From Chuks Collins, Awka
Oct 20, 2011
THE Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province , Most Rev Valerian Okeke yesterday celebrated his 58th birthday anniversary in a low key with the 850 inmates of the Onitsha Prisons, urging them not to be fainthearted, but to be hopeful that God knows and cares for them just like every other citizen.
The Archbishop, who had spent over N10 million to rehabilitate and furnish structures within the prison, pledged yesterday to facilitate the construction of skills acquisition center for the inmates to enable them acquire skills that would enable them resettle peacefully after serving their term.
He said he was motivated to share his birthday with them to give them sense of relevance, love and to let them have hope because they are all part of the human family and sons and daughters of God. He encouraged them to ensure they come out better than they entered.
In a sermon he delivered during a Mass in the prison, Archbishop Okeke said: “As prisoners, God has plans for you. You should bear in mind that this place is only a reformation center and not a place for people to lose hope in life. The reason I decided to celebrate my birthday here is for you to know that you are not forgotten.
“Though I quietly mark my birthday every year, I decided to celebrate it with you this year because we are all equal before God. I want people to know that the fact that people are in prison does not mean that they are the most guilty as everybody is a sinner before God”
“I can see that the age bracket of the inmates range between 20and 40 years and we should do everything humanly possible to give them a sense of belonging and help to reform them so that they can become better citizens when they are discharged.”
He requested for total cost of building a modern skills acquisition center, that would have different sections for shoemaking, soap making, computer studies, barbing/hairdressing , tailoring, bread making and among other sections. He said he would approach public spirited parishioners to help actualize the project soonest.
The cleric brought food, snacks for the inmates and the officials and also donated two live cows, bags of water, clothings, assorted fish and 20 bags of rice to them. He also donated detergents, toilet soaps, biscuits, drinks and cash for their upkeep.