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Enugu Block Rosary Tragedy! pressing concerns on Child Safety Challenges

By Fr. Anthony Aneke

When kids living at Ebony paint road neighborhood, Enugu South Local Government Area gathered on Wednesday 16th September, 2020 to say the usual daily prayer at their block rosary centre, little did they know that the worst would happen.

Excited with the daily fulfillment they experience whenever they gather to recite prayers, over seven (7) of them faced the nightmare of their lives. A sewage truck crashed on them while praying, an incident that will forever keep the survivors in shock.

It was reported that the sewage truck driver lost control of the heavy truck after a break failure and crashed into the block rosary center which is located closely to the busy Ebony paint road.

The unfortunate incident claimed the life of an 8 year old boy while the rest that sustained injuries are responding to treatment at the hospital.

Reacting to the ugly incident, the Parish Priest of St. Raphael The Arch-Angel Catholic Church Garriki, Rev. Fr. Chinedu Ozoagu whose Parish supervises the block rosary centre, described the incident as not just an unfortunate one, but remains a painful one for both the Parish and the affected families.

According to him, the Block Rosary Center involved was just two weeks old and it was a regrettable development considering the significance of Block Rosary Crusades to the faith of the people.

He however remained optimistic that the incident will further strengthen the faith of the people as their firm believe in God can never wax cold.

Block Rosary and Catholic Faith

Block Rosary Crusade is an indigenous pious society in the Catholic Church. It is upshot of the visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three little children of Fatima namely Sr. Lucia Dos Santos, Blessed Francisco Marto and Jacinta in 1917 with a core emphasis on prayer, penance and sacrifice.

As a group that has the apostolic blessing of the Church, the Block Rosary Crusade of  Nigeria is one of the societies in the Catholic Church who took it as a point of duty to propagate this message of Fatima. Hence she gathers children, Youth, Adult and teaches them to recite the Rosary everyday, thereby fulfilling the biblical message. ‘YES FROM NOW ONWARD ALL GENERATION WILL CALL ME BLESSED’ (Lk 11:48).

She encourages families to pray the Rosary everyday, not only for their own intentions but for the intentions of the whole world. The Block Rosary Crusade holds their daily prayers in the streets, in the homes of the believers  and sometimes in the Church premises.  Basically, different locations traditionally referred to as Centers are established to promote the neighborhood Rosary Prayer. Normally, these Centers are believed to be under the guidance and supervision of the Parishes depending on their location and boundaries.

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The Nigeria Block Rosary however started in 1956 by Bro. Eusebius Oguizu at No 29 Arondizuogu street Aba and was given ecclesiastical approval by the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in 2003. Rev. Fr. Adolphus Umechukwu was appointed as her first National Chaplain; hence the new order of prayer and constitution was also approved.

According to the national constitution, the aims and objectives of the Block Rosary Crusade are:

  1. To propagate and practice the Fatima Message and promote Catholic Faith.
  2. To work for the overall development and welfare of members spiritually, morally, socially and for the good of the Church.
  3. To train members to love God and their fellow men and women.

The block Rosary Spirituality has since over the years been the touchstone of the spirituality of most traditional Catholics in Nigeria. It is a childhood spirituality that forms the basis of traditional catholic spirituality especially the rosary, hymns, catechesis, works of charity, and norms of behavior. To some extent, the Block Rosary Center seems to be a stern but compassionate juvenile court for some juvenile misdemeanor. Moreover, the fraternity and familiarity that blossom among children from different families in the neighborhood is worthy to mention. It is a socialization that elevates the spirituality of these little children of Mary. The spirituality of the Block Rosary Center is in fact amazing and could be described as deeply embracing. Apart from the family, most Catholics spirituality began from the Block Rosary Centers. Catholics parents are very much aware of that and would not hesitate to send their children to such an amazing prayer centers in the evening.

