Tuesday, 07 December 2021 15:10

[OPINION] Rhythms Of Our Time: Christmas At Last - Rev Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe

Rev Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe Rev Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe


In a world over-turned by pandemic; the vestiges of losses and pain have become common experiences. The pandemic has evoked hibernation, broaden individualism, egocentric and narcissistic ideologies that are unhealthy for peaceful coexistence. The pandemic has increased the spate of patients suffering from psychological disorder as a result of abandonment necessitated by various restrictions and lockdowns. The pandemic has also denied many people access to their respective worship centres like Churches, mosques and synagogues, especially in more civilized climes, making it difficult for some people to feel the warmth such associations had accorded them hitherto.

As many Nations ease their lockdowns, more and more people are still being infected with Covid-19 virus. Vaccinated persons are not safe and free from being infected again. This would no doubt bring about the consideration of more restrictions as possible. The world has not been the same since the advent of the pandemic. My very good friend asked: Fr. Timmy, ‘’would the pandemic ever leave’’? On the heels of the above question the world has discovered another mutant strand of coronavirus. The Omicron is now the newest strand and the most feared. It has inspired panic in many countries which has resulted to hasty and derogatory conclusions.

In the midst of these depressing horrors of the coronavirus pandemic, the pain of economic hardship has geometrically increased globally. This may not be entirely because of the virus, since before             Covid-19, many economies around the world, especially Nigeria, were nose diving into crisis. Globally, inflation is on the rise. The annual inflation rate in the US surged to 6.2 percent in October of 2021, the highest since November of 1990. There is increase in energy cost, shelter, food with 5.3 percent versus 4.6 percent, the highest since January of 2009. Other determinant areas of consideration like transportation services, medical services, et cetera, are not left out.

In Nigeria though the consumer price index indicates that inflation falls for seventh straight month in October 2021 to 15.99 percent from 16.63 percent recorded in September, 2021,  what is evident is that prices of goods and services get increased on daily basis, if not hourly. Market prices are not consistent, there is a constant soaring of prices of goods and services inflated not necessarily by market forces but by personal decisions of business men and women. This has made many Nigerians struggle to irk out a living; many poor people go day- in- day- out without food and other basic necessities of life.  It has also resulted to increased anger externalized in the shades of riots and protests going on in some parts of the country in form of agitations. What should be expected?  ‘’A hungry man is an angry man’’.

Trailing behind the uneasiness posed by economic and socio-political instabilities globally, is the compelling numbers of young people desiring to better their lives by embarking on the infamous journey littered with uncertainties and horrendous experiences. There is a surge in the number of people migrating today legally and illegally to where they would be guaranteed their desired good life. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner estimated that about 281 million people, approximately 3.6 percent of the world’s population, currently live outside their country of origin, that many of these people their migration is characterized by varying degrees of compulsion. There is a crisis of migration today not because people are migrating but because richer nations do not want people to share in their patrimony.

Socrates in the Crito opined, ‘’and if anyone does not like the city and its constitution, there is no law to hinder or prevent him from going away wherever he likes… and taking his property with him.’’  Apparently this Socratic postulation is ancestry to the proclamation of the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, which states that everyone ‘’has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each states’’, that ‘’everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country’’. In article 14, it added that ‘’everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’’.  Migration is ubiquitous and a necessary part of life. Today we find some migrants who are denied of their civil and political rights, some are detained arbitrarily and tortured, they are denied of rights to health care, housing and education. When you deny a certain people economic, social and cultural right you deny them the opportunity to live.

The situation in the border of Belarus and Poland recently buttresses this fact. Thousands of migrants were enduring freezing conditions at the Belarus- Poland border in the hope of a better life. Many of these migrants are from war or poverty ravaged countries like Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa. Reports have it that they have made it into Poland via Belarus, but detained after crossing. Most of these migrants are young men, women and children. The EU is accusing the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, of deceiving these people by providing them with an easier route through issuance of tourist visas with which to cross the border either into Poland, Lithuania or Latvia.

In the midst of this migrants’ crises there is a growing concern about the tug of war brewing between Russia - that bordered Belarus to the east and northeast- and Ukraine- bordering her to the south. Russia, the closet ally to Belarus, is increasing its military presence and activities in its Crimean -annexed peninsula from Ukraine. This Russo- Ukrainian conflict seems to be rebrewing and fears are that there might be serious military offensive from both side, even though the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has vowed to reclaim this peninsula imploring legal and peaceful means within his reach.

