I am at the University of Buea (UB) on a Saturday morning for a meeting with a translator/interpreter colleague of mine. I have arrived much earlier than the meeting time and, to my surprise, UB stands unbelievably empty and quiet. It’s true that I am not a regular visitor to UB but the few times I’ve been here, I’ve always been greeted by a beehive of student activities. This morning is different. It is Saturday and there is hardly anyone around. It rained last night and the air is limpid, refreshing and odourless; what a sharp contrast from the foul air I breathe each morning as I drive to work through some of our neighbourhoods in Douala; not to mention the stench-stewed air from industrial chimneys that I breathe all day long from my office.
Since it rained last night in Buea, the well-manicured lawns at UB are attractively green. From the leaves of trees, rain water drops like tears onto the lawn. The rains have purged the air of dust and the cool wind, drifting down from the flank of the majestic Fako towering above, gently fondles my ear lobes. The trees are swaying gently in the wind as the birds of the air, noisy in their disputes, land and take off from their branches. As I watch them, my mind drifts to the biblical parable of the mustard seed, the smallest seed of all, that produces huge trees in whose branches the birds of the air build their nests.
UB, I salute you. You are so quiet that I can pick up loud and clear the sound of the feet of the few people I see walking several yards away from me. The voices of a man and a woman a distance away come floating to my ears with unbelievable clarity. After they disappear around the corner, silence again descends, like a cloak, around UB. I am alone, and all I hear is the gentle sound of my own footsteps on the pavement.
UB, your silence is prayerfully inviting and I can’t help reaching into my pocket for my rosary. This is the Lenten season, a period when my soul accompanies my Lord into the desert and listens to Him as he dismisses Satan’s invitation to change stones into loaves of bread. Away Satan, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that drops from the mouth of my God. I am listening as my Lord refuses to take an aimless and totally useless dive from the top of the highest mountain, at Satan’s behest, just to prove that He is the Son of God, just so that God may send His angels to cushion His fall so His foot would not strike a stone. Again, I hear my Lord dismiss Satan’s invitation to prostrate Himself on the ground and worship him [Satan] so he would give Him all the kingdoms of this world. Do not tempt the Lord, your God, Satan!
Yes, UB, your calm, unbelievably clean surroundings invite me to examine my conscience to see how well I too have tossed Satan’s temptations away from me. My rosary beads gently glide between my thumb and my index finger as I saunter down your empty streets, from the Faculty of Letters to the Administration Building and back, all alone, the gentle air caressing my neck and my exposed arms.
UB, isn’t it strange that all this carpet of green, covering your lawns, also covers a volcano of anger that so often erupts and turns your gentle grounds on which I am walking into a battlefield of hatred and violence? Isn’t it sad, UB, that beneath your sloping grounds lie forces of inexplicable violence, often senseless in their destructive intensity?
UB, I pray for you. I thank you for providing me with the calm surroundings that enable me to commune with God as I seek sustenance for my forty-day journey towards Easter, the day my Lord conquers death – not only His but mine as well. Thank you, UB, for your empty streets, for your clean, well-manicured green lawns. Thank you for your trees that are gently swaying back and forth in the wind. Thank you for providing a home in their branches for the birds of the air to reside in. How I wish I were one of these birds for they do not have to worry about what to eat, or drink, or wear, because God, our Father, in His boundless generosity, gives them the finest plumage ever and all the food they need, so they never ever go hungry. Thank you, UB, for the beautiful flowers that surround you, because even King Solomon, in all the splendour of his regalia, could never match the beauty of these flowers which God, in His inexplicable magnanimity, has adorned your bosom with, free of charge.
UB, you are clothed in captivating beauty. You elegantly wrap your greenness around you like a garment, and your green trees bow and rise with the wind as they adore you. Then, UB, why the groans and grumbles of hatred that so often erupt from deep within you in such explosive violence? I don’t understand it, UB.
I pray this rosary for your officials. May God give them the wisdom they so badly need to take good care of all that I see around me: these buildings, the lawns, the trees and, more especially, the people who work here and the students we send to them to nurture into responsible citizens of our dear land. I pray for your teaching staff, UB; may they only teach the truth because it is only the truth that sets us all free. I pray for your students, our children, may they refrain from the facile temptations of the Evil One, who could lure them into pursuits other than those for which they have come to you. May they shun violence of any sort and bow only to our Lord’s call for peace and love of neighbour, and respect of neighbour’s property.
UB, I make my prayer through none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.