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A Rejoinder to Cameroon’s Foreign Minister’s Address to the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations. By Lambert Mbom

 

On Thursday September 27th2018, La Republique du Cameroun’s Minister of External Relations Lejeune Mbella Mbella addressed the 73rd session of United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA). The minister spent 19 of the 25 minutes he spoke skirting around the real issues and in the remainder of the six minutes addressed the hydra-headed foreign affairs monster namely the Ambazonia quagmire. It was a shameful outing filled with lies, historical aberrations and fallacies.

In his opening words, Mbella Mbella hailed this moment as historic given that the UNGA current President is a woman only the fourth to accede to this position in the institution’s 73-year history. While this is quite symbolic, it pales in comparison to the fact that Paul Biya, Mbella’s boss and the colonial dictator of Cameroon has been President for half of the years of the existence of the United Nations. And could not show up at this year’s meeting due to the fact that he was launching a campaign ahead of presidential elections whose results have already been well packaged and he prepares to declare himself winner for another seven-year mandate.

No wonder then that H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa is only the fourth woman to become president of the General assembly in the over seven decades of the U.N.’s existence. Octogenarian and nonagenarian strongmen like Paul Biya have not only held their people hostage but also cast a spell on the international order by surrounding and shielding themselves with strong old men and soothsayers like Mbella Mbella. It may be of interest to note that Cameroon currently has only one female ambassador and she is only the third in history.

Mbella shamelessly opines that “The corporatist claims of the teachers’ and lawyers’ unions which lie at the heart of the situation have continued to be subject to negotiations with these social and professional groups.” This is so pathetic to note that the Minister and Cameroon’s government are still stuck in 2016 when the current crisis began as concerns of trade unions. It is this ostrich-like mentality and myopia of the barbaric regime of Biya that feels compelled to conveniently circumscribe the problems to being an issue of teachers and lawyers that has led it to be dogged in its heels. This regime is so moronic that it cannot make the distinction and relationship between symptoms and malady. They could not see or have failed to acknowledge that the problems raised by teachers and lawyers were symptomatic of deep seated simmering and systemic issues. Those corporatist claims morphed and exposed the systemic issues that had plagued an ill-fated “union” with the entire people of former United Nations trustee territory of British Southern Cameroons.

And for the Minister to claim that negotiations have continued with these unions is a lie. Has the minister forgotten that they jailed leaders of the consortium forced others into exile and later extradited them with the complicity of Nigeria?

“Unfortunately, Mr. President which is unfortunate to say from this rostrum, some individuals that are ruthless and lawless have tried to transform these socio professional concerns into demands for secession which aim to break up the state without any regard for constitutional and democratic mechanisms.” This is truly unfortunate that a minister would tell such brazen lies from the sacred rostrum on such a global stage. La Republique is bandying around the term secessionists in the hope that with this tag, the people will back down and chicken out. A cursory look at the history of Cameroon will challenge this characterization. We must remind the minister that the union between Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon is a constitutional monstrosity. With hindsight, it is worth stating that there has always been a grand scheme from the get-go for La Republique to annex and recolonize Southern Cameroons. Cameroon is built on a lie. No wonder the custodians of that patrimony continue to peddle more lies to defend it. But soon the deluge! In the context of the constitutional malpractice and the constitutional illegalities that define the Cameroon experiment, it would be instructive for the minister and his cronies to read the Buea Declaration of April 1993. This landmark document paints the contours of the constitutional rape which began in April 1960 even before the union came into force and declares forcefully that “No valid constitutional or other legal basis has ever existed for the reunification of the two Cameroons and for the common governance of the two territories.”

While this annexation project kicked off in April 1960 with the discovery of oil in Southern Cameroons, the recolonization project was fast tracked and in abrogation of the terms of the union, then President Ahidjo unilaterally imposed a referendum with the majority of citizens of La Republique partaking and invariably overwhelming the minority Southern Cameroonians. The supposed “Union” was designed to be two federated states. In flagrant disregard, a bogus referendum in 1972 led to the dissolution of the two states federation. This led to the chimera called United Republic of Cameroon.

