Abducted girl turns 16 in the forest

15 05 2019

by Chinwuba Iyizoba

Leah Sharibu pics

Her eyes were diamonds, sparkling brightly when she laughed. Leah Sharibu was only 14 in February 2018 when she and over a hundred of her companions were abducted from their school in Dapchi, by boko haram, the Islamic terrorist group that has been devastating parts of Northern Nigerian for decades. She celebrated her 16th birthday yesterday, Tuesday 14th May, in Sambisa forest.

They had broken into her school like infernal spirits, eyes red like open wounds; breath, foul and putrid.  Their laughter like clanging steel frightened the captured girls whom they herded like lambs into waiting Lorries and driven to the forest by night.

The girls knew neither where they were nor why they were there. Hunger and tiredness overwhelmed them. Bugs and flies tormented them. They cried until they could cry no more, and realizing that the dirty jackals could never be move by tears, they ceased wailing and collapsed in exhausted sleep.

When they woke, they realized their captors thirst for blood, cruelty and hideousness was just beginning. Soon, thugs ordered them to renounce their Christian faith and accept Islam, in exchange for their freedom. Repulsive fiends! Who would want to worship the god that made you so foul?

The ogres promised the girls freedom and food and many too tired and weak to resist, they broke down and gave in, and gave the yellow fanged jackals all they wanted. Only Leah stood firm. She will not succumb and the trees danced for joy.

Shortly afterward, they released all the yielding girls, except Leah. They then announced via social media that according to their Islamic faith, Leah was now their slave, and that they were permitted to do whatever they liked her.

O infernal vermin, who permitted you to do vile things in the name of God!! You permitted yourselves to do violence to a religion of peace!!

News of the freed girls broke the internet and parents and relatives jubilated, but for Leah’s mother, however, it was a nightmare just unfolding; she wept herself blind for her sweet child still in captivity, and called for help till her voice broke.  For 2 yrs, little seems to have been done, and nothing may be done for many years to come.

Rebecca sharibu

Like the Christian martyrs of old, Lear is ready to die for her faith. Still, how hard it was for her to watch her companions fall one after another, swept by fear, one by one, till she was all alone, like a lone leaf left on a storm swept tree. With no one to lean on, no friend, yet the Angels are with her. Her captors must have howled and jeered with their disembodied voices, flies and venom spewing between their crimson fangs.

They are fools, though. Leah has chosen to serve in heaven rather than to reign in hell, and her love is mightier than their hate, and for that we salute her. Her parent salutes her, her family salutes her, her kinsmen salutes her, her village salutes, and her Nation salutes her.

She may die before any one lifts a finger to save her, yet her blood would water the tree of life for generations of Christians yet unborn. The Christian faith that they seek to extinguish in Nigeria will only grow stronger because of her witness, her blood. If she accepts death in bondage, she would have accepted a temporal bondage that would yield eternal freedom in Heaven and it’s not a bad deal; though few know it.

Her companions testified that she sang daily in her cell praising God’s name.  Her voice carries to heaven breaking the hearts of God even as a busy bee, she flirted around the forest, and did many things to ease the pains of her companion while they were with her.

 But God is wisdom

The angels of God are watching keenly with flaming swords unsheathed. All but a nod from God and the heads of those infernal jackals will roll. Yet, God’s plans are all wise and He will not retract a freedom once given to men though they long misuse it.

They may imprison Lear’s body, but they cannot imprison her soul, dancing like a butterfly, touching us all with suffering. The curtain of night fell upon us the night they took her. The stars are still blinking and the winds still wailing nonstop until we see Leah free. Happy birthday Leah! May the Angels protect and keep you safe. Amen

 

Chinwuba Iyizoba

 





Forgive but Never Forget: 25yrs After Rwandan genocide

9 04 2019

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

crowd of Rwandan at 25 yrs of genocide

 

Forgive and forget is an old saying but not in Rwanda as it marks 25 years after the genocide that killed close to a million people. The people are convinced that peace will continue only if they never forget.

