Archbishop Francis Funeral: What Does The Turn Out Mean?

By Atty. Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

It is indeed regrettable that because of my distance from the country, I am unable to be part of the solemn activities for the home-going of Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis in Monrovia. The Archbishop died about two weeks ago following nearly a decade of illness. As it is said, since it has to do with death, one cannot say, “next time.”

Because the fallen Archbishop was one person I held in esteem over the years for his advocacy and stance against the ills of society, I have made it my duty to monitor activities back home concerning his funeral. Prior to travelling to the United States, my office visited the then aiding Archbishop at his residence in Sinkor, as part of activities marking the 22nd anniversary of THE INQUIRER in January this year.

At that occasion, I still remember the archbishop, clad in an African shirt, smiling as I gave remarks, especially when I recounted some of his enormous contributions to the Liberian people and society. As if I knew that this was my last time seeing him, I described him as a ”HERO,” for fearlessly speaking against the ills of society.  Still smiling I said to him that his presence in Liberia during the time of instability and chaos, gave some of us the hope and courage to stay be around to serve the Liberian people by operating a newspaper, which is now the oldest and only surviving independent post-war Liberian newspaper.

As I travelled out of the country, little did I know that this would be the last time seeing and holding hands with the venerable Archbishop. How-be-it, as it is said, we cannot question God for this, as “the Lord giveth, and the lord taketh.”

Since his demise, many eulogies have been paid and more are expected to be paid today during the funeral mass regarding his role in society. Many praised him for speaking out without fear of favor against the ills of society, no matter who felt hurt. But what is of interest is the unsurprised massive turn out of Liberians and various groups from all walks of life during the cortege yesterday from the funeral home to the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church on Broad Street for the wake keeping, to be followed by funeral rites this morning at the same church.

When I called Monrovia yesterday afternoon to get  a gist of what was obtaining, someone said to me:” the Liberian people did well; they turned out in their numbers; the government did well; I am surprise of what I am seeing today in Monrovia; I see students and various groups I have never seen this kind of turn out during funeral; the people really honor the Archbishop; it is colorful; as a journalist, you miss this.”

For me, I was not surprise about yesterday’s mammoth turn out because the fallen Archbishop’s advocacy was not selective and discriminatory .He touched on every aspects of society. And so, he impacted the lives of many, not only those who were members of his church. But the million dollar question is: did we learn lesson from yesterday’s turn out? Certainly, we should. We should not only admire the turn out but to ascertain why these many persons and groups turned out for the cortege.

The simple reason is that because this man of God was selfless and people-centered. He did not put his interest before that of the people, as some of us would do if given the opportunity. The best lesson we should learn from yesterday’s turn out of the funeral of someone who had not been heard for almost ten years, owing to illness, yet his role is still being cherished, is that in whatever we find ourselves to do whether in the public or private sector, we should always put the interest of the country above all other things.

Additionally,  never should we feel more Liberian than others; never should be suppress others because of their status in society; never should we be blind to the due process because of status; never should we pocket what is intended for the good of society for ourselves, as bulk of the people remain in abject poverty.

Furthermore, yesterday’s turn out and the expected one today, should teach us that while we are alive, we should do those things for the general good of society, as the Archbishop did; we should never compromise the interest of society; if we are in charge to sign a concession agreement for the country, we should always think about the interest of the common people and the country and not ourselves, and that we should always engage in those things that will promote peace, unity and oneness.

As there are high prospects for oil in this country in the absence of the Archbishop, we should ensure that this will be “a blessing and not a curse.”  Likewise, we are country endowed with enormous resources, let us use them sagaciously to lift the living standard of the people and move the country from backwaters prosperity.

Lastly, we should emulate the example of the Archbishop regarding religious tolerance, as religious intolerance is detrimental to peaceful co-existence.  Let me not forget as we remember the good deeds of the deceased that one of the things he had respect for was standard time, therefore, as we mourn his death, let us have respect for standard time and not ‘Liberian time, because the “old man” we are honoring today respected the real time and not “Liberian time” of unnecessary delays.