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2020, Aug 14

Well-articulated stories of heroes’ past and present could be used as
catalysts for societal transformation, the Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese,
Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo has advocated. The Bishop’s position was
contained in his presentation at the Webinar Discussion, held recently to
celebrate the 70th Year of Radio Vatican Broadcast to Africa. The theme of
the Virtual discussion was: *Story Telling as A Tool to Manage Racial and
Social Tribulations in Africa.*

Speaking on the sub-topic: *Master Weavers of African Stories – promoting
everyday heroes as solutions to African Challenges*; Bishop Badejo
contended that the present challenges of crass materialism and other vices
rampaging the African continent make it imperative for African stories
weavers to use the virtues of the continent present days heroes to
ameliorate the challenges facing the society and transform the continent in
all facets of life.

Using this year’s World Communications Day message of the Holy Father to
accentuate his call, Bishop Badejo declared: “It would seem to me that this
is the challenge to which Weavers of African Stories are called today in
the face of Crass materialism, Bad Governance, Terrorism, Ethnic Conflict,
Corruption, Discrimination, Ethnic Bias, and Sexual immorality which assail
the continent.” He continued: “It is necessary to identify the real heroes
of everyday as the message of the Holy Father calls us to do, and to expose
their experience as a catalyst for change just as we do for our fathers in
the faith, Saint John, James Agatha Cecilia and so on.”

The went further to say that “ It is imperative to deploy the stories and
the local means of storytelling today that could bring the hearer or
audience of any class or status to the point where King David after his
encounter with Nathan, said: “I have sinned against Yahweh” (verse 13) and
to the point where Jesus said to the lawyer in the parable of the
Samaritan, “Go and do the same yourself” (V 37).” He added that there would
be no reason for the weaver of African stories to feel shy doing this
through myths and riddles and proverbs because to regard African myths as
untrue or simply a distraction is merely a betrayal of ignorance about
their role and power.

He stressed the need for the identification of the positive stories of such
African icons of selfless service, love, tolerance, fidelity forgiveness
and reconciliation. Such icons as the Martyrs of Uganda, the much-acclaimed
late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Nelson Mandela of South Africa,
Blessed Fr. Iwene Tansi and even the teenager Leah Sharibu of Nigeria who
refused to renounce her Christian faith to regain her freedom under the
threat of death. These and similar stories offer us positive content around
which we must weave our experiences, he said.

Noting that stories help humanity to establish meaning in life, the local
ordinary of Oyo Diocese declared: “I make bold to say that after God,
humanity is the element that is common to Christian and African traditions.
Human beings have remained the same over the ages and have been at the
heart of the ideals of Christianity and the values of African tradition.”

He added: “Stories help human beings to establish meaning in life and to
search for the Sublime Reality to themselves. Storytelling helps to express
complex and difficult truths in a manner that makes them easy to
appropriate but does not make them any less effective. They have been used
in that manner in Africa over the ages. The Bible has examples of this

Bishop Badejo concluded: “Without pretending, we must help our people to
always see the larger story that with God, pain is not the end of any
story. We must deploy the cultural and literary resources of Africa to
ensure that when writing the story of our life and continent we do not
allow anyone else to hold the pen. We must weave a fabric that at the end
of the day ensures that our authentic life become authentic history that
can match the history of any other people all over the world.”

Declaring the Virtual Conference open, the Prefect of the Vatican’s
Dicastery for Communications, Dr Paolo Ruffini assured African Catholic
Communicators of the support of the Holy See in their apostolate. He
reminded the online forum that, in many aspects, communication was
double-edged, as it could be used as a means of building a better world or
a mechanism for inciting misunderstandings, resentments, and even enmity.
He also informed that plans are on for the establishment of a Vatican News
Agency; and expressed optimism that Catholic communicators will take
advantage of the service and collaborate to make the agency a success.

Other speakers at the conference were: Jesuit Priest, Fr. Federico
Lombardi, SJ; Mother Mary Claude Oguh of Nigeria; Ms. Sheila Pires of South
Africa and Fr. Prof. Walter Ihejirika, President of SIGNIS Africa. The
Webinar was jointly organized by the English Africa Service of Vatican
Radio and SIGNIS Africa.


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