By: Luka Binniyat
Yesterday, mellifluous melody of soul stirring Christian songs was sorrowfully sang by 1000 Choristers drawn from various church denominations in Kaduna complete with an orchestra.
The event took place at St. Mathew Catholice Church, Television Kaduna and was anchored by Sir. Emmanuel Zwahu.
The 1000 singers from various churches had agreed to come together to call the attention of the world to the plight of abducted Leah Sharibu – the teenage Christian girl from Dapchi, Yobe State, still in captivity of Boko Haram.
At the event, a fiery speech by Most Rev. Father William Kaura Abba, laced with lacerating swipes at government and influential Christians for what he described as their indolence at working for the her release, marked the highlight of the event.
The performance which was convened by Rev. Fr. Omachi Micheal Arome, at St. Michael Catholic Parish, Television, Kaduna Sunday afternoon, was also a kind of peaceful protest, as some of the singers carried placards with solidarity messages for Leah while others called on government and her abductors for her release.
In his welcome remarks, Arome said that the combined choir performance was to demonstrate the power of unity of the church in the face of daunting challenges.
“The 1000 choristers gathered here is to demonstrate that if we are united; our enemy will fear, drop his evil and run. We have gathered to say to our Christian leaders to unite as one so that we form one big body that cannot be pushed apart,” he said.
After that songs like: Immortal, Invincible, God Only wise; Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All; Standing on the Promises were sang. Most Rev. Fr. Williams Kaura Abba, was called to deliver the key note address. Widely celebrated as newly discovered orator, Abba, gave a long, spell binding speech carefully serialised by our reporter:
His message was titled:”Witnessing to the Faith in Perilous Times.”
Abba: “I am delighted to be asked by the organizers of this event to deliver the sermon at this unique event. It is unique in the sense that in this solemn assembly are people from different denominations and I hope different faith backgrounds too. I was enveloped with joy the very moment the notification for this event was made public via social media. I immediately placed a call to Fr. Michael Omachi to congratulate him for birthing the idea and to encourage him to make sure this concert not only sees the light of day but is used to galvanize massive moral support for our courageous daughter and to assure her parents in faraway Dapchi, that from Kaduna we are in union of prayers with them and offer our solidarity to all those who are deeply troubled and saddened by the abduction of Leah.
I had hardly said’hello’ when Fr Omachi said ‘Yes, it has got to be you‘ . . .
Our bond of Baptism is stronger than blood ties.
“We do not have blood relationship with the hitherto unknown little girl of Dapchi. Our common humanity has made it possible for all of us to be ontologically related to her. Beside the ontological relationship, as Christians, we know that “Baptismal water that unites us is thicker than blood relationship”. By this assertion, every Christian is intricately and intimately related to the other. This is the bond between us and Leah and it is why a Fr Omachi, a Priest of Kaduna can bring together 1000 choristers from different denominations and a host of other men and women of goodwill to sing praises unto the Lord so that through our voices, God will send his Guardian Angels to sheathe, protect and minister to Leah who is still in the hands of her abductors. It was St Augustine of Hippo who once remarked that he who sings, prays twice.
“It is important I reiterate ab initio – we are not here in Kaduna for a carnival. We are here to lift up our voices in praise and through the melody of our voices, we raise our supplications to the Lord to ask for divine cover upon Leah and that God will touch the hearts of her abductors to have a rethink, release our daughter and bring them to conversion.
The darkest part of hell is reserved silent persons in times of moral crisis.
“The battle to save our country and world is a race that we must enter into doggedly. And we are here to hold the fort, for it is morally reprehensible to remain silent in the face of evil. Dante Alighieri beautifully puts it: “The darkest part of hell is reserved for those who maintain neutrality in times of moral crisis”.
“The selective immurement of Leah Sharibu is so extreme that it now makes renowned extremists wear a moderate outlook. For very many of us, Leah Sharibu represents many things. But for me, as Sam Omatseye of the Nation Newspapers nicely captured in his weekly column of Monday 9/4/2018, Leah is the rebirth of the Apostolic era. She manifests the purity of faith. She also telegraphs a message to our politics and politicians where we twist betrayal as nuance and celebrate harlotry. Leah is more Apostolic than most of the Ministers of God today. Omatseye rhetorically asks: How many of the showy clerics will risks their lives of luxury today under gun-handed duress and insist on Christ? Will they not remember their soaring ecstasies in private jets, luxurious apartments, the dreamy languor of their palaces, the doting worshipers, their wives and children’s wardrobe obsessions in the tony districts of our cities? They could easily abandon the austere examples of Paul, Peter, Mathew et al, and embrace Peter the betrayer rather than Peter the Rock. Leah is the true believer. She may not hold that sort of belief when she is 30, or even 70, but she has given Christians and the country an example in principle. A principle executed in innocence. She decided to deny herself, take her cross and follow her convictions. She is not the sort of suicide bombers hoodwinked into suicidal bloodbath. She did not ask for the temptation. She did not ask to be kidnapped. She was an unknown little girl masking her convictions in her anonymous life, when she walked to school, listened to teachers, obeyed her parents, visited the market, worshipped in Church and played with friends.
