Abuja — A one-week program marking Sierra Leone's 50th anniversary of independence commenced on Sunday May 1 in Lagos, the commercial capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with prayers for the country, its president, government and people at the Anglican Church on the Peninsular, Penhall, Victoria Garden City, Lagos.
The choral matins service, which was fully attended by Sierra Leoneans from across Lagos and neighbouring states of Osun, Oyo and Ibadan and friends of Sierra Leone, was marked by the singing of several religious choruses and hymns from the ancient and modern new standard hymnal, coupled with the reading of several psalms and offering of prayers to the almighty God.
In his sermon on the topic: "The Empty Tomb" - John 20:29, Luke 24:1-12, Psalm 34:1-10 etc., Rev. Gbade Amao likened the agony of Jesus Christ, when he was scourged, to the war period in Sierra Leone when people were wounded, maimed and killed. He said the mystery which characterised the rolling away of the stone from the frontage of the sepulchre was also similar to the mystery regarding the level of transformation Sierra Leone was presently witnessing. The man of God described the level of growth in Sierra Leone as "unimaginable".
Mr. Amao equated the surprise and disbelief of Thomas the disciple and other unbelievers regarding the rolled stone from the frontage of Jesus's tomb to Sierra Leone, saying, "The end of war signified the end of pain: and by the grace of the almighty God, we have started seeing the turning around of that West African nation".
"I visited Sierra Leone during that dark period; I also visited the country after the conclusion of the war. And as I stand here, I recently visited Sierra Leone and I can testify that every blessed day in Sierra Leone sees development," he added.
In his testimony, Vicar of the Anglican Church on the Peninsular, Anglican Communion, Diocese of Lagos, Reverend Cannon Yinka Akinlade, described President Ernest Bai Koroma as a patient man who was very passionate about his country and people.
"As I stand here, I can testify that things are turning around in Sierra Leone. I saw the President at the National Stadium watching his compatriots in different colours for several hours - since the start to the end of a parade, looking at every individual as they marched. If it were some Heads of State, they will only spend few minutes and leave.
"Apart from my personal prayers, it is my wish for all of us to join President Koroma in prayers to actualize his dream as he pronounced that Sierra Leone will one day become a donor nation," Rev. Akinlade beseeched his congregation.
In his address, Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Nigeria, H.E. Henry O. Macauley, thanked God, Sierra Leoneans in attendance, the Nigerian government and people for the sustained brotherhood, noting that the thanksgiving service was the beginning of a series of planned programs deferred because of the just concluded three weeks conduct of Nigeria's presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial and house of representative elections in the 36 states in addition to the Federal capital territory of Abuja.
The High Commissioner also gave a brief historical background to his personal tie with the Nigerian community and updated the congregation with centuries old historical and political ties binding the two countries.
According to him, Muslim prayers will be held at the Abuja Central Mosque on Friday 6 May immediately after Juma, to be followed by a dinner.
On Saturday May 7, a cross section of the Sierra Leonean community from different parts of Nigeria will converge at the Chancery in Abuja to celebrate 'a Sierra Leonean night'.
Sunday May 8 will climax the occasion with a thanksgiving service at the Abuja Anglican Church.