. 68-70.

[8] Cf. CBCN, Op. cit, The Church in Nigeria: Call to Mission, pp. 13-16.

[9] Cf. CBCN, “Salt of the Earth and Light of the World”: Manual of the Laity, (Abuja, CSN, 2009), pp. 13-17.

[10] Paul VI, Address to the College of Cardinals, 22 June, 1973.

[11] EN 8.

[12] John Paul II, Address to Nigerian Bishops, Lagos, 15 February, 1982.

[13] Cf. J. Ajayi, Christian Missions in Nigeria 1847-1891: The making of a new Elite, (Harlow, 1981), pp.14-15; C. Obi (ed), A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, (Onitsha: Africana Pub., 1990), p. 29ff; E. Ayandele, Nigerian Historical Studies, (London: Frank, 1971), p.159ff; B. Okike, The Need for Mission Throug Inculturation and Dialogue, (Rome: Gregorian Press, 1995), pp. 1-4; V. Umoh, “A Critical Assessment of Mission Approach in Nigeria” In NACATHS Journal of African Theology, (Vol. 23, March 2013), p. 100ff.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] C. Obi, (ed.), A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, (Onitsha: Africana Pub., 1990), p. 29.

[17] Cf. CBCN, The Church in Nigeria: Call to Mission, 2011; N. Omenka, (ed.), The Church in Nigeria: Studies on the Religious and Socio-Cultural Challenges (Enugu: Snaap Press, 2003); CBCN, The Church in Nigeria: Family of God on Mission, 2004; C. Njoku, & M. Ezeh (eds.), History of the Catholic Church in Owerri Ecclesiastical Province (1912-2012), (Owerri: Assumpta Press, 2012), etc.

[18] In some place these are also called Basic Christian communities.

[19] Initiated and Facilitated by His Eminence Dominic Cardinal Ekandem of blessed memory.

[20] Cf. S. Okanumee, “Formation of Ecclesial Basic Communities: Implications for Evangelization in Nigeria” in NACATHS Journal of African Theology, (Vol. 22, March 2012), pp. 13-15.

[21] Cf. CBCN, Growing a New Nigeria, Joint Pastoral Letter on the 50th Anniversary of Nigeria’s Political independence (13th March, 2011).

[22] CBCN, The Word of God and the Building of the Nigerian Nation, (Abuja: Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria), 10.

[23] This Synod was held in the Vatican from 4th to 25th October 2009 with the topic: The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the World” (Mt 5:13, 14); Benedict XVI, “Message of the Second African Synod” (Vatican City, 25th October, 2009). Words in brackets are mine.

[24] Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (March 26 1967), 76.

[25] CBCN, Promoting Authentic Development, A Communiqué issued at the End of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the Bishop Anthony Nwedo Pastoral Centre, Umuahia, Abia State, 8th – 14th September, 2012, 4.

[26] Between February and April 2018, owing to the recent events of killings in some parts of Nigeria especially in Benue and Southern Kaduna which is a result of the failure of governance and the security agencies in the country, the CBCN had sent delegates to the Presidency who united with one voice made strong statements against bad governance and expressed the feelings of the poor masses to the President. This is one of such instances where the Church has made her missionary commitment felt in Nigeria with regards to human promotion.

[27] In times of serious crises like inter-communal violence, killings and natural disaster where many lives are lost and many persons either injured or displaced, The Church often make obligatory collections from the different parishes and the dioceses to ameliorate the sufferings of these brothers in need.

[28] Communiqué at the End of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre Lugbe, Abuja, February 25 – March 2, 2012, 9.

[29]H. Ochulor, The Function of Dialogue in the Process of Evangelization (Owerri: Edu-Edy Publication, 2004), p.114.

[30] Cf. K. Enang, The Nigerian Catholics and the Independent Churches, (Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 2012).

[31] Cf. D. Udoette, Christianity in Nigeria: Trends and Interpretations, (Uyo: Alcollins Printers Nig., 2012), pp. 149-159.

[32] Ibid., p. 160. See also D. Ukpong, Nigerian Pentecostalism: Case, Diagnosis and Prescription (Uyo, Fruities’ Publications, 2008). For him all the positive impacts of Pentecostalism which range from the use of the Holy Bible, Music, Spirituality and Prayer, Preaching, Proclamation, Teaching, Worship, Lay participation, use of Mass Media, ecclesial consciousness, church support, devotional practices Aesthetics of Religious Ambience are a real challenge to the Church in Nigeria.

[33] Cf. A. Asiegbu, A Crisis of Faith and a Quest for Spirituality (Enugu, Pearl functions, 2000), p. 12.

[34] Gbola Subair, “BOKO HARAM’S FUNDING TRACED TO UK, SAUDI ARABIA” in Nigerian Tribune, Monday February 13, 2012 Headline reports. Maryam Uwais, the Special Advisor to the President on Social Protection says about 67% of Nigerian population live below poverty line as reported by Vanguard News in February 2018.

[35] CBCN, The Church in Nigeria: Call to Mission, p. 23.

[36] Synod of Bishops, Iustitia in Mundo, Justice in the World (November 30, 1971), 6.

[37] In 2014, a symposium was held in the Seat of Wisdom Seminary Auditorium, Owerri, organized by the Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri, this question was posed: Is a Nigerian Daily Catholic Newspaper possible? And one could also ask, is a Nigerian Catholic TV possible?

[38] However, it must be recognized that today, more than ever there is a wake-up action by many cooperate individuals, parishes and dioceses and so one can point out clearly to one or two examples of the Church´s effort. The Catholic Television of Nigeria (CTV) Abuja and the Lumen Christi TV Lagos stand as archetypes and testimonies of these efforts today. More are being expected in the years ahead.

[39] General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for Africa, Lineamenta (Vatican City, 1990), 91.

[40] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus (19 November, 2011), 145.

[41] For instance, they work in many dioceses in the Northern part of the country that are yet to receive the gospel, they provide services in those dioceses where the indigenous clergy and religious are either lacking or insufficient.

[42] AG 40

[43] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 75, see also CBCN, “Salt of the Earth and Light of the World” (cf.Matthew 5:13-16): Manual of the Laity, 2009, 140.

[44] A. Echema, Priests and Laity Collaboration in the Postmodern Church (Owerri, Assumpta Press, 2011), p. 164

[45] Synod of Bishops, Second Special Assembly on Africa, Message 23, (Vatican City, 2009). Brackets mine

[46] EN 15; RM 49

[47] Cf. CBCN, The Church in Nigeria: Call to Mission, p. 15.

[48] Ibid., pp. 14-15.
© Valentine Anthony Umoh 2018

Universidad de Navarra
Facultad de Teología
vumoh@alumni.unav.es
vatexs86@gmail.com