By Sam Eyoboka
Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Revd. Alfred Adewale Martins Wednesday cautioned promoters of different conspiracy theories as the world against Covid-19 to be careful not to cast aspersions at the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis.
Addressing newsmen on the 54th World Communications Day at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Lagos, Archbishop Martin’s said it was preposterous for a minister of the gospel to describe the head of over a billion Christians as anti-Christ.
According to him, “that conspiracy theory is way beyond reason, stressing that those who are pushing it must be very careful not to dabble into areas outside their areas of competence.”
The archbishop commended the Lagos State government for the prompt action taken immediately COVID-19 was discovered followed by the Federal government, but quick to point out that the situation also proved that the state of health delivery in Nigeria has been far below average. He made reference to the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Boris Johnson who when he was infected with the virus only went to the hospital within his domain and was successfully treated, a thing that Nigeria government should emulate.
He said this yesterday, during a Special Media Chat organized by the Directorate of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos ahead of 2020 edition of the World Day of Communications coming up on Sunday, May 24, 2020, a day set aside annually by the Pope Francis to celebrate with the media practitioners all over the world and to encourage them on their pivotal role of helping to build a better world which took place at Holy Cross Cathedral Hall, Lagos.
According to Martins, the theme of this year’s message by the Pope “That you may tell your children and grandchildren (Exodus 10:2): Life becomes history is premised on the need for the media to publish stories that would not promote prejudice, conflict, hatred and create divisions.
“According to Pope Francis, stories that do not promote virtues and values are called deep fake news and stories that are very popular create celebrities and heroes but the question is, what type of celebrities and heroes are we projecting”.
Pope Francis warned on the effect of the promotion of all kinds of social vices being made by today’s social media, giving the world bad heroes and said that the media should rather promote different kinds of scriptural stories of God’s love that made Him to create man in His image, of Jesus Christ, His Son He gave to the world, the miracles of Jesus among others.
Martins also called on the Federal government not to stop giving palliatives to Nigerians, adding that the lock down has worsened the situation of the economy.
He assured Nigerians of the hope that COVID-19 would surely come to pass as long as they continue to abide by those instructions based on social distances, washing of hands among others as he discouraged the issue of stigmatization of those infected and cured, assuring that God is in control.
He also called on the government to believe that the Church is also interested in the welfare of its congregation and should dialogue on the resumption of congregational worship while the Church would also do its part to ensure that the people are safe.
Martins cast aspersions on those indicting the Pope as one involved in the creating artificial intelligence Church with 5G which he described as conspiracy theory, adding that that does not correlate with the passion of the Pope who has always been calling that politics and economy should always be used to improve the welfare of the people,.
“We objected to the bill that people should be vaccinated by force as that would infringe on the fundamental rights of the people and how then can the Pope be indicted for such irrelevant issues” he said.
Earlier in his welcome address, the director of Social Communications, Rev. Father Anthony Godonu said the 54th World Communications Day is tagged “That you may tell your children and grandchildren (Exodus 10:2): Life becomes history”.
Pope Francis in this year’s message called the attention of all to look at the values and importance of storytelling for the family, the church, and the nation.
“Basing his reflection on Exodus 10:2, Pope Francis extols the act of storytelling in human history. ‘Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together,'” he says.
According to the director, it is these human stories that have the capabilities of connecting the past to the present and forecasting into the future. “It’s these human stories that have held the world together; interconnecting and interweaving one culture to the other.
“Today, people long for narratives that can help change their lives because man is by his very nature a storyteller. No wonder, our African cultures and traditions have survived thousand of years through oral storytelling. In Yoruba culture, we have “Alo” which means story, in Igbo culture, we have “Akuko” meaning story, and so on. I feel the nostalgia of “Tales by Moonlight” which was a powerful TV series of NTA in the 80s and early 90s.
“And that is why we can say here that it was wrong for the Federal Government about two years ago to cancel or remove the study of history from Nigerian School curriculum as reported by Vanguard Newspaper on May 10, 2018. Prof. Wole Soyinka reacting later to this callous action by the Federal Government said, “I feel like strangling Minister who removed History from the curriculum” (May 22, 2019).
“Here lies the power of repetitive stories that make up the history of humanity. Hence, the power in storytelling is inherent in repetition.
“Therefore, if we do not tell our own stories, others will take advantage and smear devilish and exploitative campaigns against us. As our Holy Father has said: ‘But whereas the stories employed for exploitation and power have a short lifespan, a good story can transcend the confines of space and time. Centuries later, it remains timely, for it nourishes life.”
To tell our own stories, we must possess divine wisdom, have courage, patience and discernment to counter falsehood; what the Holy Father called “deep fake” news of our time. But we must tell our stories again and again. The Holy Father says: ‘At this point life becomes story and then, for the listener, story becomes life…'”