20 February 2013

Nigeria: Lent - Hope in Times of Suffering


Many came out of their churches, last Wednesday, with ash mark on their foreheads. As is the tradition in many churches that observe "Ash Wednesday", which marks the beginning of the Lenten season, priests who made the ash mark on each person's forehead uttered words like, "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return".

In the Bible, the words were addressed to Adam when he was being driven away from the Garden of Eden after sin had separated him from God. They still serve to remind man of his mortality.

The season of Lent is very important to all true Christians. It is a time they reflect on their past with fasting and penance, for about 40 days, in preparation for Christ's death (on Good Friday that marks the end of Lent) and then resurrection (on Easter Sunday). But how many people who wore ash like a badge of honour last week truly understand what they have been called upon to do?

We Nigerians need to imbibe the lessons that Lent teaches. Here is a country that God has provided with abundant human and material resources and yet a majority of its citizens are wallowing in abject poverty. There are true Christians and there are hypocritical Christians too - and the situation is similar in all faiths - but it is only the latter that have, as leaders, contributed to the plundering of Nigeria. And that's why the nation has been marching backwards with high unemployment rate, unprecedented crime wave, high poverty levels, sky-high corruption and crumbling infrastructure.

This season, therefore, calls for repentance. Those entrusted with leadership cannot claim to be Christians when they embezzle public funds. Public servants who indulge in corruption are like mass murderers because they deny millions of people enormous resources meant to sustain them. And how would armed robbers, hired killers, kidnappers, suicide bombers and 419 fraudsters be observing the Lenten season? Evildoers that dot the land today cannot have good relationship with God.

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