We’re solely responsible for our actions or inactions…
It’s true that no one wants a bad name. It’s also true that institutions (secular and religious) would go to great lengths to protect themselves from scandal. However, institutions should never see themselves as solely responsible for the consequences of the misdemeanour of individuals. Individuals are and should be responsible for whatever they do.
Any institution that tries to perpetuate the ‘cover-up’ culture very soon begins to sink. This is because it’s criminal to cover up what should be decisively dealt with. That said, let’s attempt to deal with the crux of the matter.
Some years ago (2016), the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria encouraged pastors of souls (priests) on the need to sensitise the girl child, as the feast day of St Bakhita (February 8) approached.
But many persons have no idea who this woman was. I’ll try to highlight important points about her without using too many words (time is of the essence, right?). Wikipedia tells us that “Josephine Margaret Bakhita, F.D.C.C., (ca. 1869- 8th of February 1947) was a Sudanese-born former slave who became a Canossian Religious Sister in Italy, living and working there for 45 years. In 2000 she was declared a saint by the Catholic Church” (you can read the full story here, http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5601).
Her entire life was laced with suffering. I remember seeing a movie of this Saint when I was a minor seminarian. It was horrible. I still see her tear-ridden face till this day. She was kidnapped when she was barely 9, sold and resold many times, beaten, maimed and abused in the most inhuman ways possible. No wonder she forgot her name in the process. That she later found the grace to become a nun, and share so much love and warmth with others is but a miracle.
When I think of Bakhita (the lucky one), I think about the many young Nigerian girls that are verbally, emotionally and sexually abused daily by parents, family members, trusted relatives, hired hands and nannies, lecturers, priests, pastors, prophets and other persons who should have a dire responsibility to protect the girl child. I think of the many young Nigerian girls that have been deceived into international prostitution across the shores of Europe, America and Asia; and I weep. Our Nigerian situation In my discussion with a friend some years ago, she said to me, “Fr., do you know there’s hardly a girl that hasn’t had at least an experience of sexual molestation, assault, or rape?” I tried so much to encourage her because I knew she was right. Today, many young girls are used to being touched and treated indecently, especially those living in homes that aren’t originally theirs. But they have also found ways of dealing with it. They have adapted to a ‘sick culture’. A culture that does not take sexual assault seriously. A culture that has many lawyers that are not interested in assault cases, because they are sometimes in deep themselves. How can a child be raped at 8? How can a shop hand begin to sexually assault his master’s daughters? How can a father abuse his own blood? How can men of God begin abusing their own maids? Isn’t this crazy? Why do our young ladies continue to allow themselves be deceived into both local and international prostitution?
-Rev. Fr. Oselumhense K. Anetor