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Father Ekpo speaks out for poor children in Nigeria

Posted by Admin On August - 31 - 2011

By Chinta Strausberg

 

Father Joseph Ekpo made an appeal for aid and support for children of Nigeria who are living in abject poverty.

He spoke at Saint Sabina Church on behalf of the children as an ongoing effort of the Missionary Cooperative Plan of the Archdiocese of Chicago to aid in alleviating poverty in Third World Countries.

The late Dominic Cardinal Ekandem of Nigeria started this Charitable mission, called “Children’s Welfare and Development,” immediately after the revolution in Nigeria that led to the civil war. After the war, the Cardinal had to support many orphans who were victims of the fighting. The war was not the only reason for so many abandoned children.

Many of them, like the one’s those Father Ekpo spoke of at Saint Sabina, became orphans because their parents had died as a result of poverty or from different kinds of tropical diseases including Malaria, Typhoid, Kwashiorkor, which is a form of malnutrition, HIV and Cholera. Today, there are still some children who are victims of these diseases.

With very little means, the local church is trying to help these children without the help of the government social welfare.

The Mission preached by Father Ekpo, closely follows the legacy of the late Cardinal, who strongly believed that the eradication of poverty in the Nigerian community could only be realized through the investment in the health, education, and development of children. This, for him was the practical way of promoting the culture of life.

Father Ekpo, 49, spoke at Saint Sabina as part of an annual appeal for funds to help support this mission, and he also shared horror stories of how some Nigerian children especially in the remote villages are still suffering from poverty.

Growing up and ordained in Nigeria, Father Ekpo had gone through many phases of suffering before he came here to the United States of America.

Father Ekpo spoke passionately about the Cardinal, the man he served as a Personal Secretary. “He was a peaceful man who wanted both Muslims and Christians to worship” their faith. “There are very good Muslims in Nigeria, but there is a radical group called Boko Haram that is attacking the government and trying to cause chaos in the country.”

Father Ekpo was referring to last Friday’s attack on the United Nations headquarters located in Abuja, Nigeria blamed on the Islamic Sect Boko Haram, which killed 23 people including 9 UN staff and injured many others. Boko Haram opposes all forms of Western Education it regards as sinful.

“They are against progress and against Western education,” said Father Ekpo who explained this group is an enemy of progress. “The sect does not want anything that is good, and the members are so difficult to deal with. They are attacking the government and members of the Christian Community.”

With its roots originating as far back as the 1940’s, it is believe that the Boko Haram extremist group allegedly formed from the “Nigerian Taliban” which was founded in 2003 with the help of foreign operatives from Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, is responsible for these attacks.

Its recent string of terrorist acts has been attributed to revenge for the 2009 killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was the founder of the group.

Father Ekpo, who has been a priest for 25-years and is an Assistant pastor of a suburban Catholic parish, said this group has international support and that there is a second group called Maitasine which he said is also violent.

He thanked Father Pfleger, the members of the church and the United States for their past and current support of the mission and reminded them what a privilege it is to live in America.

Father Ekpo told of how he went to a McDonald’s restaurant to eat and how back in Nigeria there are no McDonalds. Even if there were, he said, only the rich would be able to afford to eat there. However, the one thing that Father Ekpo said he’d never forget when he ate at an American McDonald’s is how much food people threw out.

In Nigeria, there are children dying from malnutrition. Food and vitamins could solve this problem. “They need a lot of help,” he said.

And, to add insult to injury, Father Ekpo said, “Every 30-seconds, according to the World Health Organization, a child dies of malaria. “I thank God for a lot of Americans who sent nets” needed to keep the mosquitoes away. “I am very grateful to Americans for their love and supplies they have sent to help children in different parts of Africa and other Third World Countries.”

Saint Sabina member Viveca Coleman said Father Ekpo’s mission is “something worthy of support but more important is supporting the children of Nigeria and helping them to be all that God called them to be.” She has vowed to help Father Ekpo’s mission to save the Nigerian children.

For contributions, please send checks to: Saint Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Pl., Chicago, IL 60620.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.

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