A Nation In Mourning, Or Rebellion? (By Archbishop Emmanuel Egbunu)

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4) But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children (Luke 23:28) In the weekend of our Democracy day which had been heralded by a national service at the National Christian Centre previously in Abuja, the Boko Haram bombers struck, this time in Bauchi, and the same day they murdered some worshippers, the DANA aircraft killed 153 passengers and cabin crew, and many others on ground, in one fell swoop. President Goodluck Jonathan immediately, and appropriately, declared a 3- day mourning for the victims. That same weekend a Nigerian cargo aircraft was reported to have overran its runway in Accra, Ghana, and collided with a bus, killing nearly a dozen Ghanaians. It was indeed a dark weekend In recent years, we have become used to bloodshed in our country: the bloodshed associated with politically motivated assasinations and ritual murders, mass murder by armed bandits on Ore-Benin, and the Okene-Lokoja highways, making travellers/traders to lie on the road till they were run over by luxurious buses, besides the rape of school girls on the same highway. As we have heard one tragedy after another, we have become hardened, and have learnt to carry on with business as usual. The news headlines change rapidly as each fresh case of violence trivializes the soon forgotten previous ones, while the grieving families nurse their deep wounds inconsolably. The many interrogations have revealed sordid details about the criminality of those who have looted huge public funds while holding plum government positions charged with the responsibility of managing such sensitive concerns as our Pensions fund, our oil money, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Aviation intervention fund, etc. In all likelihood, there are more still to come. People who had served this nation when they were strong enough to offer their best, have been abandoned to wander, suffer, beg and sometimes even die, while some greedy officials have helped themselves with the entitlements of literally tens of thousands, (if not millions), stealing more than they and their unborn grandchildren could ever live on. As it is now, talking about bombing that is a few days past is stale news and far from any sense of remorse, the bombers are threatening more bloodshed. The wonder, after each suicide bombing now is this: Are these bombers human – that is, are they flesh and blood with sanity and any iota of human feeling? Do they have families? And what kind of inducements or spell ever makes a human being so sadistic? And will they hold this nation hostage endlessly? Will God ever come to our rescue, or are we doomed to be bedfellows with these mass murderers? In these depressing days, Psalms 10 and 130 have been helpful prayers. Since the period of mourning was declared, it has been a time to watch our understanding of creative mourning that brings healing. In terms of our response, we may ask, how many understood how to mourn in a nation that has been hardened by daily encounters with wickedness, sadism, corruption, bloodshed, and injustices daily? While the sheer number and calibre of people whose lives are being lost is disturbing to many (in the attack on worshippers at Bayero University, Kano, Professors were among the victims, and the DANA air crash had VIPs not a few) for some, it’s often just another bad story to note, overcome, and move on. Apart from affected families, friends and colleagues, was it not business as usual for most? The airports continued to brim with passengers – if DANA was not flying, others that were available should be used. The media has been awash with gory videos, photos, commentaries, interviews, articles, reactions and counter reactions once the mourning period was declared, the blame game has resumed, asking about the outcome of previous investigations that never saw the light of day, the fitness of our mostly old aircrafts, the safety of our airspace, which minister or officer should resign, etc. Our spiritual gurus have condemned, in no uncertain terms, the corruption and inefficiency of our system. And yet, even our worship places have danced when we should have joined in the solemn assemblies to consider our ways as others have mourned. Can it then be that as in the days of Amos, if the previous evil of ritual murders, abortions, kidnaps, injustices in our system and carnage will not attract more than a casual notice and prayer concern, then perhaps these would get our attention and make us really do serious soul-searching, cry to God, and truly repent? God saw the evil in the prosperous land, and sought to get their attention. They were too busy doing their own thing to take God seriously. See how God put the situation across through His prophet: “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.” (See Amos 4:6-12). One thing that has become clear is that no one – not the government, the religious leaders, nor social commentators and critics have the solution. God must be our final place of recourse. As He said to King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chr 7:14) What does it mean to mourn? Some passages in Joel show us what God expected: Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. 14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ” Prophet Hosea also says: “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips” (Hosea 14:2) INTERCESSION, NOT CONDEMNATION But like the prophet Amos, we must pray, as we see these judgments that probably do not surprise us: This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the late crops were coming up. 2When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the Lord relented. (Amos 6:1) We must also watch how we live. The Lord Jesus cautioned in Matthew 24:12, “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” and Apostle Paul follows up with the injunction that we should not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). Evil days must not make us become evil, but must be allowed to test and refine our faith, as has been the case with all the saints who persevered, contended gallantly for the faith, and stood firm to the end without compromise. We must shine like stars in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation. THIS PIECE WAS SENT BY THE MOST REV EMMANUEL EGBUNU ARCHBISHOP LOKOJA PROVINCE.