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Easter: Look at sufferings of humanity through eyes of children, Pope charges leaders

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja), Timothy Agbor (Osogbo), Adelowo Adebumiti (Lagos), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Odun Edward (Ilorin), Monday Osayande (Asaba), Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos), Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure) and Ayoyinka Jegede (Uyo)
03 April 2021   |   4:15 am
Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, has called on faithful to look at the sufferings of humanity through the eyes of children by entrusting them this year with the meditations for the Way of the Cross.

Members of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Oke Ado, Ibadan, Oyo State re-enacting The Passion of Christ to mark Good Friday …yesterday. PHOTO: NAJEEM RAHEEM

• CAN Sues For Peace • PFN Urges Christians To Be Law Abiding • Shun Violence, Show More Love, Catholic Bishop Tells Nigerians • We Must Not Jeopardise Nigeria’s Unity- Martins • Clerics, Laity Upbeat In Imo
• High Cost Of Goods, Insecurity Mar Celebration In Kwara
• Emir Of Zaria Tasks Nigerians On Security, COVID-19

Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, has called on faithful to look at the sufferings of humanity through the eyes of children by entrusting them this year with the meditations for the Way of the Cross. 

Speaking at a briefing telecasted worldwide during the Good Friday morning meeting in the Sala Marconi of Palazzo Pio, home of Vatican News and Vatican Radio and hosted by the International Relations Office of Vatican Media, the Pope also charged them to consider more deeply, their perspective of the world today, especially in this tragic time of the pandemic.

For many Christians in Nigeria, this year’s Easter celebration is better than last year. At least, they can congregate to worship, unlike last year when the COVID-19 lockdown made such impossible.

Although the celebration was devoid of the usual elaborate street processions for Palm Sunday and the long walk across church premises for the Good Friday Stations of the Cross for the Catholics due to the pandemic, the Bishop of Osogbo Diocese, Most Rev John Oyejola, said these vital parts of liturgical events that were missed last year held this year, in line with COVID-19 protocols.

Oyejola, while addressing parishioners of St Benedict Catholic Cathedral, Osogbo, yesterday, asked Christians to be hopeful that joyous and better Easter celebration is ahead, adding: “You all know that we are not able to gather last year due to the lockdown ordered to tackle COVID-19, but here we are gathered in the house of the Lord. We should be grateful to God that we are still alive to celebrate this special Easter Holy Week together.

“I want to urge us not to relent in praying for the wellness of Nigeria, because it is when the nation is in peace and harmony that we can celebrate.”

Some Christians expressed happiness that they were able to gather in their various churches for Easter events, unlike year.
Isaiah Dada of Christ Apostolic Church, Oke-Opo, Ilesa, said aside the church gathering, children would be able to visit homes of loved ones and relatives.

At St. John Anglican Communion, Osogbo, Blessing Ajayi was happy that many Christians would be able to travel this year for the celebration.

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Samson Ayokunle, urged Nigerians to live in peace and harmony and do their best to touch the lives of others positively.  

In his Easter massage yesterday in Abuja, Ayokunle noted that in spite of insecurity, social and economic challenges in the country, Nigerians should not be disillusioned, but rather exercise patience, assuring that God who rolled away the stone from the grave shall roll away insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen’s attacks, ritual killing, armed robbery, unemployment and other challenges facing the country.  

He said: “I urge all the children of God to rejoice in hope. We must not be disillusioned, as the disciples were when Jesus was arrested, crucified and buried. This is the time for us to exercise patience in tribulations and to continue instant in prayer.

“With hope in God, who can never fail his children, with patience and continuous prayers, a glorious morning of resurrection would come. 

“I rejoice with all Christians all over Nigeria and the world at large for the grace God has given to us to celebrate the Easter of this year. We thank the Lord that we are not under complete lockdown this year, as it was last year.”

Considering the precarious and tense situation in the country, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) urged Christians to be law abiding and live in peace with others as true followers of Jesus Christ.

Its President, Bishop Wale Oke, said, yesterday, in Ibadan: “Christians in the country must continue to be law abiding all the time. Violence will always produce negative effects, but as Christians, we must learn to show love instead of hatred. It is through love that we can conquer the world. Love is the most powerful tool for us to evangelise.”

He said it is important for Christians to live in peace with others as true followers of Jesus Christ, adding: “The essence of Easter celebration will be meaningful if we truly love one another. Our Lord Jesus Christ died and resurrected for you and I to gain eternity.

“All perpetrators of evil in our country should repent before it is too late. Jesus does not want any sinner to perish in their sins.”

Oke expressed worries over the spate of kidnappings and wanton killings in the country, urging the Federal Government to take decisive action.

“It has become imperative for the government to direct its arsenal toward stemming the increasing cases of killings, raping, kidnappings and insurgency, among others, in the country.

“The Federal Government should evolve a security mechanism that will further ensure the protection of lives and property of Nigerians, particularly Christians in the northern part of the country,” he said.