And barely 12 years later, Emperor Paul Biya sealed the deal whereby with a stroke of the pen changed the name of the country from the United Republic of Cameroon to The Republic of Cameroon which is the name former United Nations trustee territory French Cameroon adopted when it gained independence on 1st of January 1960. It is worth noting that a name change is a very significant development in the life of any person and in the life of any nation. Mr. Minister lets state the facts clearly: La Republique already seceded from the botched union. This is a clear instance of the pot calling the kettle black. When you look into the mirror if you have the courage to, all you see is your face.

There was a golden opportunity for the government of La Republique to correct the constitutional gaffe and that was in 1996 when the constitution was revised. Ahead of this, the aggrieved people of Southern Cameroons got together and first in 1993 called for a return to the two states federation. When this request fell on deaf ears, a second conclave held in Bamenda in 1994 and came up with a Proclamation. The Bamenda Proclamation warned the government of La Republique that if she failed to take action the people of Southern Cameroons would be forced to “proclaim the revival of the independence and sovereignty of the Anglophone territory of the Southern Cameroons and take all measures necessary to secure, defend and preserve the independence, sovereignty and integrity of the said territory.” The government’s response was characteristic and predictable: wanton arrests and detention, brutal use of naked force to railroad the people of Southern Cameroons to accept the lie of a unitary state.

It is quite ludicrous that the minister talks of constitutionality when strangely the crisis of the North West and South West regions has never ever been addressed by the Parliament and Senate in Cameroon.

Talking of democratic mechanisms, Southern Cameroonians have availed of different avenues such as the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the International Court of Justice and lodged complaints but given the international conspiracy, they have been treated like orphans. But the world must remember that no matter how long the night is, day must dawn. And Lejeune and his cronies must note that the thief has 99 days but one day the owner will repossess his property. We seem to be on the 98th day!

What is more, the minister further intimates that “the government welcomes the fact that the entire people of Cameroon and above all the populations of these two regions have rejected any attempts at secession.”This is quite a laughable tale. Clearly the minister is under the illusion that lackeys, stooges and crumb gatherers like Atanga Nji, Philemon Yang, Ngole Ngole speak for any people but themselves. Mr. Minister when and how did the people of Ambazonia reject their independence? I hope you have watched some of the videos of the celebrations last October 1st when Ambazonians came out to celebrate Independence Day. Are you insinuating that those fighting for the restoration of independence are foreigners? Yes, we are foreigners in La Republique. It is wishful thinking to continue this parody in the pious hope that someday beggars would ride. We understand that you have an aversion for numbers and so any figment of your imagination such as your current claim is what you package and sell. If you are courageous enough why not ask the UN to come and supervise a referendum on this question and let’s see who is living a fool’s paradise? Don’t be fooled: even those you think and believe are with you share the aspirations and spirit of the Ambazonia revolution. They just lack the moral courage and political wherewithal to manifest this. On this I can dare you that over three quarters of Ambazonians want an independent state.

 Shamelessly the minister maintains that “In light of the aforementioned the government is working to restore peace and security in the two regions with respect for human rights and rules and laws of the Republic.” These are mere words that even the person uttering them does not believe in. Your Excellency, there can be no peace without justice. And justice in its most common and basic meaning is giving to each what is their due…For the people of Ambazonia, it is simply the restoration of the independence. Peace is not just the absence of war. And did I hear mention of human rights? The world knows or should know by now that using La Republique and human rights in the same sentence is not just a linguistic aberration but also an anomaly in reality. Everybody has seen the videos of the military junta executing women and children at close range after labeling them Boko Haram terrorists.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. When the world will wake up to the atrocities of la Republique du Cameroun against the people of Ambazonia, even the corpses of the perpetrators would be exhumed for trial and condemnation. The government of Cameroun is after an elusive peace. Coercing the people into a doomed and damned union is just a recipe for disaster. Biya and his ilk should have gotten the message by now: a union is not forced and is not even possible!

