In the sexual department of John XII (955 – 64) was not a lot better than his grandmother Marozia. He was sixteen when he took holy orders and his heart was just not in it. It was said that he invented sins that had not been known since the beginning of the world and whole monasteries spent days and nights praying for his death. 

John was an insatiable bisexual and gathered about him the loosest young nobles of either sex. He was accused of running a brothel out of St. Peter’s. He used papal treasury to pay off his gambling debts, and enjoyed pranks such as ordaining a ten-year old boy as bishop. He gambled with pilgrim’s offerings. His lovers were given gold chalices from St. Peter’s (Nigel, 72).
The defrocked Bishop of Liège was eventually murdered by a Flemish knight who was outraged at what the former bishop had done to his daughter. It was St. Bonaventure, a close friend of Innocent V (1276) who compared Rome to the harlot of the Apocalypse, drunk with wine of her whoredom. 
In Rome, Bonaventure said, there was nothing but lust and simony, even in the highest ranks of the church. It was quite simple, he explained, Rome corrupts the prelates. The prelates corrupt the clergy. And the clergy corrupts the people (110). Responding to the temple prostitution which was introduced to Rome in the thirteen century, Urban II (1261 – 64) wrote a letter condemning this sacrilegious debauchery, to little effect. The pope’s secretary, Bishop Dietrich of Niema had this to say about the goings-on in Norway and Iceland:

“When the bishops go twice a year to pay visits to the curates, they have to take their mistresses with them. The women will not let them make the trip without them, because the bishops are magnificently received by the curates and their own concubines and the bishop’s mistresses fear that they will find the concubines of the priests more powerful than they are and become amorous of them.

As the Catholic Church grew more powerful, some priests even assumed the lord of the manor’s feudal ‘jus primae noctis.’ They insist in sleeping with the bride on her wedding night before the husband enjoyed his conjugal rights. In his letters to the Pope, Bishop Dietrich of Niema, goes into great detail when describing the debauchery of his nuns. According to him, they were prey to the lust of bishops, monks and lay brothers (108). He also wrote of convents being ‘assemblages of prostitutes.’ Shocking as these things are to your ears now in this present century, it was no surprise to Urban IV. He had been familiar with a woman named Eva before he became Pope. His successor Clement IV (1265 – 68) had been married and had two daughters – some say three – before he took holy orders. 
There were more problems in France too. Around that time, Robert Arbissel, who ran a convent of 4000 nuns, was roundly criticized. He declared himself to be a sinner and one of his penances was ‘frequently to sleep amongst and with the women’ to mortify his flesh. And the punishments he imposed on the nuns usually involved them stripping naked (196).
It was at the Council of Piacenza (1095) under Pope Callistus who decreed that clerical marriages were invalid. And to show that they meant business, they sold the priests’ wives into slavery. Soon the Pope introduced the infamous ‘exillagium.’ This was a sex tax. It allowed a clergyman to keep a concubine as long as he paid a regular annual fee. A little poem was written to this effect:

The clergy now thee, good Callistus hate;

For heretofore each one might have his mate,

But since thou mounted hast the papal throne

       They must keep punks or learn to lie alone.

Many indeed kept ‘punks’ – catamites- rather than learn to lie alone. Callistus’s successor, Honourius II (1124 – 30), was equally tough on sex and the clergy. In September 1126, the Pope instructed Cardinal John of Crema to declare (as papal legate to England) that it was a humble sacrilege on the body of Christ that the mass should be performed by a man who had just left the bed of a harlot. 

However, the Council of Brixon in 1080 condemned Pope Gregory VI (1075 – 85) for ‘sowing divorce among legitimate spouses.’ Eventually, Gregory, relented in his campaign against ‘fornication.’ Had he carried out his threat of sacking all sexually incontinent priests, he would have wiped out the Catholic Church. His reasoning was simple: “the Church cannot escape from the clutches of the laity unless priests first escape from the clutches of their wives.”
Gregory’s attempt to impose clerical celibacy met with fierce resistance  especially in Germany and France. One critic’s exasperation at Gregory’s edict was summed in the words: “This Pope, as filthy and adulterer and fornicator as he was, forbade chaste matrimony to the priests’ (97).
Alexander II (1661 – 73) took a more practical approach. He gave up the struggle against sexual sin almost completely. In 1064, he never sacked a priest who had sex with his father nor did he, in 1066, when a priest from Padua had comitted incest with his mother.

According to the reports of Byzantine ambassadors, every priest about to be consecrated a bishop in the Catholic Church was asked four questions;

**Have you sodomized a boy?

**Have you fornicated with a nun?

**Have you sodomized a four-legged animal?

**Have you committed adultery?
It is not clear which question you were supposed to answer yes to and which no. After all, according to the “The Book of Gomorrah,” venality, lechery, bestiality and murder were common among prelates. Leo IX (1949 – 54) on the other hand just couldn’t expel sodomites from the clergy; if he got rid of the gays, perhaps he feared he would have no one left. 

In the eleventh century, there was a new attempt to clamp down on immorality. Distinguished theologians began discussing once more, in all solemnity, the appropriate penances for masturbation, impure thoughts, swallowing semen, drinking menstrual blood and kneading bread on a woman’s naked buttocks. Sodomy was particularly frowned on at this time. St. Peter Damian’s long treatise called, “The Book of Gomorrah” was written about homosexuality and the priesthood. He also came up with his own list of punishment. These naturally included a good deal of flogging (84).

Paul VI on the 24th June, 1967 wrote an encyclical (sacerdotalis caelibatus) letter on priestly celibacy. One cannot but marvel at the euphemism used almost throughout the encyclical. There is an outright denial of the crooked ways of the past ‘sexual sins’ as narrated above when it stated: “Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel and retains its value…”
The encyclical refreshingly acknowledges the troubling yet reasonable questions thrown to the Church concerning her unabashed stand on celibacy. She discusses this in her “Objections Raised Against Celibacy” ( Austin F., page 287) even as she confirmed this law of celibacy to be divinely ordained. Hence, there’ll be never ending series of difficulties to those who ‘cannot receive this precepts,’ and who do not know or who forget the ‘gift of God’ and who are unaware of the higher logic of that new concept of life, its wonderful efficacy and abundant riches (288).

To further galvanize this new found mystery and to register celibacy among the logical, the Church had in the same encyclical stated the reasons for celibacy as well as its salvific significance. Further comforting reasons for the continuing of the discipline of clerical celibacy was seen in the exaltation of virginity by the Eastern Fathers. St. John Chrysostom, intent in throwing light on the harmony which must exist between private life of him who ministers at the alter and the dignity of the order of which his sacred duties belong, he affirmed: “…it is becoming that he who accepts the priesthood be as pure as if he were in heaven.”

In the final analysis therefore, one can, like many reasonable people, hope that the majority of the human race, understand at least the processes that led to today’s Catholic clerical celibacy. It has been a long journey, from the mouth of the prophets, of Jesus the Christ, to the early apostles, to strangers who turned Christians, to the States and empires, to temple prostitutes and lustful Popes and bishops, to an imposition of celibacy and the reactions that follow, to the rejection by a Council and an affirmation by another and then to a re-interpretation of the concept of celibacy, to the explanations of the ‘mystery’ behind it and to the unquestioned dogma of priestly celibacy. 

