ON August 15, 2015, the feast of the Assumption, a Catholic Priest was brutally murdered at Owerri, the capital city of Imo State. Before his death Rev. Fr. Denis Osuagwu was a formator at the Claretian Institute of Philosophy Maryland Nekede. He was also a lecturer at the Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo, an institute he served with pastoral charity. On that sad day, Fr. Denis was on his way to conduct examination for his students, when he was brutally murdered by a group of unknown gunmen on his way to the school.
During the funeral mass of Fr. Denis, which took place on September 4, 2015, Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri Province described the painful death of Fr. Denis Osuagwu as a replay of what happened in the Bible between Cain and his brother Abel. Out of jealous and wickedness Cain murdered his own brother. What was the crime of Abel? You may ask.
Abel did not commit any crime against Cain. The only reason why Cain hated his brother, with passion was because the Lord rejected his offering. The Lord even told Cain before he slaughtered his brother, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:6). So many people in the world today hate their fellow human beings not because they committed any crime but because of their gifts and talents.
Cain took his brother to the field where he murdered him. At first he thought that no one saw him not knowing that the Lord God was watching him. As soon as Cain killed his brother the Lord asked him, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain replied, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” This is a common question among the murderers. They do not care about the lives of their fellow human beings. A murderer is someone who takes the life of his fellow human being for granted; he is also someone who is indifferent about the welfare and security of his fellow human being.
Our God is a just God. He is the Defender of the defenseless and the Voice of the voiceless. The lifeless body of Abel could not speak or even take revenge against Cain, his executioner, but God spoke on his behalf. The Lord said to Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:10-12). A murderer is indeed a fugitive and a mad wanderer.
You can now see the reason why our generation is suffering – Why we are recording fruitless labour; why there is poverty, hardship and even the so-called global meltdown. Now you know why there is unemployment for our timid youths. Our generation is suffering because of the blood of the innocent ones that are being murdered across the globe. The land has been defiled with human blood. People no longer see blood as sacred. The more human blood are wasted the more people will continue to suffer.
Cain even acknowledged that his punishment was not an easy one: “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me” (Genesis 4:13-14). Indeed, there is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22). The punishment that awaits a murderer is indeed unbearable. Even our Lord Jesus Christ told Peter, “Those who use the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). If you are a murderer you don’t need anyone to remind you that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
During his homily at the funeral of Rev. Fr. Denis Osuagwu, the Archbishop of Owerri told his audience that the story of Cain and Abel is the story of humanity is general. According to him, each one of us possesses an element of Cain and Abel. Those who are persecuted and oppressed because of their gifts, their talents and even their position in the society are the Abel of our generation whereas the oppressors, those who oppress their fellow human beings are the Cain of our generation. Ironically, through revenge the Abels can as well turn into Cain. That is why we should leave vengeance to the Lord.
St. Paul wrote to the Romans concerning vengeance, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21). The Lord God also said in the book of Deuteronomy, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. For the Lord will vindicate his people” (Deut 32:35-36). So, leave vengeance to God!
Humanly speaking it may appear to be cowardice but before God, it is a demonstration of greatness. God demonstrates his greatness in mercy while human beings demonstrate their weakness in revenge and wickedness. The highest authority that Jesus demonstrated, which no other leader or freedom fighter has ever expressed was when he prayed for his executioners, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Following his example, St. Stephen also prayed for his executioners, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Forgiveness is the highest demonstration of greatness whereas revenge is the highest demonstration of weakness.
To the oppressors, the Cains of our generation, our Lord Jesus Christ declares, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Therefore the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the sanctuary” (Luke 11:47-51). As long as our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned the Cain of our generation will never go unpunished. They must account for the blood of all the people they murdered.
One interesting thing the Archbishop of Owerri said during the burial of Rev. Father Denis Osugwu was what he believes is responsible for the constant assassination, robbery attacks, kidnappings, and terrorism in our nation today. According to him, the hardship, poverty and unemployment the young people are facing in our nation is the major cause of insecurity and insurgencies. Since the leaders have failed to employ and engage the youths constructively they have now availed themselves to all forms of evil practices in order to survive.
This is exactly what I have been lamenting since the beginning of this year. When God revealed to me the need to liberate and empower our youths, He said, if we do not empower the youths, sooner or later they will become threat to our lives and property. The government is pumping a lot of money into security forces. They are even begging America and other neighboring nations to assist them in the war against terrorism and insurgencies. These are all waste of fund and time. If the government should use these fund to empower the youths and engage them constructively there will be no cause for alarm. An idle mind remains the devil’s workshop.
There is no doubt; the government may not get it right but what about the Church? The Church is another powerful institution in Nigeria. I remember, when the early missionaries came to Nigeria they brought free education, missionary hospitals, and different forms of empowerment programme. Today, because of the influence of capitalism most of the missionary schools we have in Nigeria are so expensive that even the poor masses cannot afford them. My humble position is this; if the government fails the Church should not fail!
Imagine how our nation and our society will be if all the Churches we have in Nigeria start empowering their members, especially the youths. This was exactly what the early Church did. The author of the Acts of the Apostles even wrote that “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds to the apostles and distribution were made according to their needs (Acts 4:34-35). Sharing and empowerment of the youths remains the only way to solve the problem of insecurity, insurgencies and rapid assassinations in our nation today.
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