A Nigerian Christian Nurse Loses Her Job For Wearing Cross Necklace

May Onuoha with her cross necklace

May Onuoha with her cross necklace

Africans are widely known to be very religious and thus feel the urgency to prove and defend their faith. The story of Madam Mary Onuoha, a 61-year-old Christian nurse is a challenge to the Christian faith.

People of Africa often dream of traveling overseas to seek greener pastures, to be able to help their families in so many ways.

Likening this to Mary Onuoha’s passion, she traveled to the United Kingdom in the year 1988. As a young Christian, she wore a piece of cross-chain that was presented to her during her baptism.

But the cross seems to provoke her senior staff members at South London Hospital.

‘Every time I look at it, I think of Jesus, His love, how much He loved me, and the need for me to love Him back,’ she says.

She worked as a theatre practitioner for 19 years. Being exposed to constant discrimination because of her cross —she finally got the Justice she deserves. But before I tell how Mary got vindicated let me tell you about something funny one senior member said. The necklace “harbored bacteria.”

Even if that is truly medical ethics to remove such a necklace why would other members in other religious faith use turbans, bracelets, etc at the work place? —Mary questioned to find out why.

She realized that was a target to fight against her Christian faith albeit preventing her from demonstrating her faith and beliefs. She said she is a strong woman and so tried hard to walk in the faith irrespective of the challenges.

A manager once called her away from her normal nursing duties while attending to a patient. Intimidating her to remove the cross or probably face dismissal. There is a treat to discipline her even while in the middle performing surgery.

As a strong Nigerian Christian, she refused to remove it. Then she was moved to clerical duties; I will say it’s a kind of demotion.

Fighting out this in October last year, she brought a legal case against Croydon Health Services NHS Trust on the grounds of harassment, victimization, direct and indirect discrimination, and constructive and unfair dismissal.

Having an interview with the Mail Newspaper Mary Onuoha said:

‘At this hospital, there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them.

‘Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre. Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job.’

Victory And Compensation For Mary Onuoha

Sometimes, I ask myself, how many professed Christians would be able to defend their faith in a critical condition like that of Mary? You see, being a follower of Jesus Christ is not such an easy thing. We can’t be ashamed of him, neither can we deny him.

She advocated for religious freedom and inspired all Christians to stand firm in the faith. Due to this situation, many Christians in the NHS and other workplaces had to remove their crosses or hid them.

“I am a strong woman, but I have been treated like a criminal,’ she says. ‘I love my job, but I am not prepared to compromise my faith for it, and neither should other Christian NHS staff in this country.”

Just last week a judge named Daniel Dyal found that Mary had been constructively dismissed in a way that was both unfair and discriminatory.

The judge said that the dress-code policy was applied ‘in an arbitrary way’ and with ‘no cogent explanation’ why plain rings, neckties, hijabs, and turbans were permitted, but a cross necklace was not.

She has been vindicated. Now a later hearing will determine the financial compensation for Mary Onuoha.

Nigerian Christian nurse Mary

Her struggle with this cross necklace issue at the workplace started somewhere around 2014, and now the battle has ended in her favor. By 2020, the pressure was getting high so a doctor signed her off. Then she continued to seek legal help.

Why can’t our leaders and managers allow people to express their faith at the work places?

With a big relief, Mary said:

‘I am so pleased that the tribunal has defended freedom to worship God.’

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