We can now just wait for the tidings of the next century or millennia!
Image credits:


Austin Flannery, “Vatican Council II,” Vol. II,  NY: Costello Publishing Company 1982.

Nigel Cawthorne, “Sexual Lives of the Popes,” Great Britain, London, 1996.

Author: David Francis E. 


By David Francis E.
It was Richard Dowden in his work, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracle (2008), who noted that Nigerians have a strong sense of being Nigerian, but they do not share with each other the same concept of what this means. Nigerians, for him, have never agreed or been given the chance to agree what Nigeria is (Richard, 451). Because of this historical confusion and identity, religion, overlaying ethnicity and culture, backs the cause of certain clashes, disagreements, terrorist acts and Jihadist movements.
Published with permission of the editor, “Seeker’s Delight” magazine ,  Kaduna.
However, given today that the heightened mistrust and suspicion between the Fulani herdsmen and certain farmland communities, it cannot be said that Nigerian Muslims and Christians are at war. This would amount to a fickle untrue generalization. The problem is rather that we have two groups of different people fighting for what they believe to be valid. The question now remains, “what do we do?” “How do we contain these two groups namely; Fulani herdsmen and Farmland communities?” With the alarming statistics of deaths, this article, hopes to unveil the surreptitious quest of Jihadists to legalize terrorism via Fulani militant herdsmen’s invasion into certain communities in Nigeria. It shall do this by suggesting a viable pathway towards launching an end to this carnage.
Fulani herdsmen. Google image

The concept of terrorism may be controversial as it is often used by state authorities (and individuals with access to state support) to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially legitimize the state’s own use of force against opponents (such use of force too has been described as ‘terror’ by opponents of the state). However, an abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against non-combatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.
Etymologically, terrorism comes from the French word terrorisme which originally referred


specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the ‘Reign of terror.’ The French word terrorisme in turn derives from the Latin verb terreo, meaning ‘I frighten.’ The terror Cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105BC. The Jacobins then cited this precedent when imposing a Reign of terror during the French Revolution. But after the Jacobins lost power the word ‘terrorism’ became a term of abuse. Therefore, terrorism has generally being agreed amongst scholars to be the systematic use of terror often violent, especially as means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no legally binding criminal law definition. Common definition of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetuated for a religious, political, or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians) (cf. Isaac Shemang, ICT AND Terrorism.  assessed 27th March, 2017). From the foregoing discourse, it would not be out of place to argue that Fulani herdsmen’s attack on communities as well as the muted treatment of the victims by constituted authorities could be, or is, the beginning of legalizing terrorism in Nigeria. But where did this rain begin beating us?

Along the southern borders of the Sahara, wherever the caravan trails ended or began, commerce by the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had long established trading marts where merchants and cameleers, travellers and every kind of hanger-on would mix and mingle, linger or settle: Arabs and Berbers, Negroes and desert Twareg and Fulani (Basil Davidson, Old Africa Rediscovered, 1959, pg. 145). Early in the eleventh century, the Hausa States of what is now northern Nigeria were already in existence. Two hundred years after that conquest (holding out Mohammed Askia after the Songhai armies had taken Kano) another Sudanese people, the Fulani or Fulbe, would crown many wanderings and vicissitudes by establishing their hegemony over Hausa land (100). A century later the princes of the Fulani, assembling in jihad at the call of Usman Dan Fodio, launched their guilt-mailed cavalry on neighbouring peoples, and on the Songhai of Dendi among them (112).
Google image.
I feel certain that Lord Lugard had understood to an extent this Western-Arab feud when he posted British residents at their courts but allowed the Fulani emirs to continue to police, tax and administer justice on their behalf much as before (cf. pg 6, Martin Meredith, The State of Africa, 2006). Meanwhile, Northern Nigeria is an area comprising three-quarters of Nigeria’s territory and was largely Muslim and Hausa- speaking, accustomed to a feudal system of government run by the Fulani ruling class. In fact, in 1949, the principal Northern leader, the Sardauna of Sokoto, observed while travelling to Lagos for the first time: The whole place was alien to our ideas and we found the members of the other regions might well belong to another world as far as we were concerned (75). History has revealed through its margins that Northern Muslims were long taught to regard Southerner as ‘pagans’ and ‘infidels’ and forbidden on both religious and administrative grounds to associate with southerners. These were the lessons that would later birth the invasions of ‘pagan’ farmlands, of terrorism and its journey to be legalized! This was the beginning of our being beaten by the ‘rain.’
To further understand this, we must realize that, the world from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the “House of Islam” and the “House of war,” and the only future devout Muslims can envisage is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, subjugated, or killed (Sam Harris, The End of Faith, 2005: 110). Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, one of the clearest writers and thinkers of modern jihad and the founder of Pakistan’s fundamentalist movement had written; Islam is not a normal religion like the other religions in the world, and Muslim nations are not like normal nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world (Gabriel Mark, Islam and Terrorism, 1998: 81). Having said this therefore, it is the case that a Fulani herdsman who is also a devout Muslim will, not just search for grass and land for his cattle, but as a conquest for Allah; for it is a world between the ‘house of Cattle’ and the ‘house of unbelievers.’
In 1804, Usman Dan Fodio led a great Jihad of which within 50 years swept all Hausa rulers off their thrones and established Fulani hegemony in most of the present day northern Nigeria. The emphasis by Dan Fodio was on justice, including the removal of unfair taxes and the need for Islamic education. The challenge was polytheism and syncretism which were prevalent in the Hausa states at that time. Usman Dan Fodio intended teaching and spreading an uncorrupted Islam; Musulunci Sahili, and the establishment of a system of government based upon the Sharia law by overthrowing the non-Muslim or superficially Islamized systems in Hausa land and neighbouring territories. The spread of Islam was imminent, it was birthed! Describing the situation of Islam under colonial rule, Joseph Kenny writes: “…the immediate effect of French and British occupation was to stop Jihad warfare and slave raiding. The main difference between the two colonial powers was in their policy towards established Jihad states.
The French dismantled their structure and set up direct rule, using Sufi brotherhoods as intermediaries for any matters touching on Islam. The British instituted indirect rule, notably in the emirates of northern Nigeria. Both policies, curbed overt military expansion of Islam, but in the long run colonial rule was advantageous to Islamic expansion and consolidation (J. Kenny, West Africa & Islam, 2000, pg, 108).” This was the situation that birthed the possibility of a growing tension between the northern Muslims and the rest of the country. Today this tension has also been strengthened consequently by Fulani herdsmen’s invasions into certain farmland areas.
To further understand this analysis, we also need to understand that these tensions are not just religious in toto but also as a result of a clash of civilizations – Westernization and Arabianisation. ‘Westernization’ entails the process of bringing the ideas or ways of life that are typical or Western Europe and North America to bear on other countries, whereas Arabianisation involves the process of bringing the ideas or ways of life that are typical of the Middle East or North Africa to other countries. The Western-Arabian feud in Nigeria has deep historical root. It was the contest for the conquest of West Africa provoked by western activities around the coast of Africa that attracted a counter-conquest by the Arabs who felt ousted by the Westerners. Given this background, it becomes clear that the 19th century jihad movements were efforts to rid the West African societies of mixed practices of Islam with Christianity or with traditional religions (cf. Dr. Henry Ukavwe, APT  journal, 2013).
Fulani herdsmen: Google image
The hasty generalization often premised on the prejudiced opinion that because the violence we have experienced in recent years is precipitated by people who profess the Islamic faith, then all Muslims are extremists! (Most Revd. Ignatius A. APTs journal 2013). Many Nigerians hold this opinion to be indeed ‘sacrosanct.’ Some (including the Christians) would, if opportunity shows itself, shoot at sight any Fulani herdsman. Whether he intends harm or not or whether the weapons or guns he wields is licensed, is of no consequence. The number of deaths recorded by the media in Kaduna, Benue, Enugu and in other places justify these fears and prejudices by the Nigerian citizenry (especially the bereaved).
In a paper presentation by Prof. Musa Maina at St Augustine Major Seminary, Jos on the 9th of March, 2017, the Fulanis, he noted are of two types namely; the nomadic Fulanis and the settled Fulanis. Each of these groups totaling about 24 million in West Africa alone; a number any serious government ought not to take for granted. These majorly light skinned Africans (Fulanis) also have their cultural heritage, a language, means of livelihood, religion, as well as a unique kind of civilisation. Because of these attributes, values and norms, they too, like the rest of Nigerians have and ought to enjoy their human rights, freedom of movement (especially with regards Cattle rearing) and religion.
The author in a discourse about the Fulani herdsmen with Prof. Maina and the students of Saint Augustine Major Seminary, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.
Having therefore taken note of these basic principles and rights accrued to the Fulanis by virtue of their being human, it is also necessary to protect others or deny if possible, any means through which violence thwarts the rights of others in a given community. Terrorism must be contained, should be contained, by addressing diplomatically and intelligently any group or clash in both civilisations, ideologies and religion. The Fulanis (both the nomadic ones and those settled) must through democratic ways (which ought to marry and bridge the Western-Arab feud) be patiently taught that they do not all possess a ‘cattle rearing gene.’
 They must be taught increasingly, the language of democratic inclusiveness which shall aid in unique reforms; reforms devoid of violence, anger and manslaughter; reforms that will bring to bear the rewards of education or the possibility of choosing a life different from traditional ways; reforms that punish terrorist activities and disrespect for human life; reforms that assert that the Jihad is not superior to life itself. This voyage of reform is expected to be successful if there shall be a conspiracy of institutions led by both politicians and religious leaders; a conspiracy that will help bury the single story of the Fulanis today, and build a truly democratic Nigeria where everyone is protected or punished by law.