Abba likened the dapchi girl to Paul the Apostle and to Daniel of the Christian old Testament.
Why okay the deal when was Leah not to be freed with the other Muslims girls?
“When the other Muslim girls were released they got back home to tell why Leah didn’t return with them. The Christian world felt betrayed and we wondered why such unconscionable thing be allowed to happen.
“If a deal was struck with the terrorists to release all the girls, why did the negotiator on behalf of government not insist on the terms of the deal?
“Release all of them or nothing! This would have been the most patriotic thing to do and we would have taught a vital lesson that in this country, government cares for all, Muslims and Christians alike.
“We would later learn that when the Jihadists returned the 104, the offered profuse apologies to their parents that they didn’t know the girls were Muslims! What other evidence do we need to prove our point and what further proof do you need that in Nigeria, religious discrimination is deeply rooted?
Why Leah is a living Marty .
“According to him, it is in tha anals of the church that many of its adherents have willingly accepted martyrdom and went on to cite the writing of St. Thomas of Aquinas
“Fortitude is the Hero’s virtue; the Martyrs virtue. It is the virtue that helps man to practice religion in the face of scorn, derision and persecution. It springs from the will. It is not about physical strength; hence we wouldn’t ascribe it to Leah Sharibu who is a teenage girl.
“The supreme act of fortitude is Martyrdom whereby a person suffers death in order to cling to truth and justice. By her refusal to denounce her faith and her God, even in the face of imminent and real threat of death, Leah Sharibu can be classically classified as a LIVING MARTYR. A French proverb captures this aptly: ‘You cannot answer for your courage if you have never been in danger.’ Thomas Aquinas teaches also that the main vice opposed to fortitude is fear. Confucius the Chinese Philosopher aptly captured this when he said ‘To see what is right and not do it is want of courage.’
“The Dapchi school girls’ abduction will continue to leave a sour taste in the mouth of this government, as indeed the abduction of the over 270 school girls from Chibok in 2014. A good number of the Chibok girls who happened to be mostly Christians are still being detained against their wish.
“Some of them by now may have been radicalized and may have either renounced their faith to survive or remained faithful to their faith and faced the sword of the evil gang.
“Taking a cue from the writing of Omatseye again, I say to the government, we are still waiting for Leah. Those who brokered the freedom of the other Dapchi girls and left out the narrative of Leah Sharibu should know that we want her back in one piece.
She is a living evolution of moral growth in a flawed society.
“She is the story of her generation. We want her alive and not a Martyr. We want her back in the embrace of her family, who gave her a great name and she has lived up to its billing. Leah of the Bible was not beautiful but her soul was. That is what we seek when she comes back. “We want her to live like the Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan who survived the furnace of her captors. We want to see her grow, show examples for her generation, show her human flaws and strength and become a living evolution of moral growth in a flawed society. Martyrs enrich societies but save us the true nature of their humanity.
“Mandela grew up to an old age, a symbol of strength, principle, character and self-control. So was Mother Theresa, whose serenity of vision and activities etched in us the possibility of human tenderness. That is why we want her here, to breath on us the spirit in her soul.
Christians in Nigeria still face shocking persecution.
“Sadly, close to 60 years after independence, Nigeria still finds herself struggling with issues of religious discrimination and forceful conversion. Some of these are perpetrated subtly while very many Christians are brutally confronted with the sad reality that they are being discriminated upon on account of their faith.
“We still have stories of Christians being denied employment because they are Christians. If they are lucky to be employed, they do not enjoy promotion commensurate to their experience and level as their contemporaries who profess Islam do. We have stories of our children being denied admissions to study courses of their choices in their preferred institutions; reason? They are Christians. These are sad realities we still see stirring us in the face in the 21st century. While Muslims enjoy and profess their faith freely and build places of worship in the West, South and East without let or hindrance, Christians in some Northern states are not accorded this basic fundamental human right to worship and profess their faith.
Why should Fulani herdsmen take grazing war to Benue Churches?
“Should we not turn our hearts to Benue state where daily, Christians are being massacred? Of course the usual lame explanation is that criminal gangs are responsible for the killings. But the assault of Tuesday morning the 24th April 2018 that resulted in the gruesome murder of 2 Priests, a catechist and 17 parishioners at the St Ignatius Catholic Church Mbalom is a further confirmation of persecution targeted at Christians. Why on earth would a human being take delight in such open brigandage and all they seek to do is to kill and destroy? Why would the Fulani herdsmen who claim they are fighting for grazing rights for their animals take the battle to the Church? Is the Church a grazing field? Which government in the world will look the other way while its citizens are daily butchered? If it is not Boko Haram in the North-East, then it is Fulani Herdsmen in the middle belt and beyond. The primary responsibility of government is securing lives and property of its citizens.