Once more being sensitive to the fate of the concerned population, the President of the Republic has decided to implement an emergency humanitarian plan with a provisional budget of 12.7 billion fcfa.” This is the most ludicrous pronouncement. Biya declares war on the people of Ambazonia and turns around with an emergency humanitarian plan? This is a smokescreen. The kleptocratic despot just created a cash cow to satisfy the insatiable corrupt appetites of the governing mafia. After razing villages with your scorched earth policy, then sending armed thugs in name of military to shoot and destroy innocent civilians whose only crime is them activating their inalienable right to self-determination. The most egregious violation of human rights is the annexation and recolonization of the people of Ambazonia. And to add salt to injury, killing these innocent people for standing up for this right.

The Minister then proceeds to disgrace his master by claiming that they “…have shown our openness to dialogue but in strict respect of the institution and laws of the Republic.” When you label people as terrorists, how do you dialogue with them? Recently, the US had talks with the Talibans they had been combatting in Afghanistan over the last two decades. This should be a lesson to the warlords of La Republique. You can never win in a guerilla warfare. The time for dialogues has long passed. Ambazonians begged and pleaded with you but in characteristic Machiavellian fashion displayed a masochistic bravado and swore that Ambazonia will rise only over your corpse.

No doubt Mr. Minister you claim that “Robust measures have already been taken to remedy the situation. For example, the creation of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism as well as a fully-fledged ministry responsible for decentralization.” One would have expected you to show that your commission is working and for once address this noble assembly in English and French. What is more, you proved the point: with the wrong diagnosis, you could only get such out of target and lack of focus solution, as decentralization. It is worth stating for the umpteenth time: the independence of Ambazonia is non-negotiable. It is not a matter of if but rather when.

The minister tops off his lies “To conclude, Cameroon whose independence was conducted and guided by the UN will like to restate its faith in our organization but also its attachment to peace and stability basic resources without which no development is possible.” Mr. Minister, the country you represent had its independence on January 1st 1960 while Ambazonia gained its independence on October 1st 1961. Yes the UN supervised both but did not complete the latter. This is why it is the UN’s responsibility to listen and address the recriminations of its former Trustee territory. It is unconscionable for the UN to claim that the destiny of the people of Ambazonia was foreclosed with the union with La Republique.

The UN General Assembly adopted as its theme for this session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.” The people of Ambazonia need the UN to become relevant to them. In the Political document signed at the Nelson Mandela Peace summit, the UN pledged to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies…for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” The current crisis presents a unique opportunity for the UN to deliver on that promise. The UN must stand up to bullies like La Repubqlique du Cameroun. The crisis is not a domestic conflict or an internal matter. Even if it were it is not by merely wishing it that peace will reign. One wonders if the UN has learnt any lessons from the past? The time to act is now! The UN cannot trust the words of an abusive partner hoping that he will do the right thing. This problem was created by the UN and it is the UN’s to fix!

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World Mental Health Day 2018

MHD_african_boy_EN_web

This year’s theme focused on “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.” Teen suicide rates in the United States of America are on the rise. This is a strange phenomenon among Africans . Last June the Cameroon Community of the D.C. area was in shock when a young man committed suicide. It turned out he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder.

While the world reflects on the mental health of our young people, I would like on this day to reflect on the mental health of African immigrant men in the United States of America. When a woman divorces a man, hardly does anyone of them go into counseling to deal with the delirious effects of the previous marriage. Many simply move on as if the past is a non-event. A lot of wounds, hurts, regrets and bitterness that need sorting through and sorting out for a healthy kick off. A lot of domestic violence happens as a result of too much pent up anger, rancor and unresolved tensions that boil over. Isn’t there some truth to the song recently distributed on whatsapp about Cameroonian men in Maryland who spend hours dousing alcohol and liquor in the hope of avoiding and filtering out the noise from home?

