Click here for pictures from Abuja
Click here for pictures from Onitsha
Click here for pictures from Enugu
After a brief early morning hour long flight from Lagos to Enugu, the team headed over to a large hall filled to overflowing capacity particularly with women (in their traditional dress) and students. The special guest of honor was Barrister Mrs. Enu Oludeo, representing the First Lady of the State of Enugu and herself the Director of Enugu State, Citizens Rights and Mediation Center who stayed the entire five hours and took many notes. Also participating were two traditional Ebo leaders from the region.
The Happy Home Foundation helped organize this seminar in conjunction with the diocese. The 750 participants listened attentively and interacted with the speakers. They thanked Priests for Life, Fr. Pavone and Dr. Alveda King profusely for sponsoring the event that warned them about the harmful cultural and moral consequences of abortion in the West, informed them about the cleverly hidden agenda underlying reproductive rights language in UN documents, and urged parents to be the primary educators of their children in matters of human sexuality. As with all the seminars, PFL materials were offered free of charge and all were taken.
Following the seminar, PFL representatives Bob Lalonde and Michele Velasco were honored to take part in a private dinner meeting with pro-life leaders which began with a prayer ceremony in the Ebo language known as the "Kolanutz". Afterwards followed a good exchange on next steps by pro-life leaders.
The following day was spent at Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, the largest Catholic seminary in the world. Since this was the only day we could be in Enugu the rector changed the previously scheduled date of exams so all the seminarians and professors could attend the event. On behalf of Fr. Pavone, Michele Velasco presented the Father Rector Dr. Ukoro Theophilus Igwe with a Precious Feet pin and Bob Lalonde presented Fr. Pavone's book "Ending Abortion" along with a folder containing resources for priests. The rector made sure he captured copies of the talks and the response of the 480 seminarians was so powerful that PFL's partner, Theresa Okafor, director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage, promised they would return to the seminary later this year.
The team then jumped into vehicles for a two hour journey over very rough paved and unpaved roads and through police and military checkpoints at every mile. Our trip was expedited due our having been provided a government marked car and security officer and the safety of a convoy. We arrived on time at Blessed Fr. Tansi Seminary in Onitsha where another 350 seminarians and diocesan staff awaited us. Archbishop Valerian Okeke, having met PFL at the Vatican's World Meeting of Families in Mexico last year, had invited us to his seminary which has a vibrant Seminarians for Life group.
Additionally, Bob, Michele and FACH leaders met with the Honorable Obiora Chukwuka, Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Tourism & Foreign Affairs and a state legislator in Onitsha regarding amending a population control bill that was quietly passed in Anaramba without public input.
The final day of the speaking tour involved another one hour early morning flight to Abuja, capitol of Nigeria. Government leaders, doctors, nurses and educators attended the first seminar, held at Musa Yar Adua Centre not far from a prominent mosque. Haji Aishatu Umar who works at the National Assembly, joined the faculty to speak on Islam and the Respect for Life. After all the presentations, a nun was among several who stood up and said how grateful she was for the information and how surprised she was about all she learned, and how inspired she was to protect Nigeria's culture of life.
Next, the team packed up and set out for Our Lady Queen of Nigeria church where we held a round table workshop for Catholic leaders and was also attended by young people who teach chastity as well as diocesan pro-life coordinators and others.
Priests for Life's week-long activities in Nigeria concluded with a traditional dinner hosted by Senator Eme Ufor Ekaette, MFR, Chairman of the Nigerian Senate Committee on Women Affairs & Youth Development. The courageous Senator is also a UN delegate at the upcoming Women's Conference in March in New York. On behalf of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage, she presented a plaque honoring Fr. Pavone and Dr Alveda King's contributions to the culture of life in Nigeria.
While the week of conferences attended by thousands in four major cities throughout Africa have ended, the call to action made by the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage and Priests for Life was loud and clear and the response by Nigerians overwhelming. Next steps are already in the works and Fr. Pavone and Dr. Alveda King remain committed to Africa and helping them protect and spread a culture of Life.
Michele and Bob wanted to especially thank all the FACH leadership, the conference speakers, and Director Theresa Okafor and her executive staff, Ezinne Ogbonna, Nafisat Isa, Ngozi Emekwue, Peju Hassan, and Efunbo Lawson who professionally and with great skill and dedication oversaw the planning, logistics, security, visuals, taping, press, registration and provisions for a major international event. We are profoundly grateful and look forward to a return visit.
Click here for part 1 of the Nigeria report
Click here for part 2 of the Nigeria report