 

“We are family once again, but never again will this happen”, said Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president on April 7 during the lighting of the commemoration lamp that will burn the whole of 100 days, the time it took to end the genocide that began on April 7, 1994.

On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana – a Hutu – was shot down, killing all on board. The government blamed the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi led guerrilla fighters in the north. The next day a well-organized campaign of slaughter began. Youth militias (Interahamwes) were given hit lists of Tutsi victims. Many were killed with machetes in acts of appalling brutality. They set up road blocks to find Tutsis, incited hatred via radio broadcasts and carried out house to house searches. The killing lasted a 100 days ending when the RPF, led by Kagame and backed by Uganda, marched on Kigali. Some two million Hutus fled, mainly to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Unlike the sowers of hatred who orchestrated the genocide and ethnic division, Kagame has fostered unity and common brotherhood of all Rwanda.

Today, the country has recovered economically, with President Kagame’s policies encouraging rapid growth and technological advancement. Growth remains good – 7.2% in 2018 according to the African Development Bank.

“The arms of our people, intertwined, constitute the pillars of our nation,” Kagame said. “We hold each other up. Our bodies and minds bear amputations and scars, but none of us is alone. He added: “The fighting spirit is alive in us. What happened here will never happen again…”

From the constant bloodletting of Boko Harm in Northern Nigeria to the threats of vicious Somali gunmen in Kenya. African sees a lot of blood and horror. The African leaders present at the ceremony are hopefully here to learn how to stop the constant bloodshed, hatred and injustice in their own countries by building bridges that create spirit of brotherhood like Kagame has done in Rwanda.

 

True peace comes from Forgiveness

Immaculee Ilibagiza

The 1994 genocide destroyed the illusion that African fault line wars are triggered by lack of religious homogeneity. With an estimated population 5.6 million, 80 percent of Rwandans are Christians, mainly Catholics, yet they ditched the truths of the Catholic faith taught to them as children to heed the screech of murder and rape.

Immaculée Ilibagiza, a woman who survived the genocide hiding in a pastors toilet for 90 days with seven other women but lost her entire family with the exception of one brother who was outside the country, in her New York Times best-selling Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, she talked about her struggles with hatred and desire revenge against those trying to kill her, and her initial inability to forgive. Then one day like one who had since been looking at a tapestry from behind seeing only a meaningless jumble of treads, she was finally given through prayers to see it upfront, and marvel at its beauty . She tells the story like this:

One night we heard screaming not far from the house and then a baby crying. The killers must have slain the mother and left her infant to die in the road. The child wailed all night; by morning, its cries were feeble and sporadic, and by nightfall, it was silent. I heard dogs snarling nearby and shivered as I thought about how that baby’s life had ended. I prayed for God to receive the child’s innocent soul, and then asked Him, How can I forgive people who would do such a thing to an infant?

I heard God’s answer as clearly as if we had been  sitting in the same room chatting: You are all my children . . . and the baby is with Me now.

In God’s eyes, the killers were part of His family, deserving of love and forgiveness. I knew that I couldn’t ask God to love me if I were unwilling to love His children. At that moment, I prayed for the killers, for their sins to be forgiven and for the first time since I entered the bathroom, I slept in peace”.

immaculee in toilet where she lived for 90 days with 7 other women

Immaculee in toilet where she lived for 90 days with 7 other women when she returned to Rwanda after the war

True, bad indoctrination can contribute to evil actions, but every evil act is still an individual act. Those who choose evil exercise personal freedom and thus are responsible for their acts.  It is heartening to note that many  Hutus chose to die rather than kill. They were true Hutus because they chose freedom rather than slavery of evil and their action are an indictment of those who took up the machetes to kill.

One can be trapped in the most horrendous and inhuman prison and yet be free, by accepting God’s will and by loving sacrifice, thinking of all the souls on earth Immaculée found her deepest relationship with God, learning to love all mankind, especially to pray and forgive her enemies.

