How was the New Year Celebration too?  Same answer, I guess.

Not surprising, since we are a people capable of finding joy even in the most harrowing of circumstances. Good thing or bad thing? I am not sure.  Spiritually, it might be a good thing to embrace all that life throws at us. But then, isn’t life about striving for improvement while making living worthwhile and more convenient? Let’s go straight to the point; how could we have had a Merry Christmas on 25 December 2017and shouting a Happy New Year on 1 January 2018. 

I agree with President Buhari when he says that “Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy’’. But for a different reason other than fuel shortage and nonpayment of salaries, neither of which is new.

Those are not joyous occurrences, but they are not as painful as the fact that six persons forcefully removed from a Catholic religious formation house spent Christmas and the advent of the year 2018 in captivity. As we exchanged greetings of a ‘Happy New Year” they were celebrating their fiftieth day in the hands of their captors. Seven days earlier, they were not singing Noel in the sanctuary of the Lord as they had done years and years before; instead, the wicked that hold them in captivity reduced them to singing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

The six; three nuns and three aspirants were kidnapped from a Convent of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus in Iguoriakhi, Edo State on 13 November 2017. The kidnapped were then taken away in speed boats to a destination yet unknown.By other accounts, Ovia South-West Local Government of Edo State, where lies Iguoriakhi had been a theatre of frequent operations of the men of the underworld who freely engage policemen in bloody battles. In a way, the victims and their colleagues were actually living in a dangerous area. They did so not because they cared less for their own lives, but because they cared more for the lives they serve. No greater love ….

Innocent persons who spurned all worldly attractions to dedicate their lives to the service of God by tending to the weakest among us have themselves been turned into victims of the tyranny of greed. They are the latest, not the first victims of an orgy of parasitic opportunism feasting on the decay of our institutions, holding us captive in a milieu where practically no one is made to account for his deeds, where law abiding citizens watch helplessly, but knowingly, as the wicked flaunt ill-gotten resources, and dubious accolades. Some of them even occupy the seats of honour in some houses of a patient God.

Our sympathy should go to the many clergy and religious groups whose members have been targets of kidnappings, some of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice such as the Vicar-General of Oturkpo Diocese; to their various religious houses, many of which have become endangered zones; to the families of victimized Priests and Religious, many who were fleeced for ransoms untold; to our Bishops who have to manage these threats while shepherding their flocks and contributing to the peace and wellbeing of society at large. Theirs is a heavy burden.

The reactions of various organs of the Church to this case have been nothing less than appropriate. On Sunday 3 December 2017, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Benin City, Nuns from all over Edo State were joined by others in a special prayer session which included Mass and Benediction for the safe return of their colleagues. Since then, special prayers have not ceased. The Catholic Bishops conference of Nigeria, CBCN, has taken the lead in prayerful supplication. They have done more, reaching out to everyone and everywhere that they ought to. Their appeal of 15 December 2017 is reflective, deep, and touching.  May their efforts be blessed with success.

Not even the Pope has remained silent. On 17 December 2017 the Holy Father turned 81. Amidst the joys, gratitude and well wishes of the day, Pope Francis did not forget the six kidnapped nuns. His words reflected his concern; “From the heart, I unite myself to the appeal of the bishops of Nigeria for the liberation of the six Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, kidnapped roughly a month ago from the convent in Iguoriakhi,” The Holy Father capped his appeal with the hope that the nuns would be home for Christmas. 

Well, the kidnappers have other thoughts as the nuns did not return to their convent. Not for Christmas, not even for New Year. Our collective pain has carried on into 2018. It has been 50 days of hell for us all.  The Church is under attack; Sister Biola Victoria told us so six months ago when she said in reaction to the kidnapping of a nun in Kogi State that “Any evil attack on one of us, especially on our ordained servants of God, is an attack on the Church”

The wicked knows, and the innocent knows, that the verdict of God is certain. But they also know that God is patient, sometimes frustratingly so. That is why He is God.


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