The trending Ghanaian video on social media nowadays is Eiii Fr: Bernard! This is said to be an exclamation that had been made by a distraught parishioner before throwing herself on the casket of Fr. Bernard Ackon, (a parish priest who had died suddenly on the eve of Ash Wednesday) before the grave was covered.
All of a sudden, this has become an internet sensation and a voice over for several funny short videos about people slipping and falling on sets, or accidentally tumbling over a cliff, footballers missing a goal scoring opportunity, etc. I could not believe my eyes, the first time I saw this. My bewilderment stemmed from the fact that the person involved is a person of respect in society who at least deserved some respect and sensitivity.
The begging question here is this:
When did social media take precedence over culture and our human side? When did we lose our sensitivity for the dead and those who are grieving? Fr. Bernard’s video has been trending since the day of his burial and I am wondering how Fr. Bernard’s family and beloved parishioners and loved ones might feel when they see that their saddest moment is trending insensitively along social media handles.
We live in an era when almost everyone carries a phone with video capabilities in their pocket and ready to video anything at all, the good, the bad and the ugly. At Church services and worship, it is almost like the new normal to see parishioners pull their phones to capture a moment on their phones and share instantly or later with others. People are so consumed in taking videos rather than participate with their mind and hearts in the moment.
Whereas taking of videos is not so much of a concern to me, I think it should be a matter of importance to all to exercise circumspection when it comes to what they choose to capture on their phones and what they share. As far as one exercises a right when they choose to video or not to video a moment or event, it should equally be clear in people’s minds that the people and events that are videoed also reserve their rights to be videoed or not to be videoed.
In the case of the burial of Fr. Beard Ackon, since this was mostly a gathering of Catholics who were present at his graveside, I choose to question the one who took the video and shared it. What might have been the motives for doing that? Are we getting to a time when Churches should consider barring the inordinate use of phones at celebrations to restore some sanity?
Culturally, we give respect to the dead and allow them to rest in peace while honoring their memories. But with the advent of social media, we seem to be putting everything and anything out without consideration or the basic form of sensitivity. I think we should learn to protect one another in our vulnerable state.
Scripturally, the good Book says in Matthew 7:6 that, “Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces”. Someone has unfortunately thrown Fr. Bernard’s memory out there to be trampled on with all kinds of theories being bandied about.
We are Catholics so let us preserve our own and not reduce ourselves to ridicule. In the end, we can say that social media is good but let us learn to use it to build and develop ourselves and society and NOT to hurt others or their memories. The next time you decide to troll another on any social media site, think twice and be empathetic no matter the situation. The next person to be trolled might be you!
Rev. Fr. Bernard Ackon, Parish Priest of St. John the Baptist Church, Saltpond died in February this year.
His death was announced in a communique issued by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese on February 21, 2023.