​Keynote Address Presented at the Pro-Life Advocacy Seminar

National Missionary Seminary of St Paul, Gwagwalada – Abuja

May 27, 2017.



Permit me to begin by thanking the organisers of this Prolife Advocacy Seminar for inviting me to speak to this distinguished audience on “The Role of the Church in the Protection of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Nigeria.” I consider the theme of this seminar quite apt and timely in view of the tragic situation of millions of children in our country Nigeria. While I commend the organisers for this laudable initiative, may I also add quickly that I consider it a great honour to be part of this event.
Some couple of days ago, a heart-rending story went viral on the social media, which was later reported in Vanguard and Punch newspapers of last Sunday. A man allegedly beat his seven-year old son, identified as George Tamunoibuemie, to death in Port Harcourt. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the father of the boy maltreated him and allowed him to fend for himself. Neighbours often took turns to render assistance to the boy. “Just this week,” a neighbour reported, “I saw this little boy at a shop, people gathered around him. He stole a doughnut and everyone was blaming his father, saying he wasn’t giving him food and that, that was why the boy stole. They said the father and the boy’s stepmother maltreated him. I saw scars all over his body. The people he stole the doughnuts from even gave him more doughnuts and soft drink. I took the little boy to my house and interviewed him. He was an intelligent boy. He told me the same thing and even asked me to give him a pencil to school, which I did. I also bought biscuits for him, and took photograph of him before he left. I promised to see his father but couldn’t due to my tight schedule. This morning, I woke up to hear that his father has killed him. The father beat him to death.”

Pathetic stories such as this are not new to our society. They have become part of the staple casualties of a vampire society that dehumanises life and feeds on the blood of its innocent children. We hear and read about such gross dehumanisation of life. But as a society we have failed to take appropriate action.
In April 2016, Save the Children International, an international NGO invited me to address its gathering in Abuja at the official launch of its new global campaign tagged “Every Last Child.” The aim of the gathering was to initiate a new policy commitment that would aid the building of a new and better world for us and for our children in the light of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the campaign, no child should be left behind. The commitment to create a better world for our children must reach to the very last child. This commitment was borne out of the understanding that all children, whoever they are and wherever they live, should have decent healthcare, education, and protection from harm. “It’s no good going forward if we can’t bring everyone with us. We cannot be satisfied until every last child has the opportunity to survive and thrive,” the document Every Last Child stated.
At that event, I spoke on the Christian perspective to the protection of children, drawing insights from the Bible, especially Jesus’ attitude towards children, to press on the message that all Christians, irrespective of their denominational affiliation, should consider it an integral dimension of their religious and spiritual responsibility to champion the cause of children’s rights. Thankfully, as a Church we have a systematic body of teaching called “Catholic Social Teaching” which distil fundamental moral norms and ethical guidelines on issues of human dignity, rights and freedom, justice and peace, and the right ordering of political, economic, cultural and social life. Based on a solid Christian anthropology, which is rooted in Christ, we can discern God’s will for children in the complexities of our contemporary society and take appropriate decisions to safeguard their lives and welfare.
In this address, I will undertake to discuss the responsibility of the Catholic Church in Nigeria toward the protection of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). 

As the oldest globalised institution on earth, the Catholic Church has a potentially significant contribution to make in finding solutions to disturbing political and social questions. Through her ongoing theological and moral reflection and systematic approaches to pastoral and social issues, the Church makes a distinctive contribution to promoting the rights and dignity of orphaned and vulnerable children. My paper will, therefore, be divided into three parts. First, I will give a situation report of OVC in Nigeria. Secondly, drawing from the Bible and from Church teaching, I will discuss the view of the Church on the protection of orphans and vulnerable children. In the third part, I will briefly discuss the prophetic role of the Church in Nigeria at the service of OVC.

The Situation of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Nigeria

Before we proceed further, it is important to clarify the concept of orphans and vulnerable children. The Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS uses the following definition for an orphan: An orphan is a child under 18 years of age whose mother, father or both parents (either biological or adoptive) have died from any cause. An orphan may also be any child who has been abandoned or dumped, or whose parents cannot be traced (social orphan). Orphans from all causes can be more specifically described as follows: 

orphan: a child who has lost one parent. 

Double orphan: a child who has lost both parents. 

Maternal orphan: a child whose mother has died. 

