A Youth’s Faith Journey in Nigeria

A Youth’s Faith Journey in Nigeria

by Sr. Prisca Ovat, MMM                Nigeria/Kenya              18.02.2023
The following of Christ for some may have been influenced by friends, but for a greater percentage, both parents would have been devout Christians and Catholics. They would wake children out of bed at 6 am for the usual morning devotion. There is yet another percentage to which I had belonged, where only one parent, and very often the mother, was a staunch catholic.

Times change in an unrecognizable way. Devotion to the things of God comes in second place. As such, pious organizations still existing in the church are attended by the very parents who pioneered them. In very many circumstances, youths will appear in church only in the company of their parents. “It’s a digital world, and youths are busy with other things, but if you want us to be active in church, you have to show us how to make money by doing so” one said.

In the typical Nigerian church where Christians, and in some parts Catholics, are too religious, or “holier than the Pope” as often expressed, all women, young and old must have a scarf over their heads while in church or whenever they pray.  I still admire my mother who never hesitates to grab any piece of cloth next to her, clean or dirty, to put over her head even for indoor prayers.  The use of trousers at home was a sign of a girl whose morality had been compromised, to say less of being in church.  No one ever thought that this would become a possibility, it was a terrible sacrilege.  The emphasis on piety was so resolute that children began to rebel as they grow up, though without a show of disrespect to the parents.  So, as they leave their homes for college, they leave Catholicism behind for their parents to mind while they identify with the multiple protestant churches with liberty to how you are dressed to church.  They will usually have 2 sets of outfits; maxi skirts/long sleeves for village life and trousers/crop tops for college and social life.

While many parents anguish over the faith, some others still have rays of hope beaming.  They learn to accept the fact that even a divine concept as spirituality faces evolution.  Young people are rather searching for faith and truth in a way that is meaningful to them, even though tradition may be at risk of extinction.  The heart melts away with joy when young people are willing to make daring sacrifices for what they have discovered to be their truth.  Look at the photo.  They have the conviction and the courage to transcend all hard times.  “Risk taking is normal, as no sacrifice is too great for God.  This, for us, is our Emmaus walk” one of them said to me as they took the 6km walk in the rain to attend a music festival.  “It is imperative,” as I often encourage the families I journey with, “to bless your children with the gift of your loving presence in their search for a meaning in life. This way, they will not be misled by strangers, neither will they regard your guidance as an imposition.”

Today, more than ever, FAITH is becoming an endangered virtue, yet spirituality must remain an intrinsic part of us.  Everyone believes in something or someone.