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Christians around the world gather to mark the beginning of Lent

The Lenten season is a time of reflection and a time of change in the life of every Christian, observed with prayers, penance, fasting and sacrifice

Ash Wednesday this year is on February 18, and Christians today around the world gather to celebrate the holy day which marks the beginning of the Lenten season.

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The Lenten season is a time of reflection and a time of change in the life of every Christian, observed with prayers, penance, fasting and sacrifice.

However, this holy day isn't observed by pentecostal churches.

Explaining the meaning of Ash Wednesday,David Babawole Shitta of St. Theresa Church of Christ (Cherubim & Seraphim) said : “Ashes are particles that are left when something is burned. For Christians, ashes are a symbol of being sorry for things they have done wrong and want to get rid of forever. It is also a reminder to them that we all come from ashes, and to ashes we all will return.”

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Catholic priest,John Damian Adizie says: Ashes are used as a mark of penitence, repentance, mourning and sober reflections. Ash Wednesday is a day that ushers in the Lenten season. It is a day of abstinence, intensive prayer and fasting.

“Originally human beings were fashioned out of dust.  The ash reminds us of our origin and destiny. God told the first man he created, ‘In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the dust, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return’. The Bible presents Ashes and sackcloth as a symbol of mourning. Sackcloth and ashes expresses mourning and anguish like in the case of Mordecai in the book of Esther 4:1”, said Adizie.

Speaking on the importance of this, the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti, Felix Femi Ajakaye says, “Ash Wednesday and Lenten Season calls us to look inward and amend our ways. It is to remind us that this world is not forever and that we should seek and prepare for eternal life.”

While admitting that failure to apply ashes on the forehead does not mean that a person’s prayers or fast is unacceptable before God, the cleric explained that the use of ashes is not a symbol of penitence and repentance; not a proof of such.

Asked if this year’s Lenten Season will in anyway suffer some setback in view of the fact that it coincides with Nigeria’s general elections, the Catholic Bishop expressed grave concern at the fact that the postponement of 2015 general elections in Nigeria has created a situation whereby the elections now falls within the Lenten Season.

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Most Rev. Ajakaiye said : “I am not only worried about the Lenten Season, but about everything. INEC planned for this election since last year and made it public so everyone can also plan their programmes.

“For it to be changed without considering that people have also fixed their own programmes is very unfortunate.

“It only shows that we are not organised. We just do things as we like. We take delight in emphasising fire brigade approach to things, forgetting that this approach will not make things last.

“The question is, with the first election coming a day before Palm Sunday, March 28, will people be allowed to move freely on Palm Sunday, March 29?

“We really need to pray that God will visit our land and grant that we will truly enjoy good governance”, noted Ajakaye.

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The cleric further criticised INEC for what he termed the insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.

“I expect INEC to apologize. I believe INEC should not have allowed itself to be hoodwinked. We should not just be taken for granted. It is not right”, he argued.

As a way out of this crisis, Ajakaye calls on Christians to take advantage of the fasting period to pray for Nigeria.

“We should be prayerful during the Lenten Season. Let us pray that those that do not mean well for this country should be taken out of the way,” he said

Unlike the Catholic Bishop, the Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Most Rev. Dr. Chukwuemeka Uche expressed great delight that the elections coincides with the period of Christians’ fasting and prayer because it will afford them the opportunity to pray and seek God’s face.

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“I am happy that this election coincides with the voting period. It will afford us the opportunity to further seek God’s face for peaceful election.

“We do not want bloodshed. All this campaign of calumny and hatred are not signals of good things.

“The tension before now was just too much and it was obvious that many lives were on the brink of being wasted.

“The threats and counter threats were overwhelming but the postponement has helped to douse the tension”, noted Prelate Uche.

He went on: “For people like us, nobody can hoodwink us into voting for a party we don’t want to vote for.

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“In Methodist Church Nigeria, all parties are represented, so I cannot tell them who to vote for.

“The only thing I can do is to encourage all our members to exercise their franchise. So, I tell them, ‘Get your PVC, go out to vote and pray that your vote count.’ It must not be a do or die affair.”

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