She reached the peak of  forgiveness when she decided to visit Felicien, the man who killed her mother, and personally forgive him. After she had told him so, she asked him: “How can you have done this? Killing so many people, you can’t be at peace.” In rags, he seemed small and confused. “”I wanted to reach out to him,” she said. “I cried, and then he himself started to cry.”

The official in charge of the jail, a Tutsi who was a survivor like Immaculée  who was initially angry at her for forgiving the man latter came to her and said, “You don’t know what you did to me, when you went to the jail and forgave Felicien.  I was shocked but I learnt the necessity for forgiveness.”

Just like a tennis ball striking a soft pillow decelerates and loses its power to rebound, violence stops when it hits a forgiving heart. This is a lesson that Rwandans and millions of African victims of violence should take to heart and never forget.

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

 





Even Cardi B’s Dirty Past Can be Forgiven

30 03 2019

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

carddi

Cardi B

This year’s Grammy best rap winner, singer and songwriter,  Cardi B may soon be in deep waters. A video in which she claimed that she used to drug and rob men to survive, has surfaced.

Many are clamoring for her to be held accountable, especially in the wake of the women take down of many men by the famous #MeToo movement

Accused of sexual assault that happened years ago, super celebrity like Bill Cosby is doing time and R.Kelly’s fate hangs on the edge. Why should we forgive Cardi B?

“Is there any chance at all that a man could admit to drugging and robbing women and still keep his career?”  Some ask.

While critics are calling for her head, as the only fair way to deal with the revelation, her fans argue that she committed the crime out of desperation, unlike other celebrities who allegedly committed their crimes at the height of fame and fortune abusing their privileges

She admits she isn’t proud of that ‘dirty past’ and no longer tows that path.

And a dirty past it is. She became a gang member at 16 and a stripper at 19 when she was fired from the supermarket where she was working, and yet she is Catholic and claims a “strong relationship” with God in interviews, often saying that she directly communicates with God.

But as the saying goes, “Behind very dark clouds, there is sometimes a silver lining”, in age where celebrities daily celebrate their disdain for marriage and having babies, Cardi B surprised everyone by doing both.

She secretly married her friend and confidant, Offset, in their bedroom in September 2017 and when the rumors broke, she confirmed it on social media.

They have a daughter and have been together for 3 yrs a now are rare feat in music industry today. Her husband even accompanied her to the stage to receive her Grammy.

cardi and baby

Cardi B with her Husband, Offset and their daughter

“All I can do now is be a better me for myself my family and my future,” the mother of one said on Instagram.

While it is true that it is never right to do evil so that good may come and her rise to the top will never justify her criminal actions and that she may probably go to jail for soon, yet, her dirty past can be forgiven, wiped clean by God, through the sacrament of confession if she is truly contrite and has sincerely repented of her past life.

Confession is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, in which the faithful obtain absolution for the sins committed against God and neighbour and are reconciled with the community of the Church. By this sacrament Catholics believe they are freed from sins committed after baptism. The sacrament of Penance is considered the normal way to be absolved from mortal sin, by which one would otherwise possibly condemn oneself to Hell ( click here for a complete guide to confession)

 

No matter how black our sins are God always forgives

“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; I desire that the wicked turn back from his way and live.” Says Holy Scriptures, and as Pope Francis said, “There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father.”

In human tribunal we can only expect justice, in Divine tribunal we only expect mercy

“In itself, mercy is the greatest of the virtues, since all the others revolve around it and, more than this, it makes up for their deficiencies…..it is proper to God to have mercy, through which his omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree”. (Apostolic exhortation, Gauduim et spes)

The problem is that there is a great loss of sense of sin today, a loss which originated in Hollywood in the 60’s and have spread everywhere via movies and many today do not feel they need forgiveness.