Paternal orphan: a child whose father has died.
On the other hand, a vulnerable child is any child below the age of 18 years who is:

HIV positive.

Has lost one or both parents to HIV.

Living with a chronically ill parent from whatever cause.

Living with frail grandparents.

Living in a child headed household.

Living on the street.

Living with physical or mental disabilities.

Living outside family care.

Living in an abusive environment (sexually abused, neglected, child beggars, destitute children and scavengers, child sex worker).

Living in a broken home.

A child labourer.

Internally displaced.

Child hawker.


Living with parents with disability.
Orphans and vulnerable children are an ongoing international concern due, in part, to the impact of HIV/AIDS and economic and social factors. It is estimated that over 132 million children are orphans worldwide, with 5,760 more children becoming orphans around the world each day. It is said that the number of orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa alone equals more than the combined number of children in Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. This tragic international situation has resonance with the situation in our own country Nigeria. 

According to 2015 UNAIDS estimates, some 260,000 children aged 0 to 14 are living with AIDS in Nigeria. The number could be as high as 360,000. The number of orphans due to AIDS aged 0 to 17 is put at 1.8 million, but it could be as high as 2.6 million. This is just a fraction of the number of children whose lives have been radically altered by the impact of AIDS on their families and communities. Thousands of children are living with sick and dying parents. This can cause extreme psychological distress, not to talk about the economic hardship, the stigma and discrimination, the malnutrition threatening their very survival and development.
The 2008 National Situation Assessment and Analysis of OVC in Nigeria indicated that there are 14 million vulnerable children in Nigeria. One out of every ten Nigeria child is an orphan. Of these, one in three is a maternal orphan and two in three are paternal orphans. The UNICEF Humanitarian Report of April 16–30, 2017 shows that in the North East of Nigeria, 4.4 million children are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, from food, water, and shelter to clothing and education. This situation has been heightened by the Boko Haram insurgency, which has left in its wake huge debris of human decimation of monumental proportions.
According to the Nigeria Orphans and Vulnerable Children Research Situation Analysis Report, published in August 2009 by the Boston University Center for Global Health and Development, “Nigeria is facing an orphaning and child vulnerability crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions. In spite of relatively low HIV prevalence rates… Nigeria, by virtue of her huge population, has one of the highest orphan and vulnerable children populations in the world. This has resulted from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in addition to the upward trends in the prevalence of other vulnerability instigating factors such as exploitative labour, poverty, abandonment, violence, and other causes related to the national socio-economic profile.”

As a cause of orphaning, HIV/AIDS is exceptional because if one parent is infected with HIV, the probability is high that the other parent is also infected. Thus putting children at risk of losing both parents within a relatively short time. However, where poverty and HIV coexist, children and households are at risk of great deprivation. In households afflicted by AIDS, more money is spent caring for sick members, leaving fewer resources for the children in the household.
In Nigeria, the AIDS epidemic puts children at risk physically, emotionally and economically. Children are directly affected in a number of ways as the experience of orphaned and vulnerable children show. Some studies have shown that orphans and vulnerable children are at higher risk of missing out on schooling, live in households with less food security, suffer anxiety and depression, and are at a higher risk of exposure to HIV. When children lose their fathers to AIDS, they are more likely to live with their mother because widowed mothers are more likely to be responsible for the care of their children than widowed fathers. On the other hand, children who lose their mothers are less likely to live with the surviving parent. Furthermore, the survival of the youngest children (0-3) is at stake when their mothers are dying or have recently died. This is true whether the mother dies of AIDS or other causes. Children of this age group are 3.9 times more likely to die in the year before or after their mother’s death.
Although it is customary in Nigeria for extended family and community members to care for orphans and vulnerable children, the growing number of OVC and the complexity of their needs have overextended the capacity and resources of these individuals and households. Many more children live in households with a chronically ill parent or caregiver, elderly caregivers, orphans and other homeless children. This disturbing trend is fuelled by social, cultural, political and economic forces which have in recent times overstretched the coping capacities of families, communities and governments. The human and social cost of OVC is enormous. Moreover, with the death of a parent, children experience profound loss, grief, anxiety, fear and hopelessness with long term consequences such as psychosomatic disorders, chronic depression, low self-esteem, learning disabilities and disturbed social behaviour.

Humanitarian Factors

Beyond the impact of HIV/AIDS on the situation of orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria, there are other factors, which significantly impact on the Nigerian condition, most notably the Boko Haram insurgency and the attendant humanitarian crisis it has generated. The insurgency, with its cocktail of violence and destruction, has caused huge population displacements, leaving hundreds of thousands of children trapped in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian assistance because of insecurity. This has led to dramatic increase in malnutrition.
Speaking in July 2016, Jean Gough, the representative of UNICEF in Nigeria said: “We estimate that there will be almost a quarter of a million children under five suffering from acute malnutrition in Borno this year. Unless we reach these children with treatment, one in five of them will die.” A rapid screening of children under five performed by Action Against Hunger in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states – the three states most affected by the insurgency in the North East – indicated that nearly 30 per cent of 4,445 children screened are suffering from Global Acute Malnutrition.
Daily Mail, a British newspaper reported that according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical charity organisation, “at least 188 people died in the camp of Bama between May 23 and June 22, mainly from diarrhoea and malnutrition, while more than 1,200 graves, many of them for children, have been dug near the camp in the last year [i.e 2015].” MSF has called the situation in the North East “a catastrophic humanitarian emergency.” Although Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, it also has one of the highest numbers of severely malnourished children in the world: approximately 24% of children under five years old – more than a million children – suffer from malnutrition. Underneath the statistics lies the pain of human tragedy that is unfolding before our very eyes.
Beyond this humanitarian situation in the North East, the plight of children in Nigeria is anything but pleasant. When parents die as a result of violent conflict, poverty, disease, lack of access to healthcare when sick, and the search for better life which leads to illegal migration, they leave their children both orphaned and vulnerable to the vagaries of a tempestuous society. These children become victims of trafficking, prone to sexual assault, less likely to attend school, exposed to violence, and unable to fend for themselves. 
Another phenomenon of grave concern in Nigeria is that of children living on the streets. These children are involved in different types of work without any clear pattern and live under bridges, in motor parks, market stalls or with families. The ages of these children can range from 5-17. Those children are more prone to illnesses, malnutrition, drug abuse, crime, accidents, arrest and harassment by law enforcement agents, and are also at risk of being trafficked or used for ritual purposes. 

Photo credit: Google, vulnerable children.