It would be interesting to find out how many of us have ever seen a counselor for anything? Ask the next friend you meet when they last had a mental health check up and if that conversation lasts beyond a second then you are lucky. Why is there a recommendation for an annual physical and no recommendation for an annual mental health examination. Just as we need physicians so do we need mental health specialists call them therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists. Did I mention psychiatrists? What a taboo!

Dear friends, it is not a taboo to have mental health issues. Too many of us are depressed and are seeking for answers in the wrong place. It is not witchcraft! Do not be fooled that you have been bewitched by an uncle or an aunt envious of your family success! It is real and there is help out there.

My dear brothers, mental health is a big business venture in D.C. We who take care of persons with mental challenges need to take care of ourselves too. Very often, we are just a step away from the persons we take care of. Mental illness is becoming an alarming trend in our African immigrant community and let us start sounding the alarm bells. For men only? Nego! The Good News: There is so much help!

Rev Fr Jaap Nielen: Rest in Perfect Peace! By Lambert Mbom

I spent the school year 1996/1997 gaining pastoral experience at St Gabriel’s parish Bafmeng. During that year, late Archbishop Verdzekov came on pastoral visit. One of the surprising guests who showed up to welcome the archbishop was the Ardo (the community leader of the Fulanis). After exchanging usual pleasantries, the Ardo stated the real intention of his visit: He had come on behalf of his community to plead with the archbishop to bring back Fr Nielen whom he had transferred to St Anthony’s parish, Njinikom in 1995 so he could be closer to the hospital. The Ardo left really disappointed because the Archbishop painstakingly explained that Fr Nielen would not be returning to Bafmeng where he had served for 13 years.

Fr Nielen had left an indelible mark on the lives of the entire Bafmeng community without prejudice to religion. Bafmeng is a typical African traditional society with a weekly market day that rotates on a calendar determined by traditional norms. This weekly event saw the parish transformed into a beehive as people from across the hills and valleys thronged in to receive medication, clothing and/or cash. His unparalleled largesse enthralled the community.  Fr Nielen was an extremely generous and charitable man. While the world spoke of a Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the people of the archdiocese of Bamenda had a Fr Nielen.

In seeking to discern the secret to Fr Nielen’s charity, I found the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta quite apt and resonant with the spirit he engendered. Cardinal Sarah Prefect for the Congregation on Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments describes this in his seminal work, The Power of Silence. Mother Teresa shared her secret thus:

“Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with his love? Do you think that I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of his charity to my heart? Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”

Fr Nielen was not a social worker but a missionary and never lost side of He who sent him. He brought the poor to God and brought God to the power. True charity is an expression of genuine prayer. Fr Nielen’s first act of charity lies in his acceptance of God’s call to bring the Gospel to Cameroon. Being a missionary is undoubtedly a great act of charity. Most Mill Hill Missionaries went above and beyond to also cater for the material needs of their missions. Fr Nielen took this to a whole different level.

Pope Francis’ portrait of the priest beautifully expressed in his 2013 homily for Chrism mass revealed something true of this missionary disciple.

The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests – in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odour of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.

Fr Nielen bore the marks of a true  shepherd even for professional shepherds “ganakos” such as the fulanis in Bafmeng who took offence at the fact that he had to be transferred to a different parish.

Fr Jaap Nielen was born on January 28th 1928, the feast of St Thomas Aquinas. He became a Mill Hill Missionary on July 13th 1952 and bagged a doctorate degree in Philosophy in 1955. He took appointment in Cameroon in 1960 and left in 2003. He transitioned to meet the Lord on February 23 and was laid to rest on February 28, 2018.

