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It is the wisdom of some sages in ages past that silence plays a significant role in the proclamation of the Word. Today, silence is still very relevant in dialogue. Imagine the result of a conversation of two or more people who are talking at the same time. The divine Word (Logos) existed in silence from the beginning and was made manifest when he took flesh and dwelt among us (John 1). Mary, the mother of Jesus lived in silence and solitude pondering the mystery of the incarnation in her heart. Zechariah was unable to speak for the period Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist who later introduced himself as the voice of one that cries in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus revealed the truth to Pilate in his “dialogue of silence” during his passion. This frightened Pilate to wash his hands to portray that he was innocent of the blood of Jesus.

A bird that makes too much noise cannot make a durable nest. The empty drum makes the loudest noise. Silence can be golden in this era of noise pollution. Our political world is marked with so much noise of laudable manifestoes and unfulfilled promises. Some electronic media mortgage their normal reportage to cover the events of a political rally and convention. Some of our politicians are more fluent in oratory than William Shakespeare and the ancient Athenian Sophists.  These oratories very often are self referential in their contents. The bulk of the words, phrases and sentences are couched in “me, I, myself and mine” thereby presenting themselves to be the nation’s “only” new Moses and Aaron that have the capacity to take the people to the promised land. They claim to have every reason to be voted for in preference to their opponent. Some posters and fliers conspicuously draw attention to their new names such as, “Change”, “Transformation” and “uncommon”. Some have structural developments to show for these names while many have nothing to show. I congratulate some political leaders who have put a smile on the faces of their people by providing roads, electricity and water. I pray God to bless them immensely. May they do more by creating job opportunities so that our unemployed graduates and youths may not get employed in the “kidnapping industry”!

In most of the military coups in Nigeria, the successful soldiers often announced the coming of a new dawn. They were applauded by those who believed in them with high expectations. The soldiers whose coup failed were either executed or jailed for treason. In the present democratic dispensation, some who win elections are welcomed with high hopes and expectations by some people while the enemies relentlessly plan for their failure or elimination. Some who have promised to transform our world spent their tenures only in building personal empires. Invariably, their words to the people are fulfilled only in the campaign microphones and megaphones.

It is natural and normal to expect that religion would enhance a new dawn by calling the believers to solitude and silence so that the leaders among them could ask God for more skills and capacity to make a little sacrifice for others. The desert of the heart is where God waits for those who make themselves available for a divine encounter. Many of our politicians are very religious and depend on God to assist them in their desire to translate their promises into action. I wonder if the perpetual noise from some churches gives this enabling space for them to feel the gentle breeze and hear the voice of God in a still small voice akin to the encounter between God and Prophet Elijah. In some major cities in Nigeria, a church can be sighted in at least every hundred metres apart. Most of these churches put their loud speakers outside for people to hear the Word of God. Very often, there is a high cacophony showcasing sound, which is more of competitive vibrations of some “men of God” who have their churches in opposite or adjacent locations. The screaming and shouting from some loud speakers can be compared to that of the prophets of Baal whom Elijah requested to shout more in case their god had either travelled or asleep and must be commanded to wake up. The call to prayers and the preaching from some mosques are so audible that even if you do not enter a mosque you can hear the message of peace and submission to Allah.

But permit me to ask! To what extent have these echoes from the religious houses changed the life of Nigerians to worship God better and promote a robust human dignity? With all our “religious affluence”, from  where did we import crime, hatred, greed, terrorism, rape, jealousy, vaulting ambition, child abuse, kidnapping and all forms of evil that is ravaging Nigeria? Where did some Nigerians acquire the capacity and courage to abduct some top political and religious leaders for a handsome ransom? Don’t you think that we need a retreat that would take us far into the physical desert and the deserts of our hearts to recapture our real selves and destiny? Perhaps we can give a brief recess to all these noise from the political and religious loud speakers that have not succeeded in melting the hardened hearts of some of our citizens. Would life not be better when the Word is silent? The greatest leaders in the world never campaigned with what they could do. They changed their world without a word. They assumed the air of unworthiness. They accepted roles of leadership after much persuasion from those who have confidence in them. These heroes of administration have no time to waste on verbosity. They manifested their capacities in acts of silence, mortification and solitude. You can know a serious person from the content of his or her being. What the cock uses to attract the hen is a deep personal secret. A good woman does not need many words to attract the man of her dream and a good man does not need words to attract a woman for a wife.

Some great saints and martyrs embraced solitude and silence to address the materialism of the secular world. Some saints like Anthony, Pachomius, Benedict, Basil of Caesarea, Martin of Tours, Benedict of Nursia, and some Egyptian monks withdrew into the desert to do penance and pray for the healing and salvation of the world. Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio were Stigmatists who endured pains in union with the sufferings of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world. Many great political and religious leaders who preferred the comfort and dignity of the people to their personal interest believed that when pain, hunger and all forms of suffering are endured for the sake of the people, the result could be very rewarding in giving joy to the people while not neglecting the fact that this world is not our permanent home. Many world religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Budhism etc., recommend fasting and penance for their followers. Those who are fasting have no time and energy to talk too much. Silence and penance can generate more love, more generosity and more desire to live in peace and harmony. Without silence, our worship can become mere rituals. Jesus calls us to ” be perfect like the heavenly Father who is perfect (Matthew 5, 48). Silence is a cream of perfection that enables a person mean what he or she says. Silence creates the opportunity to consider whether a word can be translated into action. A person who cannot match words with action often looks irresponsible.

Silence is an ascetic discipline which is not an end in itself. The purpose is to love God through his creatures. In silence, the obstacles to love are put under control especially in challenging moments when people are turning against you. The discipline of silence provides a space for politeness and the courage to demonstrate true love in a heroic way like Jesus who proved that “the greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them” (John 15, 13). Life for an honorable person means renunciation of the ego, conversion and a stability of purpose. Thus the power of silence can change the heart of an enemy who would not like to continue a fight with a person who ignores him and strive to be credible. Silence can transform your word into a healing antidote and liberation. Silence is another dynamic way of making enemies look stupid especially when they are perceived to be fighting a humble and harmless person who is making efforts to be humble like Jesus who though was in the form of God, did not count equality with God (Philippians 2).


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 (


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The Data of Forgiveness



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



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



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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