However, following the unfortunate incident of Wednesday 16th September, 2020 at Block Rosary Center of Ebony paint road neighborhood, the parents of the deceased and injured children of Mary had deep regrets allowing their wards to participate in the usual daily prayer that fateful evening.

A glance at the Block Rosary Constitution

Going through the beautifully scripted national constitution of the Block Rosary Crusade, one could not but praise the ingenuity of the drafters of the said constitution. The constitution took into consideration the following: Membership, Government and organization structure, duties and tenures of Officers, daily-monthly-annual activities, finances, benefits and remunerations, code of conducts and the general order of prayers at prayers meetings. The piece is very beautiful. But then as beautiful as it is, one important thing was seriously overlooked: THE SITING OF A BLOCK ROSARY CENTER. 

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The site of the Block Rosary Center should have been given a priority in the constitution given the fact that most members of Block Rosary Centers are basically children and also given the fact that centers are usually sited in streets and neighborhoods with particular emphasis on urban and suburbs. The constitution should have laid categorically and in details the prerequisites in choosing a Block Rosary Center and a structure of an on-going supervision in place. The write up is not a direct affront to the constitution at all which is just a mere oversight on its part but a wake-up call with Child-safety and development in view as events unfold around us.

This is not to say that the tragic incident at Ebony paint is as a result of the wrong choice of a block rosary centre. Not at all! Accidents can happen anywhere. Accidents happen at homes, schools, streets, churches, offices, in the space, anywhere. Accidents are caused by varieties of natural and man-made reasons, but I am deeply convinced that the more conscious we are in application of safety measures especially as regards to our children the more we can curtail the frequency of accidents.

Child-Safety Policy

I am of the opinion that Child safeguarding policy should consciously be integrated to ensure that all necessary steps should be taken at all levels to reduce the risk of harm to children in all areas and communities. Child safeguarding is a term used for internal facing, business – critical policies, procedures and practices that are employed to ensure that an organization itself (local or international organizations, faith – based organization, a school, religious institution, UN agency, etc.) is a child safe organization. This includes protocols, procedures and guidelines for anyone within the organization to prevent and respond to child protection concerns when they arise.

One of the tips of A child – safe organization is one in which:

“All activities are assessed for potential risks to children and mitigation strategies developed, and, Every organization working with vulnerable populations should have policies in place to protect those individuals – and children, by the nature of their dependence on adults to meet their basic needs.”

We should develop a strategic and pragmatic framework that ensures that where kids gather is safe and potential risks of harm mitigated to a maximum level. This is not just for Block Rosary Centers but for all gatherings that are likely to be populated by children basically. Keeping children safe from harm should be the responsibility of everyone.

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In line with this conviction, Very Rev. Fr. Paschal Nwosu the vicar for the Laity and also the Chaplain of the Block Rosary Crusade Catholic Diocese of Enugu speaking with The Choice Flame, commiserated with the family whose son died on the spot of the accident while praying for quick recovery for those that sustained injuries.

Bearing in mind best safety standards, Fr. Paschal called for a more closer supervision on the site of  Block Rosary Centers across the Diocese. He further called on Parish Priests to collaborate with the officers of the various Block Rosary Centers in the diocese  to review the various locations of these centers with safety being the cardinal consideration.

Rev. Fr. Anthony Aneke is the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of The Choice Flame Newspaper, Catholic Diocese of Enugu. He is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. His Passion for media is born out of his desire to see a media in our ever challenging and complex world whose dexterity is centered on facts, truth and accurate representation of events with the aim to strengthen the many institutions of our society and the church to serve all across spheres.
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Rev. Fr. Anthony Aneke is the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of The Choice Flame Newspaper, Catholic Diocese of Enugu. He is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. His Passion for media is born out of his desire to see a media in our ever challenging and complex world whose dexterity is centered on facts, truth and accurate representation of events with the aim to strengthen the many institutions of our society and the church to serve all across spheres.
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