The Rape of Innocence…

by Felix-Abrahams Obi

Our hearts go out to victims whose innocence have been raped, or stolen in one way or the other because once stolen, innocence can never be returned intact. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, leader of the America‘s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, apologized recently to the hundreds of people who will get a share of a $660 million settlement over allegations of clergy sex abuse by priests. In his words, “There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. … The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot. Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. … It should not have happened and should not ever happen again”

According to Ben Okafor, a former Biafran child soldier, there are over 400,000 child soldiers who fought or still fight along with adults in combat situations across Africa, and other places of the world. They have long lost the innocence of childhood having lived out the realities and madness associated with warfare. They rape and maim, kill and amputate war victims under the command and watchful eyes of adult soldiers. When the war is over, and while adults settle into their normal life, ex-child soldiers hardly get rehabilitated into society. Having lost their innocence and childhood, they usually face the difficulty of living a normal life since they have experienced the intoxicating influence of brute power and violence. With a gun and baronet they can make an adult obey under duress, they would find it hard living under the civility of democratic life. They might see it as absurd sitting under the instruction and tutelage of a ‘bloody civilian’ teacher who could help groom and heal their warped minds.

A little girl who gets abused or molested either by relatives or significant others may face a turbulent teenage life, and hardly would trust men easily however pure their intentions might be. She might likely live in shame, and battle deep-seated feelings of guilt even though she’s the victim, whereas the assailant moves on in life without a care, that is. She battles with nightmares and wonders how unfair life is, wondering if there’s justice in the world. She might question the veracity of the claim that God is the avenger of the oppressed who rewards all men according to their deeds.

Since we don’t have the jurisdiction to summon God to a human court to answer to charges of neglect of atrocities committed against humanity by fellow humans, what should an individual who has lost his/her innocence do to live right again? Since innocence cannot be recovered back in literal terms, shall we leave the victims helpless and not help sort out their lives? Good news is, there are people whose innocence still shines forth as beacons of hope to us. A classic example is Jesus Christ; a true historical figure that lived two thousands of years ago has a history of not losing his innocence. He was reputed as living in a sinful world, yet without any record of sin. His integrity and compassion made him irresistible and no one could ever claim he stole their innocence. Rather, for those whose innocence were stolen either by their own choice of freewill, or by the sheer violation of their human right to freedom, he showed compassion and understanding. He showed empathy that many couldn’t show the victims of lost innocence; i.e. the victim and the villain alike!

To prostitutes and mistresses whose sexuality had become warped, he offered hope. Though rejected as whore-mongers by the hypocritical mass of men, he accepted them unconditionally. He invoked the power of innocence to protect them from the malicious accusations from the same men that had violated and defiled their innocence. He would challenge those who are without sin to cast the first stone, but no one did or could because at one time or the other, they had stolen another’s innocence. Without a doubt, he offered them hope and a new life of inherited innocence.

The endless list continues; fraudsters, conmen, drunkards, murderers, haters, revelers, hypocrites, selfish rulers! To all he offered and still offers hope of a new beginning. Unlike the defiled canvas that the master artist couldn’t redeem, many whose lives had been socially and emotionally scarred as a consequence of their lost innocence have been able to enjoy a quality life all over again. This is a consistent phenomenon of human history. And this is only possible because anyone could tap into that power of innocence that Jesus Christ exuded which can heal the memories of a gory and shameful past!

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