This week is marked in Christendom as the Holy Week. The Holy Week reaches its apogee on Good Friday when Jesus Christ is crucified to death on the Cross, and was buried but on the third day he rose from death. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has wrought salvation for the whole mankind. Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard his equality with God as something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross, and was buried, but rose from death on the third day. If Jesus Christ has not risen from death, writes St. Paul, our Christian faith would have been in vain. By dying on the Cross, Jesus conquered death, but by rising from the death he restored our life. Thus the Cross is the emblem of Christianity. Ecce lignum Crucis (Behold the wood of the Cross). Behold the wood of Cross on which hangs the salvation of the world. The tree upon which life was taken became the tree upon which life was restored.
By his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has taught us to render selfless services to our neighbours and others including those who cannot directly repay us in this life for those selfless services. Therefore let us turn a new leaf. Let us hearken to the assistance of our neigbours and others. The greatest obstacles to the promotion of the common values of justice, equity, fairness, love and mutual reliance are ethno-religious hatred, suspicion, official corruption, unbridled individualism, greed and passivity. Therefore the struggle against these miseries is crucial to the future of our country Nigeria. Certainly, a system that creates loopholes for many public office holders to loot the public treasury certainly calls for a change. Also a system that keeps widening the gap between the rich and the poor is considered loathsome. Worst still, a government that folds its hands and allows anarchy to reign supreme in the land is an irresponsible government. It is sad that kidnappers, bandits, miscreants, arsonists, separatists and the so-called unknown gun have virtually overrun different parts of the country at the moment including the different Nigerian villages, clans, communities and kindred. In fact most Nigerians are no longer visiting their respective villages because they are afraid of being killed by unknown gun men and criminals who are presently occupying their respective villages, clans and communities. When Nigerians especially those from the South-East refuse to flee to their respective villages for safety and succour it means that things have completely gone bad in Nigeria. Therefore the citizens must erect a new framework of human solidarity that would guarantee the safety of lives and property in Nigeria.
It is imprudent to rely only on the government to rebuild the social order since oftentimes the government is not so responsible. The civil society or private-public partnership should be engaged to carry out some public tasks that are beneficial to the people. Government should stop pretending that it has the competence to do many things. It should be humble enough to admit its failure. It should seek help from civil society. Civil society dominates modern political thought and the political space under different names and varying acronyms – Village Assemblies, Town Unions, Neigbourhood Associations, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Not-for-profit Organisations (NPO), Charities, Company limited by guarantee, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Social structures, socio-cultural organisations and Mediating structures (as they are called in the U.S). Today the civil society, if you like, has crystallised and reached its highest crescendo in strengthening the social fabric and erecting the necessary formidable blocks for alleviating human suffering.
We must recognise that each one of us is no more human being or less human being than other human beings. Our common humanity dictates that we team up with others in finding solutions to the problems of the society. As St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, aptly puts it in his book, Christ is Passing By , “a man or a society that does not react to suffering and injustice and makes no effort to alleviate them is still distant from the love of Christ’s heart. While Christians enjoy the fullest freedom in finding and applying various solutions to these problems, they should be united in having one and the same desire to serve mankind, otherwise their Christianity will not be the word and life of Jesus: it will be a fraud, a deception of God and man”
If Jesus Christ has allowed himself to be crucified on the Cross in order to redeem us, we have to reciprocate that sacrifice by sacrificing ourselves for the good of others. We cannot shut ourselves up in our religiosity oblivious of the sufferings of our neigbours. Life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves to the service of our fellow human beings as Jesus did. Somehow in Nigeria we have grown accustomed to tolerating all sorts of abnormalities and laughable spectacles. While the country is sick of lack of focused leadership, many Nigerian people have become victims of dangerous passivity. For example, the 2023 elections are fast approaching. Most of the politicians who ruined Nigeria in the past are gathering again to see how they can bulldoze themselves into power in order to continue to steal government money and acquire ill-gotten material wealth. Some have indicated their interest to run for President. So this is the time for the citizens, especially our social media critics, to do everything legally possible to ensure that none of these corrupt and never-do-well politicians and political office holders returns to power in Nigeria. Silence may be a sign of prudence, but the ominous silence we are witnessing in Nigeria at the moment in the face of moral crisis could be construed as a sign of cowardice if not a sign of dangerous despondency. Evil thrives, we have been told, when the so-called good men sit back and do nothing.
Holy Week invites us to bring light to the dark land; hope to the hopeless; justice to the oppressed and integrity to the wasteland. It is no use putting up a show of big penance when the heart is filled with dead men’s bones. It is no use abstaining from food without abstaining from bribery and corruption. It is pharisaical abstaining from food without abstaining from cheating our neigbours. “The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; whoever deprives them of it is the man of blood. To take away a neigbour’s living is to murder him; to deprive an employee of his wages is to shed blood” Sirach 34; 21-22). Therefore let employers pay just wages. Let employees render good service commensurate with their pay. Faith without work, we have been told, is a dead faith. Charity itself is the bond of perfection. As St. Augustine explains, “Everyone can make the sign of the cross of Christ; everyone can answer, Amen; everyone can sing Alleluluia; everyone can have himself baptized, can enter churches, can build the walls of basilicas. But charity is the only thing by which the children of God can be told from the children of the devil. Those who practice charity are born of God; those who do not practise it are not born of God…”
Considering the scandalizing human miseries and other miseries in Nigeria, a new humanitarian strategy must be adopted for promotion of human welfare in Nigeria. There are many Nigerians dying of hunger, illness, frustration and poverty. This Holy Week is an opportunity to visit them, console them, share with them our human warmth and offer them our spiritual and material assistance, if we can. Any development unaccompanied by adequate social concerns for these seemingly helpless members of the society is not a true development. It was H. G Wells who said in 1901 that “if the universe is non-ethical by our present standards, we must reconsider those standards and reconstruct our ethics”. Therefore I think we need to reconstruct our ethics in Nigeria at the moment. There should be concern for the social order. For example, we should learn to feed the man dying of hunger otherwise we would be slowly killing him. We should build a strong solidarity for the welfare of the poor, weak, sick, prisoners, elderly, lonely and the frustrated. We cannot live in our little cocoons unmindful of the plight of our neigbours. If man is said to be a social animal he should always socialize with his neigbours as well as hearken to their assistance in times of need. The poor and the suffering around us should move us to pity to team up with others to alleviate their suffering. That is the true meaning of human solidarity which we have seen demonstrated in many countries.
Our world is claiming the lives of many people through war such as the Russia-Ukraine war and other man-made disasters. Therefore we must lend a helping hand; we must hearken to the assistance of our needy neighbours; must start giving as music legend Michael Jackson is wont to sing. This is the only way to win the human race.