Yet sin multiplies daily in the world and we all need forgiveness

Catholics distinguish between two types of sin. Mortal sins are a “grave violation of God’s law” that “turns man away from God”. Acts like murder and robbery are good examples, but still are specks in a wide spectrum of sin men are capable of.

Someone who is aware of having committed mortal sins must repent of having done so and then confess them in order to benefit from the sacrament. Venial sins, the kind that “does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God”, can be remitted by contrition and reception of other sacraments but they too, “constituting a moral disorder and are rightly and usefully declared in confession”.

Yet, for my money, there is more to contrition and confession than just the act. When you rob someone of his money, you need to give it back. The Catholic Church teaches that the penitents practice restitution, returning of stolen goods and prayerful reparations to those whom our sins have wounded.

Cardi B needs to examine her conscience and ask God for a soul sensitive to sin because without interior repentance, confession is useless. She needs to make attempts to repair her past misdeeds.

One area she could work on is her music dance videos. While some are brilliant, most cuts too close to sexual immorality and sexually suggestive moves could lead her millions of teeming fans to temptation and sin from which she cannot be exonerated.

Again, her use of four letter words, wide currency in modern music, is scandalously out of control, and contributes to the corruption of her young fans. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea,” says sacred scripture.

Unfortunately, her spiking fame and fortune will make her battle to come clean tougher, for it’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, than for a camel to pass through the eyes of the needle. Yet all things are possible with God.

 

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

 

 





Nigerian Plane crash Survivor is Finalist at America Got talent

2 02 2019

by Chinwuba Iyizoba

  She survived a plane crash, graduated with honors, is an accomplished singer and now a finalist at the American Got Talent show. The inspirational story of Kechi Okwuchi.

She was only 13 when the unthinkable happened. On December 10, 2005, she and 60 of her classmates from Loyola Jesuit College Abuja, where heading home to PortHarcort for the holidays in Sosoliso Airline, Flight 1145.

In an aisle seat next to her close friend, Kechi suddenly felt something was wrong.

“We are going down way too fast,” She said to her friend in alarm.

Her friend didn’t have time to reply before other passengers started screaming. Gripping her friends hand tightly, she cried, “Let us pray.”

But before they could start, there was a loud bang and the next thing she remembered was waking up in Milpark Hospital, South Africa.

The plane, carrying 109 people, slammed into the ground and burst into flames. She was one of only two survivors and spent up to five weeks in coma. Worse, when she woke up, she was unable to recognize herself. 65 percent of her body was covered with hideous scars that turned her beautiful face into a frightful visage.

Throughout the many months she spent in the hospital, undergoing numerous surgeries, she had ample time to pray, seeking to understand why God permitted her to live through this most horrible tragedy.

“There’s truly nothing like prayer,” she said. “It reinforces faith, which gives you courage. It calms you when things get really hard to deal with. If there’s one thing I learned through this experience, it’s the value of faith.”

Though prayers, God restored her determination to survive and even follow her dreams. She enrolled and graduated summa cum laude in 2015 from University of St. Thomas in the United States.

In her graduation speech, Kechi explained that she was motivated by a desire to live for others, to be in some way a consolation to the relatives and friends all who lost loved ones. And that she is striving to make her life a gift to all, especially the bereaved parents of her friends.

“To me, this degree is not just a degree.” she said, “It is a gift to the 60 students that died in a plane crash I was in 10 years ago. It represents the fulfillment of a promise I made—to those students and their parents—that I would reach this important milestone on behalf of those they lost.”

She is currently pursuing her M.B.A and a career in singing; singing being one passion that brings her joy. In 2017, unknown to her, a friend had enlisted her to take part in the twelfth season of America’s Got Talent as a singer. She went on to participate and finished the competition as a finalist.

This year again, she enlisted and when judge Simon Cowell asked, “Why America’s Got Talent?”

 “I want to share my voice,” she replied.

The 27-year-old then went on to share a story of survival, hope, and unshakable faith.

