, 14 September, 2020 / 9:25 PM
The Archbishop of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese has, reflecting on Sunday, September 13 readings, called for “genuine forgiveness” as a way out of “most social crises.”
“With genuine forgiveness, most social crises can be curtailed and brought under control; peace can be restored in broken homes, society and the world at large,” Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama said Sunday, September 13 during Mass at the Holy Cross Parish, Apo in Abuja.
Through forgiveness, Archbishop Kaigama said, “We free our hearts of all the negative feelings and effects of resentment: hostility, hatred, insecurity and hurtful feelings which cause us emotional, psychological and physical harm; we remove the toxic wastes from our souls.”
Against the backdrop of violence reports in Africa’s most populous country, the Nigerian Archbishop said, “Whole-hearted forgiveness by all is what will heal Nigerians and speed up our social integration and progress.”
While forgiveness cannot change the past, the Archbishop said, “it can shape the future.”
Reported cases of violence resulting in loss of lives and property in Nigeria have caught the attention of Church leaders locally, regionally, and internationally.
In August, members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) condemned the “increasing insecurity and unabated acts of terrorism” and called on the government to intervene and bring the crisis to an end.
On the Solemnity of the Assumption August 15, Pope Francis prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for persecuted Christians in Nigeria and for peace in Africa.
“Today I would like to pray in particular for the population of the northern region of Nigeria, victims of violence and terrorist attacks,” the Holy Father said in his Angelus address August 15.
He described the Virgin Mary as “Mother of hope” and said, “Let us invoke her intercession for all the situations in the world that are most in need of hope: hope for peace, for justice, hope for a dignified life.”
In his homily September 13, Archbishop Kaigama highlighted various forms of forgiveness.
“The forgiveness an individual receives from God; the forgiveness one offers to another, the forgiveness I receive from another person; the forgiveness a group offers to another group which is what we badly need in various parts of Nigeria today experiencing violence and conflicts, leading to the wasting of human lives and resources,” the 62-year-old Nigerian Prelate said.
Referencing the Lord’s prayer, he further said, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who wrong us is so easily said when we pray the ‘Our Father’.”
“The reality is that when human beings feel really hurt, it is not easy to forgive, that is, to transit from the theory of forgiveness to the praxis of forgiveness,” he said, adding, “Someone will tell you, ‘I have forgiven, but I will never forget,’ or ‘I have buried the hatchet, but I marked the spot’.”
He continued, “Similarly, in the ‘Our Father,’ we pray that God’s will be done, but when challenges weigh down so much on us, we wonder what has become of God and run from pillar to post looking for remedies that are not of God.”
Archbishop Kaigama underscored the need to forgive at all times saying, “One must forgive as many times as one is hurt. Stop counting. The practice of retributive justice in the Old Testament of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Ex. 21:24) is not valid for the good follower of Christ.”
Reflecting on Sunday’s Second Reading, St. Paul to the Romans, the Archbishop said, “Pray for and forgive our offenders whether living or dead as St. Paul tells us that, a Christian living or dead belongs to Christ.”
“We should pray for the grace to forgive no matter how hurt or bitter we may feel,” the Local Ordinary of Abuja reiterated and encouraged the people of God to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation for it is “a powerful channel of forgiveness.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa