Nigerians across the nation have been urged to show love and embrace forgiveness and reconciliation during the Yuletide season, in line with the spirit of Christmas. They were also enjoined to seek divine guidance in choosing the right leaders for the country during the coming polls in 2023.
This was the message at the 2022 Christmas concert held at the Catholic Church of the Assumption, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos at the weekend. The concert was held to mark a triple celebration of 10 years of Episcopal Enthronement of Archbishop Alfred Martins, 10 years of Anthony Cardinal Okogie as Emeritus Archbishop, and 60+2 Years of the Catholic Church of the Assumption-Falomo parish.
Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Martins, in his message at the concert said, “We are here today to celebrate a Christmas concert, the 62nd anniversary of the parish and the 10th anniversary of my predecessor’s retirement and of my assumption of office, so this makes this celebration unique.”
As the country moves into the election year 2023, Archbishop Martins said, “Certainly one thing that we must all do, all Christians and indeed all people of goodwill, is to pray for guidance in choosing the right leaders to lead us at different levels. Our situation in the country is such that without the help of God, we certainly are incapable of doing it by ourselves.”
He insisted that “citizens should deliberately listen keenly and with a critical mind to what politicians have to say and, even seek to know what is behind whatever it is they are saying. We must try and discern it because we need to really be well informed in order to be able to choose the right persons to lead us at this critical time of the country.”
He also called for full participation in the electoral process, getting one’s voter’s card while urging INEC to ensure that the cards are well distributed to ensure that Nigerians carry out their civic duties in this regard.
Looking at the security situation of the country, Archbishop Martins said “we charge President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the assurances given in regards to the election to be free and fair without interference. We hope that he will ensure that happens by making sure that the security agencies are thoroughly prepared and that they carry out their duties without any fear or favour.
“Also, the politicians themselves should recognise that if they throw up chaos, it is not going to affect the people alone; it will also affect them and their chances. It will affect the well-being of the nation, and therefore all of us just need to be equitable in our perspective,” the cleric added.
The Catholic Church of the Assumption Parish Priest, Very Rev. Fr. Francis Ike added that “today is all about the spirit of Christmas, a time to listen, sing, reflect, pray and sit back and share pleasantries and relax.”
He pointed out that the concert gathering is not just a carol but much more than a carol, calling for love and peace to reign in the country. He explained that “we should build a country where we see one another as brothers and sisters, where someone from the north can relate freely with someone from the south, and someone from the east can also relate freely with a person from the West.”
The Christmas concert committee chair, Dame Marie Fatayi-Williams stated that “usually, we do a Christmas carol in the church, but this year we have three major celebrations, as the Catholic Church of Assumption Falomo parish, Lagos clocks 62 years.
“We are also privileged to be able to celebrate 10 years of Episcopal Enthronement of Archbishop Alfred Martins, and 10 years of Anthony Cardinal Okogie as Emeritus Archbishop,” she added.
Dame Fatayi-Williams noted that the Parish could not celebrate its 60th anniversary due to COVID-19 pandemic. According to her, “Jesus Christ is the reason for the season, urging us to leave no one behind but to recognise our interconnectedness in the love of God, love of man and love of creation.”
Going into the New Year, Fatayi-Williams said “we are going into an election year and we should seek for reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. Those are the messages that will be forever preached.”
She explained that “we can restore peace and harmony back by embarking on actions of simple lifestyle changes as a family both at home and in the church to restore harmony to creation. We can all go ‘green’ by giving someone a tree seedling as a gift, and planting more trees to celebrate Christmas and other landmarks.”
She further called for the reuse and recycling of plastic, proper disposal of refuse, energy conservation and avoiding indiscriminate dumping of waste, saying that, “We as a family and parish resolve to sign up to the Laudato Si Action Platform (LSAP) to save the planet -the Earth- our Common Home”
A lot of performances featured at the Christmas concert. These included a glorious performance by Francesca Chiejina, a Nigerian-American classical and opera singer, the host choir, the Sanctuary choir of Ikoyi Baptist church, the Elites Chorale, the Playhouse Voices amongst other parish groups rendering glorious compositions to praise the King of Kings.
Then Archbishop Adewale Martins concluded by saying “This has been a fantastic evening and only Jesus could have made this possible” He then prayed over, blessed and turned on the lights to the imposing Christmas Tree.