In Ibadan, the Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo, urged Nigerians to shun all forms of violence and obey God by loving one another, irrespective of religion or tribe.

Badejo said: “Love demands that we work for justice and fairness to all. It was out of love that God gave His only son to die for us, we are of nothing without love.”

He urged leaders across the world, those in government, religious leaders, traditional, family, business and economic leaders to join hands to work for a better world, as Jesus did, and to make sacrifice for their people, as Jesus laid down his life in total selflessness.

“On Good Friday, we must remember Jesus’ call to us to carry our Cross and follow him. It is the only thing Jesus asks us to carry as his disciples; he did not ask us to carry our wealth, degrees, titles or position, but the Cross. The significance of this fact must not be lost on us; there is a reward for it.

“The blood that Jesus shed on Calvary will never lose its power. Christians are enjoined to hold firmly to the Cross with faith and trust in God. While doing good to all, the cross we carry shall end with the joy of Easter.

“Also, Good Friday condemns the current ‘dog eat dog’ situation of wars, conflict, violence and bloodshed all over the world.”

“We must sit down and realise that we are of the same stock, children of one God and live accordingly. Every life that is snuffed out, every child that is killed is a defeat for humanity.

“Let us work together for peace justice and let love return to experience again one world and one humanity,” he said. The Supervising Priest of Wuse Archdeaconry and Vicar, All Saints Anglican Church, Wuse, Ven. Earnest Onuoha, expressed happiness that the church would be coming together this year to celebrate Easter in high spirit, saying though the world is yet to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19, the church is grateful to God for surviving the pandemic.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday in Abuja, the cleric noted that although people celebrated in their homes last year, they really missed the fellowship, worship and prayers that used to feature at such celebrations to keep their hope alive in Christ.

“We thank God this time around with the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, even though the protocols are kept alive. If Christ has not risen, our celebration and gatherings would have been in vain. Yet, the church is happy coming together, at least this year, to celebrate it in high spirit. This is why Christians say unashamedly today, ‘Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.”

Onuoha said this year’s celebration is timely, as people have suffered enough unemployment, youth restiveness, hunger, bad roads and epileptic power supply, while the frustration in the land led to some people committing suicide.

He noted that the problem of incessant herdsmen attacks, incidence of rape and banditry call for prayers and through Easter celebration, the church is certain that the power that brought Jesus back from the dead can heal our land and give people hope once again.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, charged Nigerians from all walks of life to unite and work assiduously to build a peaceful and united country, particularly at this period of growing insecurity, fear and anxiety in the land.

In a release by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, Martins also advised the country’s leadership at all levels to be more proactive and sincere in tackling numerous challenges bedeviling the country, such as insecurity, corruption, economic woes, ethnic agitations, worsening unemployment, amongst several others.

He warned that failure to urgently address these problems is capable of plunging the entire country on the path of disintegration.

While congratulating Christians and all Nigerians on the successful completion of the 40-day Lenten season, Martins urged them to allow the spiritual gains of the season to continue to take effect in their daily lives.

He stressed the need for all Nigerians to continue to live in true brotherhood, which can only be reinforced when there is love, mutual respect and tolerance, care for human life and promotion of justice for all of God’s children, as taught by Jesus Christ and as he demonstrated in his life in this world.

Martins expressed dismay over failure of those in government to address the grave level of discontent across the land and inability of security agencies to nip the activities of criminals in the bud and identify their sponsors in order to deal with insecurity, warning that these could herald a deadlier wave of disaffection than that of the EndSARS protest.

“These are indeed challenging times and we cannot and should not remain complacent to the demands of the times. All of us, the leadership and the followership, have a date with destiny; to build a country we all can be proud of.

“Our leaders need to work more assiduously towards offering good governance for which they were elected in the first instance. They must show more sincerity and resilience in their fight against insecurity and provide the enabling environment for all hardworking and progressive minded citizens to profit from their honest hard work without any form of harassment or intimidation.

“All criminals, be they bandits, kidnappers or herdsmen, must be made to face the law; there should be no selective justice. A situation whereby only a few privileged Nigerians close to those in authority seem to be enjoying all the goodies at the expense of the majority does not augur well for our collective wellbeing.

“No individual or ethnic group should be above the law or made to feel superior or more privileged than others. There should be equity and justice for all. After all, the country belongs to all of us,” he said.

Martins called on Nigerians to actively seek to hold their elected public officers accountable for good governance within the provision of the rule of law, saying they must put pressure on the Federal Government to deal with situations that have led non-state actors into taking the security of their communities in their hands, thereby fueling ethnic tensions and the resultant problems.

“It must be difficult for them to stand by and watch people being killed, farmlands and other properties being ruined, while those who have due authority seem to be unable to deal with the criminals,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, clerics, laity and Christian faithful in Imo State were happy to celebrate Easter with less restriction, despite economic downturn.

The Charismatic Renewal Ministries, St. James Anglican Church, Uzii and Cathedral of Transfiguration of Our Lord (CATOL), all in Owerri metropolis, were in festive mood, with congregants preparing for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

General Overseer of the Charismatic Renewal Ministries, Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, expressed joy that the pandemic was easing, noting: “We thank God that we are alive to witness this year’s Easter celebrations.”

Escalated prices of essential commodities and sudden rise in crime rates are making the celebrations low-key in Kwara State.
In Offa, Lafiagi and Omu Aran, prices of grains, such as, rice, beans and millets have doubled, just as the costs of beef, poultry products and tubers of yams tripped, with the cost of palm oil dropping by 50 per cent rate.

The smoldering rift over the usage of hijab in Christian mission schools probably led to the non-observance of the yearly Palm Sunday procession along major streets by Christian faithful in Ilorin, while sudden rise in kidnap cases in the last two weeks has made many Christian faithful to have put in abeyance, Easter retreats and picnics.

Spokesman for the state CAN, Sina Ibiyemi, said though the celebration may be low-key socially, “but spiritually, it remains a major plank on which Christianity stands.”

Bishop Justus Mogekwu of the Anglican Diocese of Asaba said: “Christians are always prepared for the Easter celebration, because it is a yearly events ordained by God.

“Easter is something that has been planned, God ordained it that Christ will come and die for the sins of man. So, we are prepared to celebrate it, to remind us this of the great price he had to pay. Though it was painful experience, but we are rejoicing because it signifies redemption of mankind.”

He added: “This year, social activities are going to take place, unlike last year that was more sober, but that does not mean Easter was not celebrated.

“But we thank God for giving us the opportunity to celebrate more openly this year for greater freedom, with a promise not to take due advantage of it to do anything outside God’s will. We are going to show more love, to live in peace and unity,” he added.

For Apostle V.E.O. Sorokwu of Dominion Gospel Outreach Ministry, Asaba: “COVID-19 cannot stop the celebration of Christ. Yes, many people were in door last year, but you discovered that the Internet has made the world a global village, as people celebrated it with phone, online and other means. 

“This year, COVID-19 has subsided, we will take the opportunity to gather people in worship mood and preach Christ to them. We are also going to reach out to the widow, prison, hospital and the vulnerable.”

A member of the Church of Christ In Nation (COCIN), Joshua Dachom, said there is nothing to celebrate in Easter, as it is not a period for merry-making, but a moment for sober reflection.

He is happy that there would be congregation in churches to pray for the occasion tomorrow, which was missed last year. The head of ECWA, Rev. Stephen Baka Panya, stated: “We in ECWA shall continue to make requests, prayers, intercession with thanksgiving for everyone, including the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government and all those in authorities that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

“We sincerely pray that the Nigerian government will do its part and live up to its responsibilities.” Residents of Ondo State are taking full opportunity of the season to make up with the paschal period this year and celebrate the passion of Christ.

Some social event centres and amusement parks were lit up with series of activities lined up to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, despite the prevalent economic crunch and pandemic.

Founder of the Perfected Church of God, Apostle Paul Omolebi Enimola, said the celebration last year was one of the most trying times for Christians around the world, as the people missed the real essence of Christ.

Enimola, who is fondly called Apostle White by his congregation due to his love for white attires, lamenting that the lockdown period did not avail Christians the opportunity to fellowship and gather to share the passion of Christ.

He noted that the church is using the celebration to intensify preaching of the gospel, fellowship and sharing the passion of Christ amongst brethren, urging Christians to use the season to preach love, repentance and second coming of the Lord.

The National Publicity Secretary of PFN and General Overseer of Christian Center Chapel International (CCCI), Bishop Emmah Gospel Isong, called for peace in the nation, saying Jesus Christ is the prince of peace and President Muhammadu Buhari to eradicate insecurity.

On his part, Pastor in charge of Insight Bible Church and immediate past PFN state chairman, Pastor Sylvanus Ukafia, charged the Federal Government to fight bandits terrorising the country and killing innocent people with equity, justice and fairness, saying there should be no sectionalism the fight against banditry.

Ukafia said the church was happy to celebrate this year, urging Christians to sacrifice for one another, following the example of Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, the Emir of Zaria, Alhaji Ahmad Bamalli, has urged Nigerians to imbibe the teachings of Jesus Christ on love and sacrifice, calling for more security consciousness and observance of all COVID-19 prevention protocols by citizens.

The emir, who made the call yesterday, said in festive periods like this, the emirate always preached to people to be law abiding, respect the laws of the land and be security conscious, stressing that “this is a trying period. Some miscreants always take advantage of the period to do their nefarious activities.

“We always call on people to be more vigilante, watchful and report any suspicious movement to the nearest authority.”
Bamalli wished Christians a happy Easter celebration, calling on the people to use the period to pray for the development of the country.