We are celebrating Easter this year in an atmosphere permeated by the coronavirus pandemic, an atmosphere that breathes anxiety, uncertainty, fear and stress. This is as a result of the increasing spread of the deadly and dreaded virus with its rising toll of death across the world. The prevailing tension is also heightened by the indiscriminate spread of misinformation and mistrust through the social media at the present moment. No one knows how long the pandemic is going to play out and how much damage it is going to cause in the different perspectives of our individual lives and our collective life as a nation.
During this period of the coronavirus emergency in our country, there has been a sharp downturn of our economy. The appalling economic situation is worsened by the lockdown of different states in the country and the restrictions imposed on movements and economic activities. This has led to an alarming hike in the cost of food items and transportation, and a massive extortion of citizens at our borders and checkpoints by law enforcement agents. This state of affairs has brought untold hardship to many poor and vulnerable families as hunger stares them in the face daily. With our porous national and inter-state borders, many are afraid that their enormous sacrifice in complying with the stay-at-home order may not yield the expected positive outcomes, since people still move in and out of our country and states. Locked up in their homes without the basic necessities of life such as food, water and light; plagued by hunger and unable to draw spiritual strength from God in public religious worship, many of our compatriots are yielding to feelings of despair, cynicism and frustration.
The prevailing fear that reigns among our people at this time mirrors the frustration felt by the apostles and disciples at the excruciating passion and humiliating death of Jesus Christ. After the crucifixion of their Lord and Master, they returned home with shattered dreams and hopes – dispirited, dejected, downcast and miserable. Afraid of the Jews, who executed their Master, they hid behind closed doors just as we are staying indoors in our homes afraid of contracting the highly infectious and deadly coronavirus.
Against this gloomy and cheerless background, the joyful and heart-warming Easter message resounds: God has raised Jesus Christ to life! His resurrection is the hope of our own resurrection. God would not allow injustice, oppression and death to triumph for ever nor would he allow the forces of darkness to prevail for ever over light. He would not allow his people to die and perish in their helplessness. He desires that Christ and indeed all should have life and have it to the full.
Amidst our present feeling of despair, Easter has a message of hope, namely: that every dark tunnel has an end; that at the end of every dark tunnel there is light; and that the darkest part of the night is the beginning of dawn. This message of hope underscores that even though the deadly forces of Covid-19 seems to be having an upper hand over life, on the long run life will triumph over its forces of death. Accordingly, far from yielding to paralysing fear and despair, we should face the future with Paschal hope and persevere to the end in the dark and difficult situations caused by Covid-19.
Nevertheless, it is of vital importance to bear in mind that the bright future we hope for will only come about with the cooperation of one and all. At this time, we have to comply with the rules of physical/social distancing, self-isolation and the highest level of personal hygiene. We have also to be our brother’s keeper and resist the temptation of trying to exploit the present situation for self-enrichment. In this regard, we wish to applaud health-care workers across the world for their heroic commitment and dedication in saving lives. They are not only facing long hours, intense work and the risk of infection; they are also offering care at the end of life and supporting bereaved families. We thank all those who put smiles on the faces of poor and struggling families by supporting our Covid-19 Food Bank Intervention Programme. We commend the Abia State government for reaching out to the less privilege with food items through the Churches in order to cushion off the harsh effects of the lockdown in the State. May God bless and reward them all beyond their expectations!
In the face of the horrendous challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, western advanced countries are responding comprehensively, with incredible swiftness, efficiency and state of the art facilities to save lives. In contrast, our response as a nation to the pandemic clearly exposes our unspeakable limitations and inadequacies in matters of saving lives. In all humility and honesty, we have to acknowledge that owing to our underdevelopment, we are politically, economically, structurally and technologically ill-equipped and ill-prepared to face the many challenges arising from this particularly insidious and highly infectious virus. Given the rich human and natural resources bestowed on us as a people, our crippling underdevelopment as a nation is inexcusable. This is because in the final analysis, our underdevelopment is a self-inflicted wound, which has its origin in our personal and collective sins; sins of greed, graft, embezzlement, dishonesty and negligence of duty.
Easter, which recalls Christ’s victory over sin and the opening of a new way of life for humanity, is a clarion call on us all, leaders and led, to renounce our personal and collective sins, embrace uprightness of life, rededicate ourselves to the duty of nation building and put the common good above our personal interest in all our endeavours as a people. The celebration of Easter also reminds us of the transcendental dimensions of life in a world that is dominated by the spirit of materialism. In this regard St Paul enjoins us, “if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth…” (Col 3, 1-2).
As we celebrate Easter, we need to be aware of the fact that Christ’s victory over death, which is also a sign of our own triumph over the forces of evil, entails joy. We cannot celebrate Easter with hearts weighed down by fear and uncertainty. Let the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, fill us with joy and hope! I wish you all a happy and grace-filled Easter celebration.
+Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji
Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese