Prelate asks Imo people to reclaim dignity

Archbishop of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, has urged the people of Imo to see this year’s Easter period as a new opportunity to reclaim their human dignity and freedom.
In his Easter message in Owerri, Archbishop Obinna reflected on the state of fear and panic which, he said, was prevalent under the present administration in the state.
According to him, people have been afraid to speak up or protest legitimately.
“The governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, had the only voice which everyone has to listen to and obey, otherwise arrests and imprisonment would follow,” he said.
He, however, attributed the incident that led to a confrontation between him and some party zealots at a mass service in St. Michael’s Ngwoma as “God’s mysterious providence,”which has opened the eyes of people.
Full text of the message reads:
Easter which celebrates the resurrection of the crucified Jesus takes the joy of Christmas to a climactic and explosive height. Given the weak disposition of us humans with our mortal Flesh-nature every uncomfortable or unsettling presence or sound causes us to fear and to panic. That was the case with the apostles when they cried out in fear on the rough sea as they mistook Jesus for a ghost while he walked on the sea towards them to enter their boat. Jesus quickly reassured them, “Courage! It’s me! Don’ t be afraid” Matt 14:27.
The ultimate expression of real fear and panic among the apostles came when Jesus was arrested at the instigation of the civil and religious authorities. Most of his followers deserted him and even Peter who followed him from a safe distance eventually denied him three times to save his own life. Yet in the face of false accusations, contempt and abuses before Pilate and Herod, Jesus stood his ground.
Even when Pilate pretended to have absolute power over Jesus, Jesus boldly replied;
“You would have no power over me at all if it had not been give you from above; that is why the man who handed me over to you has greater guilt,” John 19:11
With his crucifixion and death all seemed to be over without Lord Jesus Christ. That was not to be. Three days later he broke through the chains of death and of the grave and rose back to life with the liberative and explosive consequences that we are seeing even today. Having made appearances to ordinary Mary Magdalene, to Peter and the other apostles to assure them that he was fully alive in a higher and pervasive order, He empowers these once fear-driven and panic-stricken disciples with a force beyond their comprehension:
As the Father sent me so am I sending you … Receive the Holy Spirit, If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins they are retained. John 20:2I-23
As the acts of Apostles narrates “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak … as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.” Acts 2:4
And so we find Peter and John and the other apostles, former fishermen and lowly rated humans, boldly proclaiming salvation and faith in Jesus Christ crucified but now risen from the dead. In response to threats and warnings from the authorities to the apostles to desist from preaching about Jesus Christ as the one Saviour of the world, the apostles replied:
Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, whom you executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and Saviour to give repentance and forgiveness through him to Israel. We are witnesses to this, we, and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him. Acts 5:29-32
According to Luke the writer:
This (response) so infuriated them (the politico-religious authorities) that they wanted to put them to death. Acts 5:33.
Die, of course, they did as their witnessing became even more confident and courageous.
The prophetic-apostolic mission of speaking the truth in the name of God and in the cause of Justice, freedom and peace on behalf of the peoples is not one that is lightly taken up by humans. It is fraught with danger, with threats of punishment and death; of losing friends, well-wishers and relatives. Prophet-Apostles are fearful humans like the rest of us. Yet the prophetic-apostolic mission must continue since it is a God-given grace and task. The prophetic word has. the capacity to break through the chain of captivity and free people held in bondage even for centuries. Think of Moses before Pharaoh demanding “let my people go”. Think of Gandhi in India fighting non-violently for independence from colonial Britain and an end to Hindu Caste system. Think of Martin Luther King Jnr. in white America fighting non-violently too with truth and justice force for the equality of whites and blacks and even the right to vote in white-controlled elections.
At some point in his prophetic mission Jeremiah felt like abandoning the mission in the face of hatred and opposition;
For me God’s word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long. I would say to myself, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name anymore  but then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it. Jer. 20:8-9
But with the constant confidence and courage made possible by the resurrection of Christ from the dead and the continuous downpour of the Holy Spirit of courage, of fortitude, even the reluctant prophet-apostle will still obey the impulse or voice of God. For some years now, Imo citizens have been living in a state of fear and panic under the present governance. They have been afraid to speak up not to talk of making legitimate but peaceful protests normally protected by law in truly democratic lands. The governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha had the only voice which everyone had to listen to and obey otherwise arrests and imprisonment would follow. But by God’s mysterious providence and without planning it, my speaking in Church at St. Michael’s Ngwoma against Governor’s autocratic anointing and endorsement of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as the next governor of Imo State come 2019, and the rumble that ensued, opened a doorway for Imo citizens to publicly vent their long-bottled anger. Just four days after that event, members of the Governor’s APC party found the confidence and courage to come up with a communiqué that read in part:
We reject in its entirety the endorsements of Uche Nwosu as being currently carried out in our party … This is improper and if imposed will be resisted by all responsible and conscientious members of the party.
Since then more Imo citizens have found confidence and courage to speak out from their former enclaves or hideouts.
With this Resurrection  Easter breakthrough of our Lord Jesus, Imo citizens like the rest of humanity have a new opportunity to reclaim their human dignity and freedom which are suffocated under regimes, traditions and customs that terrorize and imprison-them. Of course beyond political and economic hostage-holding, other forces, demonic and human, that hold us captive must also be confidently and courageously resisted and fought with the divine power that enclothes us in Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ makes all this clear:
In all truth I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave.  Now a slave has no permanent standing in the household, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.  John 8: 34-36
Imo citizens this is your time of liberation.  Grab it with Christ-given confidence and courage.
Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna
Archbishop of Owerri

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