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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

THAT BOY CALLS YOU FATHER, DO NOT BEAR A HAND IN HIS DEATH-A RESPONSE TO THE UPSURGE OF SEXUAL ABUSES IN OUR PLACES OF WORSHIP By Rev. Fr. Ambrose Ofodile

“That boy calls you ‘father’, do not have a hand in his death.” Let us pay attention. (Being a presentation at a Google meeting on 15-05-2023)

The story of Ikemefuna in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is arguably the most arresting subplot in the entire novel. Ikemefuna was a teenage male from Mbaino who, along with a virgin girl from the town, was given as a slave to the neighbouring town, Umuofia, as compensation for the murder of the wife of Ogbuefi Udo, an Umuofia man, by the people of Mbaino. On arriving at Umuofia, he was placed in the household of Okonkwo, the main character in Achebe’s novel, there to await the decision of the gods on what would be done with him by the community. He stayed with the household for three years, sleeping in the hut of the man’s first wife, together with the woman’s other children.

Within the period that he was in Okonkwo’s compound, the industrious and hardworking Ikemefuna exercised an influence over Nwoye, Okonkwo’s first son, which pleased Okonkwo to no small measure although he kept his feelings on the matter quite hidden. Nwoye became, in his father’s eyes, more “masculine” in his attitude, shunning the infantile tales and cloying caresses of his mother, and preferring instead to visit, with Ikemefuna, his father’s “obi”, there to listen to Okonkwo recount stories of war and bloodshed, and other manly deeds. Ikemefuna became a light in Okonkwo’s household, and his amiable personality endeared him to all and sundry.

However, with time, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decreed that it was time for Ikemefuna to be killed. Okonkwo was distraught at hearing the gods’ command, but he brushed his sadness aside and insisted on participating in the boy’s execution. Ogbuefi Ezeudu, one of the greatest men of the land, sensing the close attachment between Okonkwo and Ikemefuna, advised the man that “that boy calls you ‘father’, do not have a hand in his death”. Okonkwo refused to heed the wise counsel of the older man. It did not occur to him that, by having lived in his household for so long, Ikemefuna had become, to some degree, a member of his family, and to take part in his killing would be tantamount to shedding the blood of his own offspring. He was afraid to be considered a weakling like his father, Unoka, had been, and this fear, mingled with his colossal pride, led him to strike the death blow himself, with his cutlass, at the place of the boy’s execution.

Okonkwo’s disregard of Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s prophetic counsel was not without consequences. Ikemefuna’s death haunted Okonkwo for days, disturbing his dreams, and it caused Nwoye to withdraw from his father and retreat all the more into himself. However, far more than the above, the tragedy of the boy’s demise ushered a series of misfortunes into Okonkwo’s household, culminating in the suicide of Okonkwo many chapters later, a death far less honourable than the man himself would have desired, which meant that he had to be disposed of like a dog, rather than being buried with full honours by his kinsmen because of his accomplishments in life.

“That boy calls you ‘Father’, do not have a hand in his death.” In light of an increase in cases of sexual immorality in our places of worship, it is important for our priests, pastors, faith/church leaders, catechists, and other individuals charged with different responsibilities across religious circles, all of who enjoy the trust and confidence of the people of God, to revisit the foregoing advice of Ogbuefi Ezeudu, as well as the tragic story of Ikemefuna on the whole.

Our places of worship are meant to be places of refuge, trust and sincere worship of God. They ought to be where the people of God gather to be safe and be fed by the ministers and leaders whom God has appointed to guide his holy people towards righteousness. They are not meant for such things as immoral activities and so forth. The truth of the matter, however, is that, as long as there is a community of the faithful, the reality of sin cannot be relegated to the background. Temptations and sins are inevitable in human life.

That said, it does not mean that we should fold our arms and allow the incidence of sexual immorality in our places of worship to continue to rise unabated. Such things as fornication, adultery, rape, lesbianism, homosexuality, sexual abuse of minors, and other forms of immorality should have no place in the church. It becomes even worse when those acts are perpetrated by people who have been placed by the Lord in leadership positions at the church, using as victims those who have been placed in their care. It is akin to the case of a dog eating the bone tied around its neck for safekeeping.

There is a reason why our Lord Jesus Himself expressly stated, in the Holy Gospel, that it is better to have a millstone tied around one’s neck and be flung into the sea than to lead any of the little ones to sin. Apart from the scandal that such acts create in the society at large, they betray our identity as the people of God and as “Christanoi” (“imitators of Christ”). Not only that, many have lost their faith and trust in God because of the things they have gone through, at the hands of ministers and leaders, in various places of worship. We should not allow such things to continue. We should live up to our title: the holy people of God.

In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, there is a moving scene where Ikemefuna is about to be executed. On being struck by the machete blow of one of his assailants, he runs to Okonkwo for protection, crying aloud, “My father, they have killed me”, expecting to be shielded by his putative dad. But Okonkwo, rather than come to his assistance, is overcome by the fear of being labelled a weakling and, instead, draws his own machete and strikes the fatal blow…. It is a scene that tugs at the very strings of the heart.

If we could picture the heart-broken and disappointed look on Ikemefuna’s face as he was falling to the ground, to his death, we would better understand the disappointment that church faithful feel when they undergo sexual assault/abuse at the hands of trusted and revered ministers and leaders. Many of the faithful run – like Ikemefuna to Okonkwo – to the ministers and leaders for protection and for grooming in the things of God. It would be the worst abomination for the latter, like Okonkwo, to strike them down instead of offering them succour.

“That boy calls you ‘father’, do not have a hand in his death.” Let us pay attention. (Being a presentation at a Google meeting on 15-05-2023)

Disclaimer: 

The opinions and views expressed in this write-up are entirely that of the Writer(s). They do not reflect the opinions and views of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or any of its employees. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of materials herein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the Publisher (Nze Ikay’s Blog) or its employees concerning the legal status of any country, its authority, area or territory or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers. Equally, the sketches, images, pictures and videos are obtained from the public domain

NzeIkay
NzeIkayhttps://nzeikayblog.com
Nigeria is an Enigma. The capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of her is undoubtedly God’s endowment to us, her citizens. As a citizen of this lovely nation, I’ve spent decades of my life trying to understand this, Mirage. Hope someday, this Mystery that houses about 250 million blacks will be globally understood, widely accepted, and given the opportunity to play its vital role in the world stage. So, help us God! #NigeriaDeservesBetter #AfricaDeservesBetter

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