In September 1995, Fr Nielen had the unenvious task to preach the annual retreat to seminarians of the St Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, Bambui, Cameroon. One could hardly tell that this soft spoken priest had a doctorate in Philosophy. His demeanor did not betray his intellectual prowess. He did not speak of the Metaphysics of Being or the epistemological provenance of the Truth or any of the esoteric accoutrements of the philosophical disciplines. In fact if one could hazard a guess, one would have thought he had bagged a terminal degree in Spirituality. Nego! This philosopher drew from the rich treasury of 40 years of the priesthood as a missionary to Africa. He spoke from the heart and reeked of the odor of his sheep: “The Anawims of Yahweh – the poorest of the poor.” He exhorted us to make our ministry that of and for the poor. Dr Nielen’s doctorate in philosophy rather became a doctorate of poverty.

The endearing lesson of this retreat animated the students that years after one of the retreatants James Nkuo signs off all his emails with the inspirational words of Fr Nielen: “It is not what you do that is important but the love with which you do it.”

There could not have been a better choice to inspire seminarians aspiring to the priesthood especially given that he had served as Vocations Director of the archdiocese of Bamenda and what is more had three of his spiritual sons studying in the seminary at the time.

Fr Nielen was a great storyteller. This art had been perfected I guess through his interaction with the poor. Christ used parables to teach and thus one could see he was in touch with his environment and his community.  Following his master’s experience, Fr Nielen so much a man of his community that he preached the Good News with uncanny simplicity and yet

One of the tragedies that shot him to “prominence” is the Lake Nyos gas disaster of 1986. Fr Nielen was one of the first responders to the victims of nature’s redness in tooth and claw. I just read the letter he is said to have written to Archbishop Paul Verdzekov shortly after he returned from visiting the disaster area. He wrote inter alia:

“On Friday rumors reached us that the lake had killed some Fulani man and his cows. Then again that the quarter head of Cha was lying dead in his compound with his two women. On Saturday morning, I was so worried that I went there with my two catechists…”

I spent a month in Buabua, one of the resettlement camps of the victims of the Nyos disaster. The journey to that part of that parish took weeks to prepare. The journey to Ise, the closest motorable outstation of the parish to the disaster area is at the least two hours 30 minutes. The Nyos disaster occurred in August, in the heart of the rainy season when the roads are near impassable. It is striking to note that when Fr Nielen heard of the news he did not send others to go and explore the area and come back to report to him. He definitely had mass in the parish the next day given it was a Sunday. That would have been a valid excuse. Yet, he was so worried that he set off on that treacherous journey to be with the people during that moment of infinite pathos and vulnerability.  Life had been snuffed out of approximately 1700 persons and “Jaap” moved through those villages without fear assessing the needs and burying the dead.

The pain of this veritable pastor was palpable as he recounted: “No Christian of Nyos came to greet me and cry with me. The Church of Nyos had died, with Mattias, the head Christian and Nazarius, the catechist and Mary, the choir mistress.”

What an exceptional feat of courage. The courage of a pastor whose sole task is the wellbeing of the people he has been called to serve and minister to. It is this same courage that inspired him to become a missionary leaving the comfort of Holland to the hinterlands of Bafmeng. No doubt he had as one of his mantras, “life no be na joke!” – Life is not a joke!

By sheer dint of luck, Fr Nielen died a few days after American Evangelist Billy Graham. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday anniversary and 65th anniversary of the priesthood. This year is also the 90th anniversary of the Oscars. And so the Oscar for missionary activity goes to Fr Nielen who was laid to rest on Wednesday February 28, 2018.

Two of his spiritual persons Fr Emmanuel Nuh and Fr Anthony Bangsi spent some time with Fr Nielen prior to his demise and left us with an endearing souvenir of Fr Nielen. The magic of his melodious voice rings out in this audio

 

Africa At the Spring Meetings of IMF/World Bank: April 18th through April 23rd 2017.

