Thursday, 6 March 2014

Lent for Nigeria and Nigerians



Lent for Nigeria and Nigerians
The season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is a forty-day period of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Christians are marked with ashes on their forehead with the words: “Remember, man, you are dust and unto dust shall you return”. This activity serves to draw the attention of man, from the usually overwhelming ups and downs of everyday living, to the purpose for which he was created, which is service to his maker and to fellow humanity and creation for which man shall render account of his stewardship on the last day.
The period of lent is an imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ who, before beginning his public ministry of service and redemption, went into the wilderness, having been baptised by John, to fast and pray so as to prepare himself for the task ahead. During this period Christians are called, as earlier mentioned, to pray more earnestly, to fast and to give alms. While indeed the life of a Christian should be one of prayer in season and out of season, prayer during lent is deliberately emphasised for reflection and meditation on one’s service to God and stewardship to creation. As a Christian, one may need to ask: “of how good a service have I been to my neighbour and to Nigeria?”
Fasting during lent is to, amongst other things, discipline the physical body from pleasures and indulgences. When one fasts from food, for example, one is able to be in solidarity with the many poor people who do not have food to eat and one is able to feel their pain and in so doing, work for a more just and better society, where the dignity of every human being is upheld and put before any other interest. 70% of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line: Nigerians, especially those in positions of authority, are invited during this period of lent to self-denial and to enter into solidarity with the many poverty-stricken others in order to work to give some dignity to their personhood.
The almsgiving emphasised during lent, apart from also meaning the giving out of alms in the literal sense, is a metaphor for charity in its broader sense. Christians are invited to always be of a generous spirit, which is the basic disposition of service. They are invited to work for the good of the other and the society at all times. That can be done in the way and manner they dedicate themselves to their duties in their work places and how they engage in and transact business. The focus must be service to God through humanity, and Nigeria today so badly needs this kind of disposition in order to move forward!
During this year’s forty days of lent, Christians and indeed all people of goodwill are invited to join in prayer so as to examine our commitment to God and humanity and rededicate ourselves to service; to enter into solidarity with the underprivileged so as to work for a better society; and to be people of goodwill and generosity of heart for the sake of neighbour and country.
Of critical attention here are the victims of the terrorism and insurgency now on in Nigeria. In the last few weeks, there is no day that has passed without innocent people being murdered in the most heinous of circumstances. Nigerians, especially persons in positions of authority of whatever kind, must use this opportunity that Lent provides to really examine their roles in the whole equation that has engendered this quandary that we find ourselves in, directly or indirectly, either by commission or omission, by action or inaction. It is pertinent to very specifically call on the President of the Federal Republic, the National Assembly and the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Federation. Nigerians are dying in the hands of mindless and criminal elements; you have been entrusted with the responsibility to protect them. Clearly, there is failure on your side. Whatever has occasioned this failure remains another question. This is an apt period for you in your various individual capacities to examine yourselves in the light of the Lenten tripod of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Do you truly think you have done your best in the light of the prevailing circumstance? Can you go to sleep and truly sleep because you have done what is expected of you with every sense of goodwill and charity? Keep the answers to your respective selves.

(Published, wrongly with the name of Prof Ujo, on BLUEPRINT Newspaper, Thur Mar 6, 2014) 

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