People think that everyone who begs is a real beggar. There are people that beg that are not real beggars. A beggar is a person who lives by asking people for money or food. A real beggar has no means of livelihood, may have physical or psychological ailment, may be mentally retarded or may have an incentive to be dependent on others for daily living.
On the other hand, there are executive beggars who even with disability can be productive but choose to beg for a living. Then there are physically and mentally fit beggars that craftily stage-manage disability using artistic make-up or rent disabled people to appeal to people’s conscience to give alms to them.
So can you really spot the difference between the real beggar and the executive one? The Bible encourages us to give to the poor among us. Luke 6:38 says: “Give to others and God will give you, indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands all that you can hold” (Good News Bible). Also Proverbs 22:9 says: “Be generous and share your food with the poor, you will be blessed for it.”
Mrs. Eucharia Chimezie, a business woman and a parishioner, charges that she has been harassed by beggars right inside the church. “The beggars in the church premises begging for alms at St. Dominic Catholic Church are professional beggars. They’re not only on the church premises, they beg right inside the church building. On Tuesday, 6th October, 2018, while saying my thanksgiving after noon Mass, someone tapped me right inside there and handed me a piece of paper with a written note for me to read and help him with some money. I gave the paper back to him with a look indicating his disturbance.
“The next day, a well dressed lady with red lipstick whom I knew years back approached me for alms, she has done that many times. The next Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018, while buying my novena books and other books, three professional beggars came and I asked them why they are following me.
“Also, the security men and women working in the church and the church drivers also beg for money. I have decided to drop my alms in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul box and I will start referring those beggars to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. My observation is that those beggars are just lazy.”
Mrs. Mercy Onyiliagha, another business woman and parishioner, also believes that not all beggars are beggars. “First of all, those beggars are not to be trusted. I have actually seen someone who told one of the beggars that he wants to help the little boy who needed surgery. He wanted to take them to hospital and pay for the surgery, but they refused. Why? Because they don’t actually use that money for surgery, they prefer to be using the boy as a meal ticket, begging for money daily.
“St. Vincent de Paul Society helps the poor. I’d rather give to St. Vincent De Paul Society instead of the beggars because I can actually see what the money I give the society is used for and it’s used to help the people in need.”
The approach to the church from Ibikunle Street, Off University Road, is lined with beggars, some alone, some with support teams. Spotted among them was a three-man begging team. One of them, able-bodied, was with a mega phone. Another able-bodied by his side held the begging bag, collecting money on behalf of the disabled boy at their feet.
Asked how they make use of the money collected, the team leader with a mega phone said that they go to mosques on Fridays, to churches on Sundays to beg and use the money collected to take care of the disabled boy’s need and pay hospital bills. For their own upkeep, he claimed that they both have day jobs and that they work Monday to Thursday.
Mr. Kevin Ushi, coordinator of the FRSC Special Marshal Unit 56 in St. Dominic’s Catholic Church Yaba, speaks on the issue. “We moved the traders on Ibikunle Street to a certain point so as not to pose security risks, but we left the beggars. They don’t pose any security risk or hinder human or vehicular movements but we monitor them closely to ensure they’re genuine beggars. We hitherto challenged those we observed not to be genuine beggars.
“The societies in the church for the needy are mostly for parishioners. Most beggars in our vicinity are not parishioners and they find it more advantageous to beg around our premises, even though they also receive provisions from societies like St. Vincent de Paul and Lazarus Food Ministry.”
Throwing more light on the beggars and meeting their needs, Brother Ebele Anthony Esogbunem, president of St. Vincent de Paul Society in St. Dominic’s Catholic Church Yaba, explains: “We are able to distinguish between an executive beggar and a real client by carrying out a proper investigation on the information given.” He calls the beggars they work with clients and said further that “some of our clients are empowered in petty business such as sale of basic food items, sale of wares, sale of drinks, confectioneries, etc.”
So, will the problem of beggars at the church go away with the intervention of the church societies in their lives? Brother Ushi gives insight: “Just like in the Bible, there are always beggars around the church soliciting for alms from parishioners, and we’re not about to chase them away in our times. God will help us all as we’re also beggars before him.”
Categorised in: News Blog
This post was written by Francisca Jemeni