Tuesday, February 6, 2007


We arrived in Abuja, and realised how glorious water pressure really is. Being civilized we each waited our turn nicely to shower, but oh how wonderful it was to watch the muddy water go down the drain and finally just as I thought I could scrub no more, the water drained clear! We arrived in Abuja early afternoon and were to meet with Kathryn Hoomkwap, one of our Board of Directors, for dinner that night. So we rested, swam in the pool, taught Winnie a new game called monkey in the middle, and caught up on laughter and exercise. We met that evening with Kathryn and Godwin, a representative of the Yukubo Gowon center, who works closely with an Ambassador friend of ours.

The next day, we drove to Loyola Jesuit College to present our Dignity and Peace Seminar to the students there. The LJC is the best secondary school in Nigeria, and the students are selected on academic merit rather than on social background so there is a great variety of students from around Nigeria. In the morning we worked with a small group of senior students to discuss our three topics, and received the most in-depth analysis we had so far from all our conferences. These students I hope take their ideas into the leadership of Nigeria in the next few years, and if they do Nigeria will become a global leader in culture, as well as economics and politics. In the afternoon we opened the session to more students from all grades and discussed again the connection between Dignity, Freedom, Responsible Stewardship and Peace. At one point I asked the students to elaborate on good governance, and I truly wish i had perfect memory. His answer was so deep I asked him to come up and state it before all the students. He so intricately stated the connections among dignity, freedom and good governance in the most logical way, but wtih new insights. Thankfully he is a WYA member and we can look forward to hearing from him with many more insights in the future.

Many of the students spoke with Winnie and myself afterwards, asking how they could become involved and expressed interest in starting a WYA club at their school. I had to dodge one member who had travelled there to attend. He asked me what he could do to become the person in charge of Nigeria, that he really wanted to do whatever it took to be empowered to have the authority over WYA in Nigeria, he mentioned he'd tried to do so in the past but hadn't had the authority to take control as he wished, AAAAHH! help! Apparently, our message of the dignity of EVERY person doesn't necessarily reach all those we speak to. I tried to tell him that we don't control people or work through power, but that our mission is to bring the IDEA that every human person has intrinsic and inviolable DIGNITY into the culture, through the young people, and that all our programs, policies, actions, contacts, everything are to further this mission. Since that didn't work, I told him he could enroll in our online training program. Hah! I'd like to see him first of all finish it - if his sole aim with WYA is to be in control, and if he does finish it I don't imagine his answers regarding the central philosophy of the WYA will make him the prime candidate to lead the WYA in Nigeria.

During my talks on dignity and freedom I ask the participants a number of questions about their own freedom, and later on some other questions to get them thinking about Solidarity. One question I sometimes ask which has received varied responses is "are you in prison right now?" In Calabar, the participants laughed. In Warri, a couple of them fidgeted as though I were their parole officer. In LJC, they all said "YES!" apparently, since it is a boarding school they nicknamed it Loyola Jail for Children (of course with much love). However, when I proceeded to question them about their lives in prison, my final question was "would you leave if you could?" A resounding "NO!" It seems some people choose temporary imprisonment in some matters to enable greater freedom.

That evening we had dinner with Kathryn Hoomkwap, Ambassador Ekpang and his wife, and Godwin. It was a wonderful, productive dinner. The future of the WYA in Nigeria has so much potential, so much support and I expect our Nigerian friends to begin to take over the world with their culture, at least I hope so. The Nigerian culture, at least with whom I met was warm, friendly, generous, hospitable, energetic, dedicated, etc. Of course the political and economic situation isn't perfect, but they have so much to offer the world in terms of culture.

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