BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa.

Once upon a time, there was a girl called Maimuna who had the spirit of courage, bravery, and fortitude. She and her people faithfully worshipped God whom they called Madaukaki. They believed he is the source of life, their protector, and their provider. The village chief, Juji was very corrupt and was beginning to demand that people worship him as a demigod. He gave an order which states that anyone who refused to worship him will be severely punished and exiled from the village. The people began to live in fear knowing how ruthless the chief was. Most of the villagers complied with the chief’s decree and began to worship him, but Maimuna refused to abandon her faith in God. She continued to serve God and endured harsh persecution and humiliation from the king. The king extended his persecution to members of her family by seizing the land, setting their house ablaze, and dismissing their father from his job in the palace. The family members stayed steadfast to their faith without wavering as they vehemently refused to renounce their faith in the true God. One day, the chief summoned Maimuna and commanded her to renounce her faith and declare her loyalty to him. She responded courageously, “I shall not fear anyone on earth, I shall fear only God; I shall worship no one on earth, but only the Madaukaki, the God who created me and who continually sustains me. She recalled the story of the village and the many trials they have passed through as a people and how God has protected them even before the birth of the chief. Her faith and courage challenged and inspired the rest of the villagers and for the first time, they began to question the authority of Juji the chief. The chief saw how the people were uniting against him, and he quickly accepted his excesses and abuse of power. He humbly asked his people for forgiveness. Maimuna’s courage brought about the revolution of hearts and the return to the worship of the true God. The story of Maimuna’s courage has been passed down through generations to remind the villagers about the need to be steadfast in faith in the midst of persecution and humiliation. Besides, her story shows how good triumphs over evil, and the fact that God protects his servants in adversity, intimidation, and persecution.

The prophets of old played a similar role as they courageously stood for the truth and rebuked the kings and people who deviated from the worship of the true God. The prophet Jeremiah was one of the prophets who proclaimed the truth and suffered persecution. His people wanted to get rid of truth by eliminating Jeremiah the messenger of truth. They made every effort to intimidate him and so he exclaimed, “Terror on every side” (Jeremiah 20:10). In their lack of wisdom, the people forgot that one can kill the messenger of truth, but cannot kill the truth.

Jeremiah loved to live a peaceful and unperturbed life before God entrusted him with a difficult mission, which brought him into conflict with the authorities – the kings, priests and false prophets. He was given the task of challenging the people to keep the covenant they made with God or face the wrath of God. He emphasized the need for a deep personal relationship with God instead of the superficial religion, that the people practiced. His message was too hard for the people and they saw him as a prophet of doom. They shouted, “Let us denounce him” (Jeremiah 20:10).

Obviously, Jeremiah was persecuted, threatened and opposed for speaking truth to power and to the people. He watched how his friends turned into being his enemies. He cried out in pains: “All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall” (Jeremiah 20:10). Despite this grim situation, Jeremiah refused to be intimidated by the opposing forces. He was deeply convinced that since God was on his side, no enemy could defeat him. Jeremiah was confident in God’s protective care and so he said, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not prevail. In their failure they would be put to shame, to lasting unforgettable confusion” (Jeremiah 20:11).

Jesus warned his disciples ahead of time to know that the world will oppose, mistreat, persecute, suspect, reject and intimidate them. But he told them to be courageous, bold and fear no one (Matthew 10:26). He told them, “…In the world you will face persecution, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). So many good people face all kinds of persecution today. Today, there is a wave of religious persecution. Many people face persecution in their homes, workplaces, and schools because of their religious beliefs and for doing what is right. In principle, the Nigerian constitution upholds religious liberty, but in practice, wherever one religion is dominant, it seeks to persecute and exterminate the other.

Religious persecution comes in different ways through structural injustice and violent attacks. Structural injustice consists of policies of government that covertly or overtly favour one religion over the other. This form of injustice is displayed through discrimination in the method of job employment, promotion in work places, admission into schools and departments, denial of places of worship, political marginalization and formulation of lopsided policies. On the other hand, persecution by violent attacks comes also in different forms such as destruction of places of worship, vandalisation and confiscation of religious institutions, sacking of villages, false accusations for blasphemy leading to stoning and death of victims, abduction of children, kidnapping and herdsmen campaign of terror. In recent years we have witnessed a sad turn of events in Nigeria as innocent children are indoctrinated to go for suicide bombing.

In the midst of all the persecution, we must hold on to our conviction of the Gospel message. Jesus emboldened his disciples to be fearless: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Those who seek to kill the body, destroy the externals, such as buildings and property, but they cannot destroy the soul that gave rise to these external structures which is the faith deep within. They also cannot destroy the soul, which is the intrinsic value (s), that people of faith hold tenaciously.


We live in constant fear of people who threaten us with sorrow and death. We live in a dangerous world, where we are harassed and intimidated. Jesus encourages his followers to respect and love everyone irrespective of their race, tribe or religion. At the same time, He encourages his disciples to fear no one. He knows we are often frozen in fear, believing that our enemies, detractors and those who wish us harm would eliminate us. The story of the fearless Jeremiah is a reminder of the story of Emperor Caesar. When the famous Emperor Caesar was warned to be conscious of his personal security and to always carry his weapon of self-defence, he answered, “He who lives in the fear of death, every moment feels its tortures, I will die but once.” More importantly, these words of assurance from the scriptures are a booster of our courage, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

12th Sunday of Year A; Jeremiah 20:10-13 and Matthew 10:26-33.


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