IMF

The Bretton Woods Institutions – World Bank and IMF – are this April, meeting at their Washington DC Headquarters for their annual Spring Meetings. Central Bank Governors, ministers of finance and development, academicians, journalists, civil societies gather in the capital of the world, to assess, share, consult and disseminate information with respect to the world’s economy. While many of the events are global, there are many regional issues handled in their peculiarity. The great continent of Africa will be present in many ways. Herewith some specific events to watch out for:

10a.m. – 10:45a.m. Analytical Corner: The informal Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa

4:30pm – 5:15pm: Driving Digital Financial Inclusion in Arica

5:30pm – 6:30pm: A Conversation with Phiona Mutesi (Queen of Katwe)

Related events:

11:a.m. – 12:30pm Jumpstarting the Next Revolution in Food and Agriculture

11a.m. – 12:30pm On the sidelines of this event, Center for Global Development is hosting a high panel discussion on: The Challenge and Logic of Greater Financing for Africa featuring Akinwumi Adesina, President African Development Bank, Nancy Birdsall, President emeritus and Senior fellow, Center for Global Development, Ngozi Okformer Director, Africa Department, IMF, and former Finance Minister, Liberia, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Developmentonjo-Iweala former Managing Director, World Bank and Antoinette Sayeh, former Director, Africa Department, IMF, and former Finance Minister, Liberia, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Development.

 

The Unsung Heroines of the Southern Cameroons Liberation Struggle: Woman Eh! By Lambert Mbom

On Wednesday March 29th, U.S State Department honored 13 women with the International Women of Courage award as part of its celebration of March as Women’s History Month and International Women’s day.  Three of the thirteen women came from Africa – Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger. Sadly, none of the valiant women of Southern Cameroons hit the mark and it is the courage of these women I seek to celebrate.

In its tenth year now, this award has “honored women from around the world who have exhibited exceptional courage and leadership, who have drawn strength from adversity to help transform their societies,” said Thomas Shannon Jr., Under Secretary for Political Affairs.

The history of the Southern Cameroons struggle at face value seems to have been high-jacked by men. It suffices to look at those whom we would induct into the Southern Cameroons Hall of Fame and these men – Dr Akwanga, Dr. Anyangwe Justice Ebong, Ambassador Fossung, Late Chief Ayamba, Luma among others would prevail; or better still, a cursory look at the number of Southern Cameroonians languishing in La Republique’s dungeons – Justice Ayah, Dr. Agbor Balla, Dr. Fontem, Mancho Bibixy and many others! Yes these are men but not just men. They are fathers and husbands. The real value of this struggle lies in the hands of the women standing with these men.

These men are husbands. They are not just bachelors who have channeled their idleness to a political ideal. The true heroines of this struggle are the many wives standing with these men. And like First Lady Melania Trump noted during the award ceremony, courage takes different forms. It is the courage of the many women, the wives of those we hail as our heroes that truly makes this struggle worth its while. And let’s leave the sweet mothers to Mother’s day and for one second doff our hats to that special coterie of Southern Cameroonian women called wives.

Fathom the wives of the current leaders of the Southern Cameroons struggle inadvertently thrown into the woes and throes of being “father-and-mother-in-one” because their spouse is in jail for daring to challenge the system; yes, these wives bearing the emotional emptiness of lying in bed and counting the rafters on the roof as they unconsciously search and yearn for the other, constantly looking out of the window day and night hoping their loved one makes a surprise entrée; expecting a knock that never comes or even worse still the headache of wondering what their loved ones could be experiencing in that dungeon. Yes these wives are the true heroines of this struggle whose courage is often underappreciated and unsung;

This award also recognizes the wives of the many compatriots who have fled to neighboring or faraway foreign lands. These wives worry about the safety and security of their husbands and are condemned to virtual romances wondering when they would be reunited again even as they are taunted and haunted by the oppressors. Yes, these women are the true heroines whose courage beyond mere resignation to their current fate urges them on and invariably eggs on the men.