Among children living on the streets, special mention must be made of the Almajiris who are found in the Northern part of the country. The original idea was for these young children to be sent out from their homes to learn Quranic education in traditional way under the care of a Mallam. However, the system has been diverted from its original objective and the children have become a means to financial gain by their substitute caregivers who send them to beg in the street and to carry out other menial jobs. This makes them vulnerable to different kinds of health, physical and psychological hazards.
With the insurgency in the North East, several thousand children (especially young girls) have been displaced, abducted, wounded, orphaned, sexually abused and forced into early marriages. Most children in the affected areas find themselves traumatised, while many are wounded, forced to live on the streets, in makeshift shelter or in camps for internally displaced persons. Some of the attacks have been on schools. This has led to many schoolchildren being killed and most schools being destroyed or shut down. Two prominent examples are the abduction in April 2014 of 276 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, and the slaughter of 59 schoolboys in Buni Yadi, Yobe State. According to UNESCO, Nigeria now has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children, due mainly to terrorist activities.
Another devastating impact of conflict is sexual violence, during which hundreds of women and girls are raped and forcibly married off to their captors. Some of the women and girls eventually get pregnant as a result of sexual violence. The children who have been born of sexual violence are at an even greater risk of rejection and abandonment. Some believe that the children conceived as a result of sexual violence or sexual relations with the insurgents will become the next generation of fighters, as they carry the violent characteristics of their biological fathers. As a result, children and newborn as well as their mothers are being increasingly ostracised and are at risk of further violence.
There is also an alarming surge in the number of teenage girls and children used as suicide bombers. This is the worst possible use of children in conflict situation. A news report of UNICEF in April 2017 noted that so far, 117 children have been used to carry out bomb attacks in public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon since 2014. This is the plight of a vast number of Nigerian children who are caught in the web of terrorist violence. However, we still have to grapple with the alarming increase in acute cases of child abuse and the practice of female genital mutilation, which is still rampant. Faced with these disconcerting episodes of violence against children, the Christian believer of today must ask: What would Jesus Christ do in these kinds of situation? What is the Church called to do?


The Church, the Bible and the Protection of Vulnerable Children

At the foundation of the biblically-rooted Christian social worldview is the proposition that the human being is created with a unique inalienable and sacred character, that not only are our lives not ours to dispose of, but that we are obliged to protect the life and dignity of all human beings. Although God cares for all his children (Ps. 145:9), he shows his special care for the vulnerable, and calls upon us to be similarly concerned for them. The Bible is fond of speaking about the stranger and the widow as vulnerable persons, but the ultimate paradigm of vulnerability is the orphan, the child victim of misfortune.
God’s care and compassion for the less fortunate is mentioned throughout the Bible. This emphasis reminds Christians that the act of helping the helpless is not a suggestion, but a Christian duty. James 1:27 says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Jeremiah 22:16 reminds us that to “know God” means helping the widow and the orphan. These verses suggest that when we help the helpless, we know the heart of God and become his hands in the process.
Several episodes in the New Testament gives ample instances of the teachings and attitude of Jesus Christ towards children, and how he expects Christians to regard children. Jesus had a profound affection for children and never hesitated to carry them in his arms and to bless them whenever they were brought to him (Mk 10:13-16). Out of compassion, he restored the dead son of a widow to life (Lk 7:11-15). He also brought back to life the 12 year-old daughter of a synagogue official named Jairus (Lk 8:51-56). At Capernaum, he healed the sick son of an official (Jn 4:46-53). He also healed the daughter of a Syro-Phoenician woman, who was tormented by an evil spirit (Mt 15:21-28). When a little boy who suffered from epilepsy and demonic possession was brought to him, Jesus promptly healed the child (Lk 9:37-43). In the miracle of the multiplication of bread for the feeding of 5000 people, a little boy provided the five loaves of bread and two fish with which Jesus performed the miracle (Jn 6:9). 
In a profound teaching about the greatest in the kingdom of God, Jesus used a little child as the epitome of those who will enter Heaven (Mk 10:15; Mt 18:3-4). Here, we see the invaluable premium that Jesus places on the innocence, simplicity and purity of life of children. He also tells us that we will all be judged on the last day on the basis of our care for the less privileged and the vulnerable (Mt 25). In the Christian tradition, the true measure of our attitude to and treatment of children becomes the example of Jesus Christ. All these episodes teach us that children are to be viewed as treasures and not commodities for exploitation. Our duties and responsibilities towards children flow from the divine command placed upon us to protect them. Jesus even prescribed a severe punishment for those who hurt or scandalize children (Mt 18:6, 10).
The fact that God himself would arrive in our world in the form of a vulnerable baby also says a great deal. Even the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt on account of Herod’s desire to kill the infant Jesus also shows forth the vulnerability of the Son of God to human whims and caprices. Not only did the family of Jesus face grave danger, Jesus himself became a refugee at an early age. But once he grew up, Jesus showed extraordinary love for children. He performed several miracles involving children and showed them in his teachings as models of emulation even for grown-ups. When Jesus said to his disciples, “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,” he means that, “In children there is something that must never be missing in people who want to enter the kingdom of heaven. People who are destined to go to heaven are simple like children, and like children are full of trust, rich in goodness and pure” (Pope St. John Paul II). That is why children are important in the eyes of Jesus. 
Speaking about the rough earthly experience of Jesus in his Letter to Children in the Year of the Family (December 13, 1994), Pope John Paul II said: “In what happened to the Child of Bethlehem, you can recognize what happens to children throughout the world. It is true that a child represents the joy no only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of society. But it is also true that in our days, unfortunately, many children in different parts of the world are suffering and being threatened: they are hungry and poor, they are dying from diseases and malnutrition, they are the victims of war, they are abandoned by their parents and condemned to remain without a home, without the warmth of a family of their own, they suffer many forms of violence and arrogance from grown-ups. How can we not care, when we see the suffering of so many children, especially when this suffering is in some way caused by grown-ups?”
But in Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus and spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we see the great figure of a protector and guardian. That is what every Christian is called to be – a protector and guardian of vulnerable children. In his Homily at the Mass of the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of Pope Francis (March 19, 2013), the Holy Father put before us the example of Joseph. How does Joseph exercise his role as custos, as protector of Mary and Jesus? Pope Francis answers: “Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.”
Pope Francis asks again: “How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church?” He answers: “By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own…. Joseph is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In his, dear friends, we can learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly….” Like St Joseph, “we must open our arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least importance, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect.”
Even Jesus shows us by his attitude that the children of the world – not just the children in our families – must be protected, welcomed and blessed. Protecting them from diseases, hunger, nakedness from violence and cruelty, from danger and exploitation, from ignorance and disrespect, – these objectives must be a top priority for Christians. We must all take the lead in confronting this one great moral struggle of our times, to lend our voices to the voices of millions of people calling for a change in the way the world treats children. People who love God can disagree on many points of public policy and social welfare. However, there can be no room for debate on the Bible’s claim on Christians to care for the poor as a central expression of our faith. If we do not share God’s passion to uplift the poor, we cannot claim to know God in a biblical way. 
“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees his brother or sister in need and refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3:17). Our love for Jesus is to find tangible expression in the way we treat children. If we love Jesus and seek to conform our lives to Scripture, we will care for children wounded by poverty – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – and promote a society which shares resources to meet their needs. We will prayerfully intervene to break the yoke of generational poverty and create fresh opportunities for families to develop self-sufficiency. We will protect children and their families from exploitation and advocate their cause to those in power. And we will offer them the hope of our faith in Christ, who shared in their poverty during his sojourn on earth so that through him all might live in abundance (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).
For the Christian, every child is a human being created in the image of God. This affords him or her all human dignity that must be protected from abuse. The vulnerability of children makes them all the more deserving of our regard, and obliges us with greater responsibility towards them. This responsibility is even more heightened with regard to children who are victims of misfortune, injustice and abuse. In other words, we must address children with particular tenderness and courtesy; be especially careful not to subject them to hard labour nor wound their feelings with harsh speech. We must take greater care of their persons and property than we would even with our own; for it is a more serious transgression to cause them distress, anger or pain, let alone to tyrannize them, cause them physical harm or humiliate them.
Children are more than the “products” of an older generation; they are the guarantors of posterity. It is this recognition of children’s potentials for renewal and continuity of the human species that led the sages of the Talmud to describe them as “the Messiahs of humankind.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta, an Albanian Christian missionary who spent her life caring for the poor and destitute, once remarked: “Every new born child comes to the world with the message that God is not yet fed up with humankind.” Here I see how much we can learn from children. Their ability to manage diversity, something they are good at in their innocence, is something we adults could learn.