Just like we have not seen the worst, the Taliban took over Afghanistan when no one was expecting it. The troubling implication of this singular development is the reign of terrorism in the world. Blame it on Joe Biden or not, most Afghans made their choice, a choice to enthrone terrorism over democracy with it attributes of law and order, agreement and arrangement, organization and method, non-belligerence and peaceful coexistence. This choice would deliberately lead to the flourishing of terrorist groups like ISIS, ISWAP, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram.  In Nigeria and some other West Africa countries, terrorists are now holding sway. Boko Haram is ravaging the Northern parts of Nigeria, suspicions are that they have mutated into bandits who have infiltrated cities, towns and the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. 

The insecurity ‘palava’ in Nigeria is worsening as time rolls by. What it seems like is that the Nigerian government does not know exactly how to tackle this problem and reclaim the country’s territorial integrity. In Nigeria, People cannot freely move anymore; from the North to the South-East, there is fear of been kidnapped and gruesomely killed by ‘terrorists’. The roads are not safe neither are the railways. We live in cruel times; the masses have nowhere to turn to for help. We have lost count of the numbers of people who are kidnapped on daily basis. Huge ransoms are usually demanded from these people, and for those who cannot provide ransom, they are either killed or butchered and their body parts sold for ritual purposes.

There are frequent meetings going - on to address these issues bothering on the pandemic, global and national economic crises, terrorism, climate change, and  the end of hunger in the world. However, it appears every often that resolutions reached are long shots. There seem to be a leadership failure world over. Leaders of the richer nations are becoming self centred and are beginning to hoard that which they have comparative advantage of, ignoring the plight of poor nations. Little wonder then, Barrack Obama, in a brief video clip I recently watched, charged some leaders to share and give and to shun the poverty of ambition to always want to take more and more and more. Developed nations seems to be individualistic and perhaps shrinking from the responsibility of shouldering the poor and disadvantaged nations. Africa leaders are worst to relate with in this regard. In Nigeria there is a persistent leadership failure that is responsible for the filthiness the nation is plunged into. Political leaders are aloof and estranged from the everyday -to -day realities of the common man, as they build barricades in their mansions to fence out the masses. Very many are caught up in the web of corruption, leadership rascality, lawlessness and disregard for the rule of law.

 Indeed Divergent realities have tossed the world to turbulence in recent times. We have faced situations that have kept many people in misery and hopelessness, dissatisfaction and disillusionment.  At a time we anticipate Christmas, we cannot but sigh and say, Christmas at last! Christmas commemorates the nativity of Jesus Christ. The biblical background to the Gospels Matthew and Luke- narratives of the birth of Jesus inspires hope. Christmas tells us in the words of Therese Borchard, ‘’don’t give up. Keep going.’’ The coronavirus pandemic, economic topsy-turvy, migrant crisis, terrorism and the tug of war in Afghanistan, Syria, and some West African countries like Nigeria, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso; the crises brewing in Russia and Ukraine; poverty and hunger, political instability and leadership failure in many nations, provide a backdrop for the yearning  for Christmas.

Christmas is a time we expect good tidings from God, reminiscent of the freedom and liberation the birth of the Messiah wrought in the life of the people of God who were waiting eagerly for their redemption. Our God who is faithful to a faithless people sent his only begotten son from the stock of Jesse in fulfillment of his promise. By this, He rescued the people of Israel from the dominion of darkness and brought them into the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom they have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (col.1:13-14) If there is one thing the world needs today that would be hope; hope that God like in the time past would shed its light upon our darkened world. There is no better time than the commemoration of the birth Of Jesus Christ which begins with four weeks of reflective preparation and waiting technically called Advent.

Advent affords us a time to reflect on the realities of our human existence and the opportunity to expect and wait for the coming of Christ at Christmas, when He (Jesus) would come to renew the face of the earth and His return at the second coming. It is a season and time filled with great hope.  It is a time to cast off every form of despair about our world. Instead we are invited to expect and desire a better world. This attitude would plunged us into fortitude which is semantically related to hope; it gives  a kind of strength of the mind that enables a person to endure pain or hardship, hoping that  there will be light at the end of the tunnel.  Besides, this could drive us into joining hands to creating a better world devoid of injustice, selfishness, corruption, greed, fundamentalism, hatred and all forms of malicious vices depredating the world.

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