And the wives too of the different leaders in foreign capitals around the world! These men may not enjoy the luxury of having to be arrested on account of their activism. They may in fact enjoy the freedom of jetting across cities freely! Yes and their wives too are heroines for having to bear the brunt of the caustic insults especially the new form of cyber terrorism heaped against their husbands; these women have to put up with the many long hours their husbands spend on the phone for conference calls and even bear constant displacement of their husbands away from home unsure of what the nefarious machinations of the oppressor may have in store for them. And yet in spite of all these, these women nudge their husbands on. Yes these are the real heroines of this struggle.

I would be remiss if I don’t recognize the coterie of women – call them cyber warriors who have arisen and given the struggle much needed momentum and impetus since the liberation struggle cruised to its crescendo. Beyond their undisputable and impeccable fundraising prowess these women of gold who keep the male leaders in check and chide them for their egotistic temptations are the torchbearers of community engagement. They have become the livewire of the struggle and the lightening rod. Woman, eh!

With every great man there is an even greater woman. And the courage of these women cannot and will not be in vain.

 

Who is thankful for me? By Lambert Mbom

It is yet another celebration of “Thanksgiving” in the United States arguably the most American of all holidays. It is an eminently “familial” event. Family reunions are the staple and in fact the highest common factor that characterize the celebration. It is food, family and friends. An intrinsic part of this tradition is the annual presidential pardon of two turkeys. While it sounds perfunctory, this presidential act draws an inner connection between forgiveness and gratitude. One is here reminded of Pope Francis’ recommendation for couples to learn to say, Please, thank you and I am sorry.

In my random musings of the significance of this annual event, I could not help but notice that it comes towards the end of both the calendar year and the liturgical year of the Catholic Church. Hence, it seems thanksgiving is always a celebration of the past. It is always in the rearview.

Looking back in retrospect there is a lot to be grateful for. The many crises moments that one weathered thanks to the many Good Samaritans. One is reminded daily of Ola Rotimi’s words: “The struggles of man begin at birth.” If gold is tested in fire, then life’s storms and vicissitudes present golden moments of growth. Being a Catholic emboldens me to be grateful for the many precious moments life has “tortured” me on this earthly pilgrimage. This is not an impertinent penchant for suffering but an acknowledgement that such is life and to be grateful for these moments. After all, there is a silver lining to every cloud.

In this school of gratitude, the experience of gratitude propels one to be grateful. Hence, on this day, it seems appropriate to reflect on not just being grateful but also of being the subject of gratitude. I remember the protest somebody registered with respect to the bland response “Do not mention” when someone says thank you. One appreciates gratitude better when one is being appreciated. No matter how much we pretend, we feel slighted and hurt when we don’t get those words of appreciation. Conversely, there is a deep sense of motivation when those words “thank you” come our way. Hence, today, the question for me is more, who is grateful for and/or to me? Thanksgiving presents a dual challenge namely: to learn to be grateful but also to learn to provide opportunities for others to be grateful to us.

St. Paul captures this very beautifully when he exhorts the Corinthians: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. (2 Cor.1:3-4) Gratitude calls us to action.

One of the areas of growth is in forgiveness. If the Turkey that lacks the capacity for either crime or sin is receiving forgiveness, then we who have the capacity, ask for forgiveness from and grant forgiveness to others. Opray Winfrey expresses this more poignantly when she says: “When we learn to say thank you and mean it, then we also learn to say, I am sorry. True forgiveness is when you can say, thank you for that experience.” Our celebration of thanksgiving then carries more meaning today when we can say also “I am sorry” and “You are forgiven.” A common denominator between gratitude and forgiveness is humility. Gratitude is an acknowledgement of one’s insufficiency and indication of dependency. To be able to say “I am sorry” and “You are forgiven” requires a certain modicum of humility. Gratitude and forgiveness are twin sisters to the parent, humility.

