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The Challenges Facing The African Christian Family

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A LECTURE by Fr Dr. Dr. Anthony E ONYEOCHA


In view of the Synod of Bishops, for its upcoming 3rd extraordinary general assembly, which will take place from October 5 to 19, 2014 with the theme “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” I propose this reflection.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony E ONYEOCHA

Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony E ONYEOCHA

Going through the archives of the White Fathers library, (the White Fathers worked here as missionaries) I read this passage underlining the defects in the African Christian families. The said report gives a fair picture of what is happening in our local Churches today. I humbly wish to propose it as our study guide.  At the end of the narration we shall attempt to summarise the message therein that is pertinent to our reflection of today.

“Among all the problems with which our missionary zeal has to deal with, the most urgent and most fundamental seems to be the Christian family. Our duty is to create that atmosphere which will assure in it the practice in all its perfection of the Christian way of life according to the demands of the Gospel.

The problem is this – our Christians do not live the sacrament of Matrimony. They do not understand it and yet it should find its realisation in their daily lives. It is for this reason that their Christian life is lacking in energy and is in danger of not permeating their life as a whole.

Our Christians should transform their milieu, while in reality they are still full of the pagan spirit in the midst of which they live. Let us ask ourselves in all sincerity: what is the state of our Christian families? Let us be frank and acknowledge that the married life of our Christians is not higher than that of people whose marriages have not been raised to the dignity of the Sacrament. Married people have a purely natural view of marriage, seeing in it only the means of satisfying passion and procuring prosperity………”

The document goes on to conclude….

“The above are the reasons why it is urgently necessary to uphold family apostolate, to proclaim aloud the nobility of the Christian family and to go to any length to make the sacrament of matrimony known, loved and desired so that our Christians can live that sacrament and enjoy it as a way of salvation. (End of the quotation, from the Whites Fathers Library)

2. The defects in the African Christian married and family life referred to or implied to in this memorandum are numerous, we select the following..

01. Superstition in the family life of Christians.

02. Pagan environment- today we no longer talk of pagan but of syncretism.

03. The lives of married people are influenced not by Catholic morals but by the traditional environment and the traditional concept of married life.

04. Lack of knowledge among Catholic married people of the deeper meaning of Christian marriage and of Christian family ideal.

To this list we may add the following.

05. Married but not wedded, pregnant brides, domestic violence in Nigeria and obnoxious widowhood practices and maltreatment of young widows.

For the sake of brevity we shall look at these three general ones:

1. SUPERSTITION and OLD HOME TRUTHS

2. The Church and IRREGULAR MARRIAGES

3. OBNOXIOUS WIDOWHOOD PRACTICES AND

MALTREATMENT OF YOUNG WIDOWS.

 

1. SUPERSTITION and OLD HOME TRUTHS

01. Introduction – Syncretism

There is a story to the effect that an elderly man (a regular communicant) was growing very weak and the family feared he would not survive and had to send for the Parish Priest to come and give him the last sacraments. Little did the family know that the sick man had previously asked a village elder to fetch him the witch doctor who stationed himself at the back yard performing his own rituals. As the priest came into and opened the back door of the man’s bedroom to let in some more light and fresh air, he saw the witch doctor. Surprised he asked: My friend, who are you and what are you doing here at this late hour? The sick man spoke out in a feeble voice: Fada, hapu ya, ewele iwe. Ihe esiela ike. Chi nna anyi zomma otu akuku, ma Chineke zoma m nakuku nke ozo. Nke zotaram m ewere. – Father, please leave him alone and do not be annoyed. I am suffering so much and therefore wish to employ the gods of our ancestors to join hands with the Christian God to save my life.

02. The African Christian is a child of two worlds – traditional religion and Christianity. In his soul and spirit he is deeply religious. He is also highly superstitious. Some authors rightly describe him as ”baptised but not converted” and believe that the waters of baptism did not sink deep enough to touch his African soul. He is born in superstition, surrounded by superstition and lives in superstition. His milieu is highly superstitious. Everywhere in the towns and villages there are still traditional religion shrines and altars, sacred trees and forests. His religious observance is immersed with superstitious beliefs. He takes traditional titles and even sues opponents to juju courts. He is syncretistic. An African poet rightly expresses it this way:

Oh! Unhappy African Christian,

Mass in the morning,

Witch doctor in the evening,

Amulet in the pocket,

Scapular around the neck!

03. The African family is the main refuge of superstition. In it are numerous superstitions sometimes difficult to define – the practice of polygamy, open concubinage or secret infidelities in married life, female husbands, animosities and strife between couples and neighbours as a result of clan interference. There are family superstitions about pre-mature deaths and their burial ceremonies, about dying at old age and its burial ceremony(will the legs point to the North or to the South, toward the house or the road), when to bury (on what market day and before noon or at night) and where to bury (in the family environment or in a bad bush), befitting burials(with a heavy feasting and a family uniform) (shall a dog for the eye be slaughtered and a ram for the heart?), the cult of ancestors and re-incarnation, authority and the oldest male in the family(carrying the family ofor), selecting a wife (marrying – is she a freeborn or not?), the holy and evil days of the Igbo week, woman and womanhood (– their taboos and the inferior status given to the African woman), infertility and the fruit of the womb, preference given to the male child, circumcision and female genital mutilations (FGMs) and above all, the cruel widowhood rituals and practices.

04. All these are inseparably tied up with the old “home” truths and customs which make up the family soul. Here the African Christian is born and bred. Here he lives and operates. He is a child of his environment.

05. Today how many Christian families are asking for family Liberation Prayers from Pentecostal Pastors and from “Holy Ghost Fire” Catholic Priests? These reverends though come in the name of Christianity do many queer things – some do exactly the work of witch doctors.  Some are fortune tellers or diviners and come to liberate their clients from the family superstition which manifests itself in the following ways:

 


Fr Dr. Dr. Anthony Ekendu Onyeocha
(0803-560-3859)

 

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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