A Reflection on the Ozubulu, Anambra Church Massacre by Uwakwe Chibuike MFC
God has been understood to be omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent. If God is all-knowing (omniscient), did he know about the massacre of worshipers at St. Philip’s Catholic Church Ozubulu, Nnewi Diocese in Anambra State of Nigeria before it took place or was he taken unawares like us? If God is all-good (omnibenevolent) and has the good of all men in mind, why did he allow this evil to befall those who came to worship him? If God is all-powerful (omnipotent) why didn’t he use his mighty power to prevent the attack or frustrate the perpetrators or at least make them unable to escape from the scene? These are questions that call to mind when we reflect on this unfortunate event.
There could be many reasons why God permitted the Anambra church massacre to occur. We may not know all of them, but we know through a rational reflection on the issue that one of the reasons why God permitted it is because he has something to tell us through the event as he usually does through every event. Through the Anambra church Massacre, God is telling us to be prepared to answer the irrevocable call at all times and in all places. The victims are rather fortunate to have died in the house of God, engaged in a holy act and not in a sinful act. At their deaths, they were more likely to be at peace with God having been with him in prayer.
God is telling us that it doesn’t matter in whose hands we die, whether in the hands of assassins or careless drivers or terrorists, what matters is that we die at peace with him. After all, his only son though innocent, suffered a violent death in the hands of those he came to save and he was crucified like a criminal in the midst of criminals. What is important for God is not the nature or timing or place of one’s death but the state of one’s soul at the moment of death. God is telling us that since we did not choose the circumstance under which we were conceived, we cannot also choose the circumstance under which we shall die.
Interestingly, God might also be telling us to be conscious of the presence of the ‘unjust aggressor’ around us and the need to take our security more seriously. God intends that we preserve the life we have freely received until he freely takes it away from us. What this implies is that we have the responsibility of safeguarding not just our lives but also the lives of others around us, needless talking about safeguarding the lives of those placed under our care either as religious or secular leaders. The Anambra church massacre at Ozubulu is a call to re-evaluate our security system especially in public places in Igboland. There is the possibility of having a repeat of such evil around us if proper measures are not put in place, but we pray against such repeat.
At the outbreak of the ebola virus, several churches were forced to develop strategies to protect her members. Through our collective efforts, we were able to contain the virus. In the North, we hear of incessant killing of worshippers even though the government later deployed security forces to those areas but those in the East did not take proper security measures to prevent its occurrence in the East. Now, that the lion has been let loose, should we wait for the government to increase the number of security checkpoints that at the end turn out to be ‘harassment points’ for innocent civilians? The problem of security cannot be solved by security forces alone, we have to contribute. It is high time we considered building fences round our churches and erecting gates and check points at our Church entrances. These security measures do not assure maximum security but they help to make attacks more difficult for the unjust aggressors and reduce the number of casualties.
There should be checkpoints at our church entrances. Those manning these checkpoints must not necessarily be security experts. Though they may not be able to identify all unjust aggressors, their presence could be helpful. If those at the checkpoints cannot confront the aggressors because they are inadequately armed, they can raise alarm to alert the people to take cover before the unjust aggressor gets to its victims. Those at the security points may not confront them directly, but they can make things difficult for the unjust aggressors and those few seconds or minutes of delay could save more lives.
I think that if the unjust aggressors at the Anambra church massacre were intercepted at the church entrances, they may still unleash violence but the casualty rate would have been reduced. Unfortunately, we spend heavily in erecting church structures, spend more in maintaining them but care less about securing them. Many churches have very old and sick men who can hardly resist any security threat at their security posts, just for cheap labour. God is our chief security but we have to play our roles. Many churches have their structures heavily decorated with very expensive ornaments but consider it unnecessary to install bomb-detecting facilities in their structures. Many churches only have night guards who come to lock their structures and gates at night but nobody to watch over the premises during the day. If any unfortunate event occurs outside the time for public worship, nobody is there to intervene or offer any explanation or even give an eye witness account. As a result of this, most of our churches are security porous.
Beloved friends, the Anambra church massacre is a wake-up call to all of us; church-leaders and church-goers alike, to be more responsive to security issues. God may have permitted this evil to convince us about why we have to invest in security. God helps those who help themselves. While we make effort to secure our churches, homes, schools and business premises, let us not forget to pray for divine protection. God protects his creatures but we have the responsibility to pray, for he encourages us to pray in and out of season. God loves you.