While I say thank you to the many persons that graced and laced my paths over the past 12 months, that is, since the last thanksgiving, I invariably jump to ask myself: who is grateful today that I have forgiven them or that I have apologized to them for some wrong done? Without brooding over the fact of having done something and not being recognized for it, I would rather forgive for the explicit neglect and oversight. Thanksgiving invariably takes on an added dimension within the background of forgiveness.

May families that gather around the dinner table share the meal and not just eat. Josef Pieper reminds us that the meal has a “spiritual or even a religious character.” And like Scruton adds: “That is to say, it is an offering, a sacrifice, and also – in the highest instance – a sacrament, something offered to us from on high, by the very Being to whom we offer it. Animals eat, but there is nothing in their lives to correspond to this experience of the “meal” as a celebration and endorsement of our life here on earth. When we sit down to eat, we are consciously removing ourselves from the world of work and means and industry, and facing outwards, to the Kingdom of ends. Feast, festival and faith lift us from idleness, and endow our lives with sense.” Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Walk With Francis: Pope Francis in the US by Lambert Mbom

In 30 days’ time, Pope Francis will be in the US on an official and pastoral visit that will bring him to Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia. Ahead of this visit, the archdiocese of Washington D.C. launched a “Walk with Francis” project that invites Christians to honor the pope’s visit by prayer, service and action. Four weeks ahead of this visit, 2278 persons and 54 parishes/organizations have taken the pledge to walk with Francis and 2697 messages shared on social media according to archdiocese’s website, www.walkwithfrancis.org

In preparation for this visit, I have decided to walk with Pope Francis.  I have committed to read five books by and about Pope Francis over the next four weeks. Of course, what better way to begin this journey other than reading his latest encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home” Even though touted as an encyclical on the environment, commentaries reveal it is groundbreaking in many respects and Franciscan. It sure will make Stephen Beale’s “7 Papal encyclicals that changed the world.”http://catholicexchange.com/7-papal-encyclicals-that-changed-the-world

Were the Pope to call me on my personal cellphone or were I to receive a personal letter in the mail from the Pope, it would be historic. Yet, surprisingly, I left this personal letter unread since May 24th, 2015. Well, since the Pope will be in town, it seems incumbent that one reads this letter so as not to be embarrassed by the question: Have you read the letter I sent to you three months ago?

Child psychologists have us believe that the first two years in the development a child are very important. The veil of obscurity of Rev. Jorge Bergoglio who became Pope Francis tapers off in the first two years of his pontificate. He is the surprised choice to shepherd the Church and in deed he is a Pope of Surprises. Two books that capture the defining infancy of his papacy are, The Church of Mercy: A Vision of the Church and Antonio Tornelli’s, Fioretti-The Little Flowers of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis’ ecclesiology is worth examining to be able to understand his statements and declarations. For an avowed conservative or one with conservative trappings like me, it is imperative to discern where Francis is taking the Church to. In the light of the forthcoming Synod on the Family (October 4-25, 2015), and in preparation for the Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016), the Vatican’s authorized Church of Mercy is a must read.

The Vatican Insider, Tornelli’s “The Little Flowers…” also celebrates the first year of the Francis Pontificate offering “inspiring stories, incidents, encounters, and excerpts from the writings and talks of Pope Francis”

It would be interesting to see the points of convergence and divergence between the two books celebrating the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

To understand where Pope Francis is leading the Church to, it is just fitting to know who he is and where he is coming from.  Austen Ivereigh’s, The Great Reformer: Francis and the making of a Radical Pope is tempting enough and I look forward to devouring it nine months after getting an autographed copy of this work last December at its launch at Georgetown University.

Given that Pope Francis is coming to the United States, it seems appropriate to savor some American flavor and who else but John Allen merits consideration. His most recent publication, “The Francis miracle: Inside the transformation of the Pope and the Church,” is quite enticing.

Join me on this pilgrimage!

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