The Role of the Church in the Protection of OVC in Nigeria

There are several layers of responsibility for the Church in Nigeria as far as the protection of orphans and vulnerable children is concerned. At the highest level of the governance of the Church in our country, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) needs to take greater awareness of the plight of children today, and evolve new ways and means of standing prophetically to champion their cause. This can start from creating an office for the protection of children at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) or an Episcopal Commission whose duty will be to carry out the work of research, documentation and advocacy in the area of children’s rights. The Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) in all our Dioceses must move beyond simply monitoring elections and undertake greater responsibility in promoting the cause of social justice in our land. 

Our schools and institutions should create offices for Child Protection in line with approaches already undertaken by the universal Church. So far, to the best of my knowledge only two Dioceses in Nigeria have formulated policy guidelines and codes of conduct for the protection of children in their educational institutions. These are Ijebu-Ode Diocese and Sokoto Diocese. 
In a nation where child abuse has become so rampant and so vicious across all sectors of the society, we cannot dispense with the strong moral voice of the Church in this matter. Church leaders must make effort to speak with one voice in conscientizing the public, especially political leaders, on their duties toward the protection of vulnerable children. But beyond speaking with one voice, they must also ensure that ecclesiastical institutions are not ‘safe harbour’ for perpetrating the abuse of innocent children. This means punishing offenders and ensuring that those who have a tendency to abuse children are not in ministry where they can carry out their nefarious activities.
Furthermore, the preferential option for the poor, which is a cornerstone of Catholic Social Teaching, ought to become the guide for our commitment toward the care and protection of children. Here too, the Church can use her Catholic Social Teaching to activate the Sustainable Development Goals (especially Nos. 1 to 5), which have dealings with the protection of vulnerable children. This has to spill over to defending their basic human and civic rights to life, to education, to healthcare, to shelter and to decent living. The 1983 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2003 Child Rights Act in Nigeria can offer us veritable resources in this endeavour.


This pro-life forum and the choice of topic for this event shows that the organisers recognize that the Pro-Life movements today have to move beyond the advocacy for core moral questions like contraception, abortion, euthanasia, etc to include the wider concerns of social justice, in those areas where human life is directly affected. The point is that all life matters, not just the life of innocent aborted children. We have to examine the wider social questions of human life and dignity, how issues of unemployment, conflict, war, hunger, starvation and disease are decimating the lives of millions of people, both young and old. That is what it means to stand essentially in defence of life. The challenge before us is to be a bit more proactive in addressing the issues, and to put pressure on governments to enforce laws and conventions that seek to protect children and vulnerable persons. Children have a right, not just to survive, but also to thrive and to realize the full stature of their human potentials.


 A Paper presented by Austen Ajuluchukwu Eneh at the Annual Lecture organized by the Pauline’s Prolife Group at the National Missionary Seminar of St Paul Gwagwalada, Abuja on May 27, 2017.

We all share a common humanity. Fundamental to this common humanity is the right to life. This right is enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and supported by some other Conventions like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child etc. They all support a commom position that every human being has the inherent right to life and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life. The United Nations’ Charter recognizes the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation for freedom, justice and peace. This Charter reaffirms faith in the fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person.
The uniqueness of the plight of children, orphans and vulnerable children received special attention in the UN resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 which came into force on 2 September 1990.
UN Convention on child rights (Excerpts) :
In all, this Convention contains 54 Articles. We will take excerpts from this document namely

Article 1 – For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child majority is attained earlier.

Meaning: Everyone under 18 years of age has all the rights in this Convention.

2 – States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians or family members.
Meaning: The Convention applies to everyone whatever their race, religion, abilities, whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from.

3 – In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interest of the child shall be primary consideration.

States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
Meaning: All organisations concerned with children should work towards what is best for each child.

Article 4 – States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources, and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation.
Meaning: Governments should make these rights available to children.

Article 5 – States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.
Meaning: Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to direct and guide their children so that, as they grow, they learn to use their rights properly.

6 – States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
Meaning – All children have the right to life. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.

41 – Nothing in the present Convention shall affect any provisions which are more conducive to the realization of the rights of the child and which may be contained in:
The law of a State Party ; or

International law in force for that State.
Meaning: If the laws of a particular country protect children better than the articles of the Convention, then those laws should stay.

42 – States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike.
Meaning: The Government should make the Convention known to parents and children.
Responsibilities :

Children’s rights are a special case because many of the rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the Child have to be provided by the adults or the State. However the Convention also refers to the responsibilities of children, in particular to respect the rights of others especially their parents. 

Embedded in every right is an accompanying responsibility. Here is an illustration of Rights and Responsibilities:

 If every child, regardless of their gender, ethnic origin, status, language, age, nationality or religion has these rights, then they also have a responsibility to respect each other, in a human way.

If children have a right to be protected from conflict, cruelty, exploitation and neglect, then they also have a responsibility not to bully or harm one another.

If children have a right to a clean environment, then they also have a responsibility to do what they can to look after their environment.

 The Response by the Catholic Church

3.1    The Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)

The Justice, Development and Peace Commission was created as a Pontifical Commission on January 6, 1967 with the name “JUSTICIA ET PAX”. In Nigeria, the local Church embraced it as a ‘structural response to the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965) appealing for the Church’s involvement in the building of a just and peaceful world’.

 The Commission is intended to coordinate activities geared towards a positive change in the human condition, such as poverty, religious bigotry, election malpractices, diseases, injustice, greater equity for the poor and marginalized people and improved social cohesion.  JDPC is an agent of the Roman Catholic Church engaged in socio-political outreach, such as relief and development, education and vocational training, human rights promotion, policy advocacy and Church-State relations. The JDPC Secretariat was formally launched in 1995.

The purpose of the Caritas is to awaken in the people of God full awareness of their mission; to further the progress of poorer Nations and international Social Justice, as well as their own development for more justice and peace in the society.

The Commission employs the under listed strategies to enhance the reach of their work in the lives of the people 

Public awareness campaign and enlightenment programme

Strengthening grassroots’ organization by building their capacity and stimulating networks and coalitions.

Legal aid and alternative dispute.

Advocacy (responding promptly through advocacy and activism to the need of the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our immediate remote environment.