Life has never been meaningless in Nigeria like today
“And so far this government has fared below average. At no time did we feel so unsafe in our nation as we now feel. If it is not Boko Haram killing people, it is Fulani Herdsmen Terrorists wielding AK 47 sniffing with impunity the lives of farmers. If it is not bandits holding their victims hostage for a ransom, then it is government using state might to kill and clamp down on adherents of a religious sect. These attacks must be brought to an end and government must spare no effort to ensuring that this happens real quick.
Impunity of girl-child theft and forceful conversion to Islam on the rise.
“Dotted in our checkered history also is the ugly trend of girl-child theft. We have lost count of how many of our innocent little Christian girls have been forcefully abducted across the federation and forced to profess Islam and married off to Muslims. The last crisis in Kasuwan Magani in February this year is still fresh in our minds. And usually those who carry out these dastardly acts say to ‘hell with her parents’. How can we enjoy peaceful coexistence with these glaring discrimination and preference of one religion over the other? This impunity has to stop. Freedom of religion is enshrined and guaranteed inour ground norm, which is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Government must use the instrument of office to seek to protect all.
“We are happy with the ultimatum the Sultan of Sokoto gave to Miyetti Allah that in 2 months, they must identify the bad eggs from amongst their ranks and turn them in for prosecution. This must be taken seriously as the peace of the country is contingent on the sincere efforts made by those responsible in order to restore peace and confidence in the citizenry. Government must rise to its responsibility and deliberately work towards bridging the gap between adherents of Christianity and Islam. Government must use the instrument of office to seek to protect all, regardless of what religion people profess.
Imaging for a moment that Leah was to be a Muslim abducted by Christian mob.
“Our silence is deafening! And because we have always operated from the position of weakness, it is easy to trample on our rights and take us for granted. Time and again, we have been oppressed and made to feel like we are second class citizens in our own country. Imaging for a moment that Leah was to be a Muslim who was being held by Christian terrorists/Jihadists (thank God no such thing exists in Christendom). Do you know how they would have threatened fire and brimstone? There would have been threats to make this country ungovernable if she was not freed or released. The Muslim Ummah would have been at the forefront taking the battle to government and doing everything possible to free one of their own.
Influential Christians chose silence to protect their positions and comfort.
“For us Christians, we do not have this sense of urgency and cohesion to the extent that we can fight our causes and protect the vulnerable amongst us. At best, all we hear are some weak, politically correct statements from leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria either at Local government, State or Federal levels. And usually this goes on for some days after which it fizzles out and the victims are left to embrace their fate. To think that we have Christians who at various times occupied positions where they could either reverse or fight this open betrayal of Christians and their faith but they chose to be indifferent just to protect their jobs is heart breaking. Today, there is no area of our national life where this lopsidedness is not felt. Is it education? Is it security? Is it appointments? Just name it. We can only push the gospel of Christ and promote the Gospel values when we stand together, fight our battles together and remain of one mind and heart. This is the lesson; Leah from her captivity wants every believer to internalize.
Christian girls must not succumb to temptation of materialism
“Leah speaks also to our young girls who have succumbed or are being tempted to succumb to the temptation of jumping ship. They will use money and mouth watery promises to get you to denounce your faith. That should never be the case with you. They are not to deflate our numbers through these so called marriages in order to inflate their own numbers. Leah’s example should serve as a moral compass for the young girls and women. Rather than tilt towards material things of the world that do not satisfy the inner longing of the soul, strive to uphold the light of Christ that Leah didn’t want extinguished in her soul.
Leah is a victor not a victim
“Our gathering here is a timely testament that Leah Sharibu is a victor and not a victim. Where our heroine-captive sends a captivating message of hope and healing to a broken. Bloodied, and battered world. Where a budding adolescent has prescribed a portent remedy for a jagged, jaded, jaundiced and jolted world. She has wielded a weapon that is wielding our wobbling world. And in solidarity with our courageous young daughter and sister, God’s General, our songs are oblations that rise as vapor that brings down the blessed rains that flushes out the reign of terror and bloodbath. The bright rising rays that rises hope of better days and a better Nigeria.
Let’s be in harmony with the heavenly choirs of Angels for Leah.
“Let the banging boom from the gong resound as our symphonic orchestra echoes and reverberate in concordant accord with the heavenly Choirs of Angels,” he said in conclusion.
The church went into ecstatic clapping in a standing ovation that lasted for a few munities.
More sessions of songs ensued, after which the two hours performance ended with various prayers for the Leah, her family, all persecuted Christians, the Church of Christ in Nigeria and for peace and unity of the country.