By Rev Fr Angelo Chidi Unegbu ([email protected])
*Warning: Reader’s discretion*
Historical records show that on December 6, 1886, the Catholic missionaries interceded for a woman of about 25 years old, who was to be sacrificed on the one month memorial celebration of a deceased “queen”.
The woman was actually selected with 2 other women to accompany the deceased queen to the world beyond. On the burial day, the two other women were buried with the queen but this one escaped.
The missionary journal captured it this way: “We hear that two young girls were buried with the dead queen. They were slaughtered with a cutlass, on the head, and at once, yet alive, thrown in the grave, and the coffin with the deed queen laid to rest on top of them. A third girl, hearing that she also will have to pass through the same ceremony, succeeded to clear out (run away). The queen herself before her death, chose out the victims. ” (sic)
The woman was eventually caught days after and was to be killed on the queen’s one month memorial ceremony. Hearing this, “three times Fr. Superior (Fr. Joseph Lutz CSSp) goes to Onitsha to dissuade the young man from committing this crime.” Lutz for the same reason visited Chief Ezeabo and Odo requesting them to plead with the queen’s sons to spare the woman. “The answer: in fifteen days, he will know about their mind on the matter.” On the fateful day, the woman was killed. (See, Diary CSSP Onitsha, 11).
This is not a Nollywood drama. It happened in our own society, perpetrated by our own people against our own people. It was supported by our own tradition and approved by our own oracle. It was enforced by our own elders at the jeering of our own men and women before our own children.
This or similar crimes did not only take place in Igboland or Nigeria. It was a crime that every human society participated in at one time or the other in it’s history.
Can you imagine the mental, physical, and emotional torture that the poor woman had to undergo in a world she called her own?
Imagine how many “please don’t kill me” that fell on deaf ears. Imagine those tears that refused to dry up. Imagine those weak eyes that forgot to sleep. Imagine that empty stomach that was not ready for food. Imagine that tongue that could no longer perceive thirst. Imagine those ears that stopped hearing the whistling of birds. Imagine those eyes that could no longer see the beauty in nature. Imagine that soul that doubted the existence of a good God who is all loving and all powerful.
The story of this poor slave is not just something of a distant past. No. It is still here with us but in other forms and shapes and with other names.
As we begin the 2020 Lenten season, let us show that we care about the plights of the other by making a decision once more never to keep quiet when fellow human beings are being tortured, maimed or killed- be it physically, emotionally or mentally in the name of politics, culture or religion, for no just cause. If our Christian faith does not make us feel with the other just like Jesus did for us, then we are everything but followers of Christ.
Wishing you a fruitful Lenten season.