Liaisons with other groups in pursuit of good governance.

3.2    The Role of the Justice, Development and Peace Commission: 

Promoting the dignity of the human persons especially the Orphans and Vulnerable Children. 

 Framework for OVC Care and Support

A Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World like Nigeria has been offered. The Framework builds on the programming principles provided by in the Children on the Brink series (UNICEF, 2002 and 2004). 

The five core strategies set forth in the Framework are as follows: 

Strengthening the capacity of families to protect and care for OVC by prolonging the lives of parents and providing economic, psychosocial and other support; 

Mobilizing and supporting community-based responses to provide both immediate and long-term assistance to vulnerable households;

Ensuring access for OVC to essential services, including education, health care, birth registration and others; 

Ensuring that governments protect the most vulnerable children through improved policy and legislation and by channelling resources to communities; and 

Raising awareness at all levels through advocacy and social mobilization to create a supportive environment for children affected by HIV. 

Some programming guidelines in implementing these core strategies include: 

Focusing on the most vulnerable children and communities, not only children orphaned by AIDS; 

Defining community specific problems and pursuing locally determined interventions; 

Involving children and youth as active participants in the response; 

Attending to the roles of children, men and women, addressing gender discrimination; and 

Linking HIV prevention activities and care and support for people living with HIV (PLHIV) with support for vulnerable children.
The Legal Framework for the care and support of the OVCs
Background Legal protection in OVC programs and appropriate strategies are critical:

For ensuring that children are registered, 

In the event of absent or deceased caregivers, that their assets are protected and they have appropriate guardians. 

For ensuring children access to basic legal rights, such as birth certificates and inheritance rights, 

For enabling them to access other essential services and opportunities, including health, education, legal services, and legal employment when they grow older. Evidence suggests that birth registration is critical to ensuring that children can access these essential services and opportunities. 
Hithermore, the mechanisms used for establishing the identity of an unregistered child (sworn affidavits, for example) are more difficult to obtain when a child’s relatives are deceased.

EvidenceBased Implementation 

Although significant barriers prevent birth registration and succession planning, several strategies have been proven to minimize these barriers and facilitate access to basic legal support. 

Improving birth registration

Raising awareness about the importance of birth registration 

Partners can support efforts to organize mass registration to promote the benefits of birth registration. These interventions are low cost and sustainable, replicable, appropriate to all contexts regardless of the type of epidemic, and require limited technical capacity. 

Partners can develop and disseminate messages through radio, television, film, and existing groups or structures (e.g., health teams, youth organizations, religious institutions, and police), and work with community leaders and celebrity ambassadors to advocate for registration. Messages should incorporate local languages. 

Partners can also offer special incentives for those who register births within a certain time period, such as bed nets, and support links with other services, such as prenatal care, immunizations, and educational services. Supporting efforts to break down geographical barriers. 

Introducing succession planning 

Raising awareness about rights and inequalities in inheritance practices and the importance of succession 

Linkage of succession planning with other basic services and offering of temporary incentives for completing succession plans. 

When possible, they can organize targeted training and awareness-raising campaigns for community leaders, police, magistrates and lawyers, who have authority to enforce succession plans or distribute property in ways that benefit women and children.

Supporting caregivers to appoint standby guardians 

Partners should also seek to link succession planning with other services, promote succession planning through public campaigns, and disseminate information through existing groups. 

3.3 What then is the role of the JPDC in the Care and support of OVC

Any existing institutional policy both legal frame work and other mechanisms that provide a supportive environment for the care of  these children?   Yes                                               No

Existing institutional policy 

Any legal frame work 

Any other mechanisms
If yes to any of the above, what are the concrete instruments

If no, what next steps to take?
What are the causes of vulnerability which results into the failure to include OVC issues among the priorities on the developmental agenda of Nigeria? (There is need to diagnose this to enable planning on how to tackle it).
How to work to develop stronger commitment and a support structure for these children amidst current economic challenges? What next steps considering the framework as discussed above?
In terms of justice, what is justice in the situation of these children? (Let us discuss this now. What do we term justice? Fair play? Equity? What?
How can we, as pro-lifers reach out to people like this? Let us come up with our strategies for the next steps.
How can these children be encouraged to attain their potential personality in life in this age of helicopter parenting? Long term goal. But let start with simple locally visible steps, mostly acceptance and willingness to change behaviour towards the OVCs.

Issues :

From time, humanity has struggled with the distribution of resources. And has often based her reward system on might (economic, military, political etc.), achievements, qualification, net worth, influence etc. This lopsided method of resource distribution has, sadly, been extended to certain inherent human endowments like right to life, freedom of speech etc. This has also kept the poor, the uneducated and uncivilized, the widows, the unemployed, women and children on the fringes of society, perennially entrenching their marginalization. 
Our focus here will be on those practices that pose a threat to right to life, those practices that have continually perpetuated these acts of marginalization (exclusion) and discrimination. We will also look at what our society (you and I), our government, our Church have done, can do and are still doing about it. We will then collectively come up with suggestions on how to improve the plight of these persons and ultimately improve our society.
 Let’s begin with the arguments around life, when does it begin and when does it end? What powers can the human person exercise over life? etc.

One view holds that life is sacred, a gift from God for humanity to protect and preserve, that it begins from Conception (right from the womb) to natural death, that one life is as precious as another whatever the ages or circumstances and that no one has the right to terminate any life whatever the circumstances.
Cathy Cleaver ,a Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at Family Research Council, US who had served previously as Chief Counsel  for the US House of Representatives Constitution Subcommittee and also the Prolife spokesperson for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
And Rob Schwarzwalder also a Senior Vice President of Family Research Council, previously served as a Presidential Appointee at the US Dept. of Health and Human Services where as Senior Speech Writer, he crafted language on all facets of Federal Health Care policy. Rob also served previously as Chief of Staff to two members of Congress in the US.
In their opening comments on this matter, they observed that abortion debate is like no other because the practice is widespread – millions of American women have aborted a child, and the pain, loss and emotional need to justify what was done both on the part of the mother and on the part of her loved ones is deep and strong. This means that in any debate, you may face an invisible thumb on the scale so that even the best logic will fail to persuade. 
And I dare add, in Nigeria, as well. Man and wife take to pills, IUDs and other artificial methods of Family Planning. Some babies are labeled as unwanted and are aborted, how many of our Catholic women are using Natural methods of Family Planning and teaching their daughters to do same. How many can tell the difference? What level of support are they receiving from their husbands, our fathers on Family Planning matters? What kind of society, what kind of Church are we building?  Where is the faith that we profess as Catholics?

