Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua*
On Monday April 14, 2014, many people got up from bed very early in the morning, prayed, had breakfast and prepared for work. They proceeded to begin their various business of the day. They did not want to go late to work so they were at the Nyanya park early enough to catch a bus to their different places of work. Some drove in their private cars without a clue that they will never again see their offices and places of work. They would have been beaming with hope, one could imagine! Perhaps they expected good news for the day. For Christians, the day before was Palm Sunday, so they were filled with joyful anticipation of the Holy Week, which marks the beginning of the Easter celebrations after celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven” (Matthew 21, 9)! All these innocent souls did not know that after the Palm Sunday of 13th April 2014, they would not sing that song on earth again. They did not know that while they were singing “Hosanna”, those who have refused the light and chosen darkness had concluded their plans to send them to the life beyond akin to that of those who shouted “crucify him, away with him” in the trial of Jesus of Nazareth. They celebrated the Good Friday on a Monday with their blood! May Christ receive them into his Kingdom!
I watched the Palm Sunday events from different Churches on the television. At intervals the media also reported the words of encouragements from the Sultan of Sokoto and the Vice President of Nigeria. The Sultan confidently told Nigerians that those who say that there is an attempt to Islamize Nigeria are enemies of Nigeria. The Vice President announced that the criminals who are using religion to terrorise Nigeria and Nigerians would soon be brought to book. I wonder how they would be feeling now about the ugly tragedy of the Monday, April 14, 2014. Now that the killers have moved to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with different planks marked, “Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5” discovered at the scene of the bomb blast in Nyanya, what next will the Elders State Men and Women do to stop them from executing he remaining days?
Women came out to protest against those who planted and detonated the bombs. The tears of these women like drizzling rain could not be stopped, not even by the visit of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Who will replenish the tear glands that have been exhausted with weeping over the death of these innocent Nigerians? Each time there is explosion, the people hear from the Government, what has become the mantra: “we are on top of the situation!” Then the terrorists respond with another worse terrorist act. When shall we get down “from the top of the situation” to the bottom and put a final stop to the scourge and carnage of these terrorist acts? Where do we go from here? Perhaps our government needs to let the people know.
If something is stolen in a room where five people are living, each person in that room remain a suspect until the real thief is found. Until the day Nigerians will know who these terrorists and their sponsors are, accusing fingers will continue to point at different persons and institutions. Until we know the real terrorists, the argument that “Boko Haram” has killed more Muslims, Christians, Pagans or atheists would remain a verbose gibberish. One of the commentators on the Nyanya bomb blast of Monday April 14, 2014 in AIT and NTA said, “It has become normal to see figures of dead people in the front pages of our newspapers during terrorist attacks, no body talks about the personalities anymore”. The identity of the innocent human beings who are being killed in the name of a “god” of “terrorists” matters no more. This blood sucking “god” is very wicked and must be stopped.
I remember what my uncle used to say to us when we were growing up. “Should any of you turn a criminal, he should stop using the family name! It is better you die than to spoil the good name of our family!” Later in life, that the Church excommunicates heretics who would not return to the true teaching of the Church would make sense to me. People are really tired of the definition of the religious identity of these terrorist. A Muslim told me sometime ago that he was in a place with a group of people; he discovered all of a sudden that every body left him. Perhaps they were afraid of him because he wore a long beard. He continued, “I am just thinking that the Muslim community should really take action against these terrorists before they spoil the name of Islam. We say they are not Muslims, yet they insist that they are. It is time for us to have a retrospect and see if we can identify where and when we got it wrong.” He was troubled and wondered why the terrorists claimed to be Muslims who are fighting a jihad whereas what they are doing is far from the teaching of Islam. He felt very sad, but with a kind of optimism that there is a lot the good and orthodox Muslims can do to save the name of Islam from “these bad Muslims”. We must work together as concerned Nigerians to stop this carnage. How are we even sure that these Nyanya terrorists are the real Boko Haram?
The attack on holy places at holy seasons appears to be a trade mark for the terrorists. The Holy Week is the most sacred week for Christians. It is a period when all the Christians pray to God. Jesus Christ reveals God as love, merciful and full of compassion. The Holy Week is a period Christians celebrate the God of Mercy. What makes the Holy Week sacred? The Holy Week is Sacred because the passion of the Redeemer is re-enacted. Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns, bore the weight of the heavy cross, crucified and died on the cross on Good Friday; and on Eastern Sunday we celebrate the victory over death as we witness and proclaim, “Jesus is risen indeed, alleluia”! This is our faith, the faith of every Christian. Without the passion, death and resurrection, there is no Christianity. May the fact that death is the lot of all and eternal life for those who have faith in God be a consolation to all who mourn their loved ones in this Holy season. Even in our tears we believe the words of Jesus our Saviour: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5, 4).
Consoling another who is bereaved May be easy but when we are bereaved, the pain of the cross becomes obvious. However, we should remember that the Cross is not an end in itself. Every cross that is accepted in faith leads to glory even though the cross does not make sense to some people. St. Paul told the Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1, 18). In 1979, Pope John Paul II published a book, (Carol Wotyla, Sign of Contradiction, Seabury Press, 1979) to show the mystery of Jesus Christ who died to save us. The cross looks like a contradiction but it is the way that leads to true peace. The life and message of Jesus Christ shows the power of God that is demonstrated in the resurrection (Romans 1, 20). Jesus came that we might have abundant life (John 10, 10). He raised Lazarus (John11, 1-43) and the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7, 11-16) to show that he has the answer to every life situation. Do these reflections mean that we should continue to be slaughtered on a daily basis? Where do we go from here? The point for all believers, especially Christians in this Holy Week is that we should not allow these enemies of human life to prevent us from celebrating the resurrection. This is our Easter! Let nothing separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8, 36). Happy Easter!
*Fr. Prof. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja and Consultor of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (C.R.R.M), Vatican City email@example.com).