Pope Francis is on a six day visit to America and his visit is very poignant and timely. Pope Francis is a frugal man and a friend of the poor. This is very much in the tradition of another icon of the Catholic Church, whose name he has borrowed,St Francis of Assisi.
In America,President Barak Obama has been the butt of the derision for many of the republican presidential aspirants and the Republican Party members, casting aspersions that Obama is not American and that he is a Muslim. In spite of this, Obama came forward with his birth certificate and it appeared that he can trace his family on both sides. It is evident that no matter what he does, he can never do anything right to satisfy his detractors. And why should he? The reason is simply because he is black and that does not sit well with those who are conditioned prejudiced and racists.He has been consistent in what has marked his papacy so far: he has acted tirelessly to deal with sexual abuses in the church and has helped ensure these acts are registered as crimes, he talked frankly about climate change and the responsibility of the world leaders. He helped brokered the US and Cuba diplomatic ties, chooses humility above luxury possessions, and he is known to leave the Vatican at night to help the homeless, he encouraged cooperation between Christians and Muslims and he said that Christians and Muslims should work together to achieve love.
This also comes at a time when young African Americans are facing police brutality,wrongful arrest and mass incarceration. On top of this, there is the anti- immigrants sentimentality brewing especially if you do not fit the brief as the quintessential white Americans. Funny that, because the real North Americans are Native Americans. They too, have been discriminated against, in fact they have to prove that they are Native Americans!
Discrimination and prejudice is poisonous as it pits people against people and those that suffer are the ordinary people who have no power but definitely will be caught in the hatred and the melee.
So in the wake of such division and hatred that is gripping America, Pope Francis has come to spread his brand of papacy.
So it is in this storm, that the Holy Father flies in and he too, has declared he is a son of immigrants! Imagine the faces on these haters that the Holy Father have decided to take the sides of the foreigners. This is the mark of this Pope that sets him aside from his predecessors. He did away with the pope mobile and he is more accessible to the people. Love is a wonderful thing. This pope is a man of the people and one that does not mind stepping on the toes of the rich and the oppressors.
He says it as it is and refuses to be give in to the pomp and ceremony. In fact, he will be passing on lunching with the lawmakers after he has addressed the congress and instead, he will dine with homeless people in Washington.
I am writing at a time in Nigeria,when there is more that should unite us than divide us. There are some of us that are hell-bent on espousing hatred and they cannot see anything else. So here is one from my archives in Generation X, October 21, 2012 -this was before the great man passed on:
“I have not bought my copy of the book so I cannot make any comment on its contents. What, I however, find disconcerting is: some people’s attitude to the fact, that Chinua Achebe had the gall to have an opinion and write it in a book!
If people disagree, by all means say so. What I do find disturbing is, we always go off the boil and go as far insulting his character, his literary integrity and his tribe in one quick swoop. This is not an isolated case, it seems that is the given that one tribe is pit against another tribe in this fashion. I don’t know about you, but it is very disrespectful, discourteous, it shows bad upbringing and dismissive in the the way they react to people who may have a different view from theirs.
This is not the first book written about the war and no mean the last; some good, some not so good and a few written by non – Nigerians!
At least this is written from a first person account and a Nigerian too. Chinua Achebe put it so well when he said: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”. That is exactly what he did and he was pilloried for that!
Therefore,by condemning a view because they disagree with it, they will ultimately close doors to the growth of a cohesive society and it seems they want to create a place where only Yes people can exist?
Without giving my age away,I have heard horrifying and personal stories of the war, each gruesome than the next.
Though I was very young during the civil war, I remembered vividly the bombardments in Lagos. I have dear friends who lost their parents and their siblings. My father, a journalist, covered the war and he saw and wrote about the causalities of the civil war on both sides. The war is what we have not talked about; it has prevented us from moving forward. We have consigned it to folklore and use it to whip up hatred and division and we now feed this hatred to those who were not present to see what it did to the nation and its people.
For those who experienced it, they have the memory seared in their souls. They cannot forget, nor have they even forgiven each other for the tragedy either. This is one of the reasons they fight, argue and create mayhem but always stop at the threat of another civil war is the trauma that still exist in the fibre of the nation. If anything, Chinua Achebe has rightly or wrongly made people talk of the civil war and yet the wounds remains still raw. Let us be open and be honest to have an open discussion and look for a way forward.
Sadly, these Nigerians always revert to form when someone cast a whim of tribal, political or religious aspersions or a mere mention of what they find offensive to their sensitivities. These people are quick to throw the proverbial baby with the bathwater. This does not make room for growth, in fact, it’s the height of intolerance and regression.
When people fail to reason, their fear is then nurtured into hate and then it is difficult to reason with unreasonable people. There needs to be an open dialogue to solve this self-hatred, as no one will make breakthrough until we address what plagues some people to behave in such manner and help everyone move forward. There is a lot of manipulation by the powerful and the wealthy to pit ordinary people against one another, this stops the ordinary Nigerian from seeing what is actually going on: high youth unemployment, grinding poverty, substandard education and lack of opportunities for working age adults, inadequate and expensive health facilities, bribery and corruption, poor transport and deteriorating and archaic institutional facilities.
How can people not understand that growth only occurs when one can think rationally for oneself? Too many Nigerians are taken in by hatred and intolerance and they turn on people, they do not agree with and will stick by those who are wrong simply because of their affinity with them. A bit of decorum is needed please, so we do not lose the essence of the event. The War happened and a lot of people suffered and died. The rule of engagement differs in time of war than in time of peace. Remember that.
We need a degree of intelligence to process the faulty logic of refusing other people’s viewpoint and only entertaining those that agree with our own viewpoint. What is needed is for people to show a level of humility and to admit that sometimes they are not always right. And in order to grow, they have to entertain other people’s view without necessarily taken everything as gospel.
Nigeria and Nigerians needs to show more empathy and compassionate to cleanse some of the ills that plague the country and the people. This is everyone’s responsibility and it is a shared responsibility.
In the spirit of love and friendship, can I wish you all a peaceful Eid Murbarak!