Life must go on. God is there and we hope. The Government too

  • Bishop Godfrey Onah blessing the coffins as he processed for the Funeral Mass

  • A cross section of the widows wailing in pains

  • Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi addressing the congregation at the funeral

  • Senator Chuka Utazi addressing the congregation at the funeral

  • Bishop Onah receiving former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi

A Brief Homily at the Funeral Mass for the Victims of the Nimbo Massacre
Celebrated on Friday 17 June 2016
Bishop Godfrey Igwebuike Onah
(Catholic Bishop of Nsukka)

"The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away" (Is 25: 8)

Since that dark and terrible Monday 25 April 2016 we have been in tears and in sorrow. How often have we wished the whole thing were just a bad dream from which we would soon wake? But unfortunately, day after day, week after week, the reality of the tragedy of that black Monday keeps staring us in the face. And as if to shake off any element of doubt that may still be in our minds about that sad day, here we have the mortal remains of some of our slain brothers lying before us.

Never in the history of our community have we witnessed anything similar. And we pray and hope that never again shall we witness any tragedy close to this one in magnitude. As we bury some of these our brothers today, we turn to God in gratitude, with faith, hope and charity.

We are grateful to God, our merciful Father, that some of us are still alive today to bury and mourn our dead. If our invaders had had their way, there would probably not have been anybody left in Nimbo today to bury the dead. But thanks to God, many were able to escape and some are now here today to pay their last respect to their slain brothers.

We also thank God for the way in which he has shown us his love in these months of pain and sorrow, through the constant presence and help of persons, institutions and organizations from far and near. May he continue to bless all those who have allowed themselves to be used as instruments of his love and consolation.

Our faith assures us that those who die in the Lord are freed from the sorrows of this life and rest for ever in the calm security of God's love in heaven. We therefore pray and hope that these our brothers, these innocent victims of blind hatred and violence, will be granted a share in the merits of the death and resurrection of Christ, who on the mountain of Calvary has fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which was proclaimed to us in the first reading of today's Mass.

Although we may find it hard to forgive the violent attack that has brought us so much grief, we know that an unforgiving spirit will never bring us peace. May the charity and solidarity we have experienced in these past weeks help us to overcome our bitterness. Let us pray to God for the grace to do this and to love our enemies.

Do not be afraid. Jesus tells us not to be afraid. But how can we not be afraid when it is already being rumoured (or perhaps it is no longer a rumour) that our assailants are again back to our farms? God knows that each of us is worth more than many sparrows (cf. Mtt 10: 31). But does the Government believe that any of us is worth up to one Fulani cow? If it does, then it should act accordingly.

Today we are, as the Psalmist says, like people walking through the valley of darkness. The State and Federal Governments with their laws and security agencies should be the rod and the staff with which God comforts us, so that we may walk through this valley without fearing any evil (cf. Ps 23: 4). Should they fail to do this, they should realize that it is not only Nimbo people or humanity that they fail, but God Himself. And they will be held accountable by Him.

With tears in our eyes and deep sorrow in our hearts we appeal to the State Government not to allow our place to be like the proverbial soft soil where the fowl has its bath. We welcome with gratitude the resolve of the State Governor to strengthen the local security outfit in the State to forestall further loss of innocent lives.

We join our voices, made feeble and hardly audible by months of wailing and weeping, to those of other Nigerians urging the legislative arms of our Government not to contemplate any laws that would deprive us of our farmlands and our means of sustenance in order to provide grazing grounds for Fulani cattle rearers. Perhaps, the State Government can even help our farmers rear our local cattle in commercial quantities. If nama can grow fat while grazing on our lands, then eshu Igbo will grow even fatter if grazed here at home! But man does not live by cow meat alone.

He also needs yams, cocoa-yams, rice, beans, maize, cassava, vegetables, fruits - which the cattle rearers no longer allow us to produce. The duty of the Government is to provide the enabling environment that would allow all the Citizens of the Country to develop according to their abilities and circumstances, not to favour a particular section at the expense of the others.

Furthermore, it appears some criminal elements are now using the cattle rearers as a cover for penetrating many villages and perpetrating heinous crimes. Everything must be done to disarm these aggressors and to apprehend and punish the criminals according to the law. Else, a heightened sense of insecurity may lead to an escalation of violence and a total breakdown of law and order.

Life must go on. As we pay our last respect to our slain brothers and lay them to rest, we must be united in upholding the values of peace and harmony in our community and beyond. Those who betray their brothers and sisters out of the fear of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul or out of the desire for material gains, will have to face the judgement of "the one who can destroy both soul and body in Ghenna [Hell]" (Mtt 10: 28).

Unless we walk and work together, we cannot go far and we cannot produce much. This painful experience must strengthen our resolve to keep Nimbo on the map of Nigeria and in the consciousness of Nigerians as a peaceful resourceful farming community.

On no account should we abandon our farms. If we do, then our brothers lying here would have died in vain. We should not be afraid. For God has never abandoned and will never abandon us. By the grace of God, the Church in Nsukka Diocese, the Family of God in Nsukka, will ever remain close to the traumatized people of Nimbo, especially, the bereaved ones.

We shall do all we can to assist in providing sustenance for the widows of our slain brothers and education for their children. We hope too that the Government will be there for them and for all of us.

May the souls of these our slain brothers and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen!

Bishop Godfrey Igwebuike ONAH
(Catholic Bishop of Nsukka)

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