That story and her rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” brought the audience and judges to their feet and Simon Cowell gave her the golden buzzer, sending her straight to the final social media went wild with excitement.

Those who think life has treated them unfairly and have succumbed to a despondent bitterness should take a cue from this courageous young woman and pick themselves up from the floor where life has flung them, begin again, find some God given talents which perhaps they have let die and share with others, just like Kechi is sharing her voice with the world.

Yet, it must be hard to have a face that looks so hideous, and Kechi must weep daily for her lost beauty even as many social media platforms, mainstream media, and Hollywood, push so much false narratives that exalt sex appeal as vital to women’s success, and many young women cave in to the pressure, starving and cutting their bodies to look like the paint brushed supermodels they see on the cover of glossy magazines.

Kechi’s story calls out to the young. Interior beauty endures long after bodily beauty is gone.  Diligence and courage in the face of difficulties, acceptance of the trial that come our way are the true goods.

As supermodel, Cameron Russell said, Looks aren’t everything. And anyone who says different is lying.

Today, Kechi Okwuchi is also a public speaker who gives talks on TEDxEuston, witnessing to the public what God has done for her, for in the midst of her suffering, she had found Jesus, she had found joy.





Angel Priest

21 01 2019

It was a pleasant surprise when the relentless fog of bad media enveloping on Catholic priesthood was momentarily lifted by a bright ray of sunshine. In August 4, 2013, a young woman, Katie Lentz was trapped inside her crushed Mercedes Benz rammed by a drunken truck driver. Her life was slowly ebbing away. The rescue workers huffed and puffed as they cut and drilled trying to free her, but were getting nowhere. They were about to give up when a priest appeared and asked the sheriff if a priest was needed. He was carrying a bottle of anointing oil. The sheriff said yes and the priest knelt by the wrecked car and started talking with the young woman inside. She asked him to pray that her leg stops hurting. He did so.  She asked him to pray aloud, he did and absolved her from her sins, anointed her with oil”

He then stepped aside to allow the workmen continue their jobs.

Shortly after, things began to work and the workmen cut and pulled the woman out of the wreck. She was immediately flown to a hospital and survived. When they turned to thank the priest, he was nowhere to be found.

The workmen where unanimous, a miracle had occurred. They all agreed that the priest’s prayers helped pull this off. The officials at the scene said it seemed he appeared from nowhere, and he couldn’t be found in any pictures taken at the scene and left without anyone seeing where he went.

She survived but, for days, no one could figure out who the priest was, and the media was agog.

“Mystery Angel priest appears at Missouri Car crash” one headline went.

“The power of prayer and the Miraculous Angel priest,” screeched another.

At last the priest in question caught wind of the hubbub and quietly came out. Fr. Dowling, for that is his name, said that he was pleased that he was able to help by performing his ordinary ministry and noted that that he was just one of many who responded to assist the victim at the accident. “I think there may have been angels there too,” he added.

Fr Dowling

He was a good priest, and like all good priests, took no credit for what happened, rather, he selflessly attributed the success to others.

Suddenly, the story was no longer sensational, not even entertaining.

“Mystery Angel priest is just an ordinary priest who did nothing,” scoffed one headline.

 Disappointed, the media moved on in search of other sensations. They are like children who had flocked in looking for ghost stories and found an ordinary priest who had no wings, and couldn’t vanish.

 Search for the extraordinary, celebration of scandals and lethargic indifference to common place things are traits of today’s media culture, often at the mercy of the unscrupulous who, spurred by money, no doubt, fabricate titillating stories that are rewarded with instant media attention.  

Yet ordinary life is chockfull of miracles and God works great miracles from the ordinary. So as the world reels from the ugly acts of some priests, it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of good priests like Fr. Dowling, whose prayers, self effacing work and ordinary priestly duties makes the world a better place yet never acknowledged or celebrated by the media.

Katie Lentz

Out of hospital, and on her 20th birthday, Katie Lentz finally met Fr. Dowling and was so happy.

