Bishops of Ibadan province pay solidarity visit to Borno IDPs camps
• Donate bags of rice, beans, maize, and N5.5m
In our Christian journey, what matters most is showing love and concern to those in need, especially those experiencing persecution. One can easily tell the pains of a child who has lost touch with his mother for years. The expression on the face of such child is that of gloom. This explains the mood of the faithful of Maiduguri diocese, its bishop, priests and worshippers, until June 21, 2016, when the Diocese played host to Bishops of Ibadan Province.
The arrival of the Archbishop, Bishop and Priests of Ibadan Archdiocese led by His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Leke Abegunrin, Archbishop of Ibadan and Apostolic Administrator of Osogbo Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel A. Badejo, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Very Rev. Fr. Michael Okodua, Vicar general of Osogbo Diocese and Rev. Fr. Martin De Cross C.M.F lightened the people’s mood. And hope was restored at this show of brotherly love.
The visit was not to only say “sorry,” but the Church Fathers took time to pray for the people of the Suffering Church in Maiduguri. It began with the celebration of the Holy Mass, presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Leke Abegunrin, the Archbishop of Ibadan.
In his remark, Abegunrin expressed delight at being at the Maiduguri diocese, which is globally termed The Suffering Church because of the activities of Boko Haram insurgents. He encouraged the people never to relent, noting that despite the challenges, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Badejo of Oyo Diocese, who gave the homily, thanked the faithful for their steadfastness and courage even in the face of persecution. He also commended the Bishop of Maiduguri for his patience in the midst of overwhelming challenges. Underlining the importance of his message, the Bishop quoted: “In the world, you will have trouble, but be courageous for I have conquered the world,” (John 16:33).
He observed that the world is troubled by aggression, bloodshed, violence, selfishness and all sorts of greed and disrespect for human life. “And we have two choices to make: either to run over, live in despair and die or to continue to believe in the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ, Who experienced suffering, marginalisation, deprivation and death, but still emerged victorious, which he said, remind all of Christ’s saying that “if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up the cross and follow me”. And Jesus made it more personal by saying, “anyone who loves his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for my sake will have life everlasting.” He further said it is not as if the reality of this message is easy for human beings, but it becomes easier seeing the congregation and the joy that accompanies the liturgy.
Said he: “God’s grace has no boundary. It reigns in every quarter, whether amongst Christians or Muslims. It is our duty as Christians to be the evidence and witness of His cross. It is true that some people carry smaller crosses, while the people of Maiduguri obviously carry bigger crosses, which is a source of blessing and encouragement to other people”.
The bishop urged the people to persevere like the saints, especially those that have lost their lives for faith. “It is only by doing so that the gospel will reach the ends of earth. More so, some of us may never have to die for our faith, but die to selfishness, vengeance, greed and all those things that draw us far from God and our neighbours,” he said.
Very Rev. Fr. Donatus Tizhe, Vicar Administration of Maiduguri Diocese, who welcomed the prelates and priests on behalf of the bishop, priests and the entire people of Maiduguri diocese, said this unique solidarity ‘has created an indelible mark in our hearts. It is this type of visit that gives the church more meaning and strength.’
Most Rev. Dr. Oliver Dashe Doeme, Local Ordinary of Maiduguri, expressed his joy thus: “Indeed, Maiduguri is today regarded as the deadliest place to be in Nigeria, but despite this, the bishops and priests spared time to come and share our painful experiences, as well as encourage us on our Christian journey.” He assured the congregation that victory has already been won.
This demonstration of love and solidarity didn’t only end in the church, however, but was also extended to the Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) in Wulari, the CAN ground and the Catholic camp in Polo within Maiduguri metropolis. Here, the prelates and priests identified with the people that suffered losses in every respect. On arrival, they were welcomed by Bishop Mohammed Naga, the CAN chairman, who said they are always encouraged by such visits. He thanked the Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese for his frequent visits to various camps within Maiduguri. He urged the people to pray for their benefactors and the end of insurgency.
However, the camp chairman lamented government’s failure to provide adequate relief materials. Archbishop Abegurin regretted that the story from the radio, television and other quarters were quite different compared to what he saw at the IDPs camps. He consoled parents that have been denied the opportunity to raise their children. The people of Ibadan Province, Osogbo, Oyo, Ondo, Ilorin and Ibadan Archdiocese were also visited. The Archbishop commended those who tried so hard to alleviate the sufferings of the IDP’s, and called for a universal approach to tackle this problem.
He called on Nigerians of goodwill to rehabilitate every victim of violence in Nigeria. He challenged the media to keep the issues of the underprivileged permanently in the public forum. The Bishops, who came with bags of rice, beans, maize and a sum of N5.5 to support the victims, donated the items through the Diocese of Maiduguri.
• Fr. Gideon Obasogie is the Director of Communications, Maiduguri Diocese