By Faith McDonnell (@Cuchulain09)
In November 2002, Islamists protesting the Miss World beauty pageant being held in Nigeria turned the northern city of Kaduna and other nearby areas in Kaduna State to piles of ashes and corpses.
After sacking the local offices of This Day, a national Nigerian newspaper whose reporter had dared to say that Mohammed probably would have chosen a wife from the Miss World contestants, the mob had moved on to targeting Christians. According to reports from The Barnabas Fund, the rioters barricaded the streets with burning tires and burned down Christians’ houses, shops, and churches.
Hundreds were killed in these riots in contrast to the thousands (possibly as many as 5,000) who were killed during a previous series of riots in Kaduna in 2000. But to the victims and the families of the victims of the 2002 riots, there was no noticeable difference. Death is death.
Among the Christians killed were missionaries Austin and Josephine Moses. Naija Football 247 reports that Moses “had his own church and was a target of the Muslim extremists who went to their home and murdered both of them.” Their eleven-year-old son, Victor, was out playing in football in the streets, unaware of what was going on, when his uncle found him. After hiding the young boy with friends for a week, while the city – including Victor’s own house – smoldered around them, his uncle took him to England where he has lived ever since.
Even as a secondary school student recently arrived from Nigeria, Moses was a star footballer. One blogger tells how in a 2005 game with his school, Whitgift, against Grimsby School whose players wore red shirts, the local newspaper quipped, “Holy Moses! Wonder Player Parts Red Sea!” Moses continued to excel, and said, “It has been a long journey [from Nigeria] and I just want to keep strong and work hard for myself, whether it’s football or not football.”
The Nigerian athlete first signed with London’s Crystal Palace Football Club in 2007. In January 2010 he transferred to the Wigan Athletics, also based in the UK, in Manchester, and then in August, 2012, joined the famous Chelsea Football Club. But since the death of his parents, Moses had not been back to Nigeria until recent weeks, when, as one of three Nigerian football players from Chelsea, he returned to Nigeria to play with the Super Eagles, Nigeria’s national football team as they try to capture the African Cup of Nations. This weekend he will play with Nigeria in the finals against Burkina Faso.
Moses is proud of his Nigerian identity. He should also be proud of his ability to rise up from the ashes of Kaduna with the strength and determination that have kept him going in spite of having his parents and his home wrenched from him with such violence. It is obvious that many Nigerians are very proud of him and find inspiration not only in his successes, but in his willingness to return to Nigeria. The popular culture website Trendy Africa in a story on Moses exclaimed,
Courageous as he could be, Victor had a choice not to step into Nigeria again but he didn’t take that option. When the call to serve his fatherland came, Moses dumped England and embraced Nigeria… That is patriotism!
Today, we see a Victor Moses bringing joy to every Nigerian including those who may have inspired his parent’s death… That is Love! On Sunday, Moses would stand for the National Anthem and pledge allegiance to a country that couldn’t defend his parents… That is faith!
Moses would deliver the “African Cup of Nations” trophy to Nigeria not minding what had happened in the past… That is forgiveness! Moses rose through bitterness and despair to the limelight of hope and courage. He never gave up on his country. He persevered… That is purpose!
If someone like Victor Moses, despite the bitter past, never gave up on Nigeria, then why should we….!
[Update 9:44 PM EST: Victor Moses featured in the Nigeria side that beat Burkina Faso 1-0 earlier today. Now, the young talent one more thing to be thankful for.]