Science supports the position of the Church when it says:
At the moment of fusion of human sperm and egg, a new entity comes into existence which is distinctly human, alive and an individual organism – a living and fully human, being. This is the PRO-LIFE view. This is the position of our Church.
Another view would argue that yes, life is sacred, that but it has its beginning at birth (not in the womb), and that some lives are obviously more important than another (e.g. a pregnant woman whose baby is threatening should have an abortion to save the mother’s life over the baby’s etc). Euthanasia can be deployed for properly evaluated cases and that same sex unions are simply expressions of rights. This view is PRO-CHOICE.
Where do you belong?
As a further illustration of euthanasia, please listen to this real life story:
 The world was treated to a true story, thirteen years ago of a young Belgian boy who had been ill from birth with a terrible bowel disease and had been in and out of hospital all his life! As his body had grown so had the pain. By the end, it was excruciating.
It was when he was thirteen that Danny Bond started talking about wanting to die. One night, in the early hours, the peace of the sleeping house was shattered by his screaming that he had had enough. ‘It was chilling,’ his father Mike recalled on television a decade ago. ‘I can hear it now if I close my eyes. It left an indelible print on me.’
Danny began to talk about killing himself. His parents tried to distract him from the idea. ‘I tried everything,’ his mother Beverley recalled. ‘I tried to cheer him up. I tried blackmail and bribing him. I tried to give him a focus and some goals.’ But none of it worked. Three times he tried to end his own life. Three times his mom resuscitated him and called for an Ambulance. It made Danny angry. After the third attempt he told his mother she had let him down. ‘You have really got to learn to walk out of the door.’ He told her.
Soon after his 21st birthday, Danny went downhill rapidly. He was taken into hospital. ‘I want to die’ he told his parents, ‘and you have to help me.’ But Mike was a policeman and knew assisting suicide was a crime. Danny decided he would starve himself to death – the only way he could die legally (in Belgian law). 
His doctors were unhappy. So Danny charged his parents to sit by his bed to ensure that no one gave him treatment he did not want. All he wanted was the privilege to be given an injection that would kill him instantly in seconds. All he could get legally was a slow death in days by starving himself. And that was how Danny ended it.
The Belgian Parliament responded thereafter , to cases like Danny’s by making it legal for such persons to be killed – if they are ‘close to death’, experiencing ‘unbearable suffering’ and can show they truly ‘discern’ the consequences of what they are asking.
We, Pro-Lifers disagree totally – No one has the right to terminate life WHATEVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. 

Evil is evil however logical. Go to the account of the fall of man in Gen 3:6
‘The woman saw that the fruit was good to eat, and pleasant to the eyes and ideal for gaining knowledge’. (CCB).
Sound logic. What are we talking about?  – Pro-choice would ask.
I ask again – Where do you belong? Logic doesn’t cut it. Only God.  Are we prepared to obey Him, however difficult the situation might be?

Having taken sides, let’s now look at the perennial questions about the Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
In Nigeria today, as in many African countries, there is a major humanitarian and development challenge which has hampered the realization of the tents of the right to life, especially among children. This has to do with the increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children in the country. And also vulnerable families. A visit to some homes or areas around the country shows that there are children who do not have access to even one of the possibilities mentioned above. There are also families whose breadwinner is either dead or disengaged from employment, thus denying the entire family access to resources for even the most basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. There’no one seated here who does not know at least one of such family. 
Often, the advocacy for right to life is limited to the discuss about the unborn and the adults, to the exclusion of OVCs and vulnerable families, as well. There is no constitutional law made for the advocacy of these orphans, vulnerable children and vulnerable families. Some of them are victims of violence and by such means become orphans, some as a result of sicknesses like HIV/AIDS, mal-nutrition and other related diseases are left to suffer, some are victims of early spousal death or abrupt disengagement from employment. There is no doubt that the needs of some if not all of these categories range from need for equal rights, fair treatment, to be well educated, good health, psychological support, shelter and dignity unconditionally.       

There have been cases of children abandoned and some who are vulnerable exposed to the reach of some miscreants in the society. These miscreants deploy them as means of money making like beggars on the streets, baby factories, suicide bombers by terrorist groups, child trafficking, rituals, and other forms of societal exploitation, violent acts and abuse against children.


The questions for us now are as follows:

Are these children doomed to die?  

Do we have any existing institutional policy both legal frame work and other mechanisms that provide a supportive environment for the care of these children?

What are the causes of vulnerability which results into the failure to include OVC issues among the priorities on the developmental agenda of Nigeria?

How do we work to develop stronger commitment and a support structure for these children amidst current economic challenges? 

In terms of justice, what is justice in the situation of these children?

How can we, as pro lifers reach out to people like this? 

What role does the religious groups or body has to play in the support of these children? 

What does the scripture say about this scenario? 

What sin did they commit? How can forgiveness be accessed? 

Why has nature chosen to deal with them this badly?

How can these children be encouraged to attain their potential personality in life in this age of helicopter parenting?
The above questions are the agitations in the mind of the Organisers of this seminar. To end my contributions without addressing some, if not all of these concerns might amount to some form of injustice. Earlier in this paper, I have listed the following:

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

JDPC, its formation and its role in promoting the dignity of the human persons especially the Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Framework for OVC Care and Support , programming guidelines, Legal frameworks etc.

These would attest to the existence of institutional policy, legal frame work and other mechanisms that provide a supportive environment for the care of these children at some level. All that may be required is some adoption and domestication.
Of course, we know that these categories of people (Orphans and Vulnerable Children are not doomed to die, even if our attitudes, behaviours and conducts of our personal and group lives suggest as much. What is urgent and critical at this moment is behavioural and attitudinal change both at the level of the individual and the group. Individuals must desist from mixing Psalms for hungry and needy families and OVCs and offer them rather the bread they need. Love one another JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. Groups must practice social inclusion and shun policies and programmes that drive away this category of people – WHATSOEVER YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF MY BRETHREN, THAT YOU DO UNTO ME.
Apathy by Catholics to socio-political activities in the society has not helped, and cannot help anybody. Not the least, this category of people. It is only when we get involved that we can influence the right policies. How many of us here today have got a Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC)? We need to get involved in governance. This is where the decisions that impact everyone, especially our focal group today, are taken.
Our Church has done well with the creation of JDPC in 1967. But 50 years after, analysis shows that they have not competed favourably in their sector. As NGOs, some have grown into owning their own schools and micro-finance institutions, while others have performed abysmally. The reason is very simple – Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E) mechanism. There is need for a Central Body that will act as regulator and agenda setter, ensuring that these NGOs are run based on international Best Practices. That way, issues of partnerships, funding and scale are dealt with in a structured manner. This will guarantee growth for the entity, employment for the people and the realization of the objectives for which they were set up. The Church needs to set up this Body. Then the Body will drive the rest.
As I conclude, let me say that the utmost question before all of us gathered here today is – Where do we belong in this whole conversation? Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Undecided? This option truly is not available. The real choice before us is to become Pro-Life. To say no to this is an automatic yes for Pro-Choice. Whatever choice you make will form your Frame of Reference in our ongoing discourse around Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
The questions are unending as should the answers we collectively strive to provide. To pretend to have answered all of them will amount to delusion. I have only stoked the fire. Let the discussions continue.
Thank you very much!


UNICEF. Children on the Brink, 3rd. ed. 2002 

UNICEF. (2004) Children on the Brink: A Joint Report of New Orphan Estimates and a Framework for Action., (4th ed.) New York: UNICEF.
Abstract: Pauline’s Pro-Life, National Missionary Seminary of St Paul Gwagwalada, Abuja.

Christian Community Bible.