 “I feel so honored to be with such a man of faith,” she said. “He was there to do his job the day of the accident, and I’m so thankful he was there.”

Katie Lentz meets Angel priest

Chinwuba Iyizoba





Wishing You and your family Holy Christmas

24 12 2018

This Christmas, may you and your families experience the joy and peace proclaimed by the angels, and be ever more open to God’s wonderful surprises!’

In this busy season, we might ask ourselves how the Lord himself would like us to keep this feast.

If we look at the first Christmas, we see that it is full of God’s surprises. Mary is visited by an angel; Joseph is told to take her in, to become a father to her Child and to flee with the Holy Family to Egypt.

But the greatest surprise of all is that God himself becomes a little Child, born in humility and poverty.

Christmas changes our world. It speaks to us of God’s self-giving love that should inspire the way we live and relate to one another. It tells us that we best celebrate the Saviour’s birth by imitating Mary’s trusting faith and Joseph’s quiet openness to God’s will, and by opening our hearts to the Lord, who asks us to make room for him in our busy lives.

Amid the bustle of our Christmas

preparations, may we not forget the very One whose birth we are celebrating! And in worshiping the Son of God, born in the poverty of our flesh, may we be mindful of the poor and those in need all around us.

This Christmas, may you and your families experience the joy and peace proclaimed by the angels, and be ever more open to God’s wonderful surprises!

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana

DECEMBER 19, 2018 12:52

GENERAL AUDIENCE

https://zenit.org/articles/pope-reflects-on-christmas-during-general-audience/

Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Pope’s address at the General Audience this morning:

***

Speaker:

Dear brothers and sisters: In a few days it will be Christmas.





Jesus and Mary share an organ?

7 12 2018

I was recently caught by an article on aletia.org titled, “Do you know that Mary and Jesus shared an organ? “

Intrigued, I began reading.

Yes, Mary and Jesus literally share an organ! The PLACENTA!

Have you ever thought about the placenta — what it meant to Jesus and Mary, and what it means to us? asks Anna O’Neil, the author.

Quick refresher, if you’re foggy on what a placenta is and does: It’s the organ that connects an unborn baby with his mother. The baby’s umbilical cord attaches to the placenta, and the mother’s body sends oxygen and nutrients through it to the baby. It also filters waste out of the baby’s blood, regulates the temperature of his environment, and produces the hormones that make the pregnancy possible.

Here’s the best part, though the placenta is an organ that the mother and baby build together. We can’t say the mother’s placenta belongs to her in the same way that her womb is hers; the placenta belongs to mother and child both. Part of it is built by her body, and part by the baby’s body, but it’s one single organ — with both of their DNA.

So Mary didn’t only carry Jesus in her womb during those months leading up to Christmas day. She and he were actually attached — by a human organ that belonged to them both.

Later, when Jesus was preaching, somebody calls out to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” Luke tells us that Jesus answered: “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Here is a God who wants to be so close to us that he became man — not just showing up out of the blue as an adult, but growing inside of his mother’s womb, sharing an organ with her, letting their two bodies be so intimately united — and now he says to us that those who hear the word of God and observe it can be united with him like his own, immaculate mother was.

We’re not immaculate, but that’s not the point. Jesus wants to share his life with us. We talk like he just wants proximity. He wants more. We talk about bringing Jesus into our life, making room for him in the inn, remembering him through the season, and all of that is good. But Jesus wants to be closer.

Jesus started his human life as every life starts, burrowed into the lining of his mother’s uterus. As he grew, their bodies worked together, God’s body and her immaculate one, building the placenta that attached them until he was ready to be born.

Some of us are mothers, and we remember sharing our body with our children. But all of us have mothers, and even though we don’t remember it, we began our lives connected to them in the most intimate way imaginable. If you’ve ever doubted that Jesus truly wants to be with you, remember that the unity in which your own life began is only a shadow of the unity that Jesus is hoping to have with you.

Worth keeping in mind this Christmas








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