Following the murder of more than 500 people in the latest shocking violence in the Jos area, we reproduce here in its entirety an open letter from the Rt Rev Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos. He describes local peace moves and rails against lack of government action
January 17th was a Sunday morning and as usual Christians left their homes to congregate in churches to worship. That day has since become a remarkable day in history with sad memories for Christian and Muslim communities in Jos and its environs. A few days after that, leaders began to gather to see how to resolve what the perceived problems, or real problems, or even imaginary problems were. I myself became a part of a group with industrialists, businessmen and women, academics and religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, to discuss these matters. We even spent a day at a forum listening to elders and religious leaders in Jos and spent another day listening to the youth. In all the conversations the Christians and Muslims spoke up frankly and aired their understanding of the grievances they have. We are in the process of putting together ideas as to how to move forward.
News then broke on Sunday 7th March that two other villages plus Dogo na Hauwa had been attacked by Muslim Fulani from about 3am to 5am. Some of these communities may never again be recognised in history because generations have been wiped out. Hundreds of corpses of men, women, children and grandchildren littered the burnt houses, roads, bush paths, farm areas and hiding places. Tears and endless wailings until voices croaked and words are no more.
Is there no other way by which matters can be resolved except through this sadistic and cruel way of making peoples’ lives miserable? For me, as a Christian, human life is so sacred that no-one, absolutely no-one, should tamper with it, no matter what religious faith you belong to.
Human life is so sacred and we have to teach and train people to value it: it is a gift from God.
What bothers my heart are a few questions:
• It was curfew time when these attackers came in and carried out their heinous activities. Who are responsible for these areas? What happened to those who should enforce the curfew? The purpose of the curfew is to stop events like this.
• Failure of government to provide full security for its citizenry leaves a people with very little option but to provide for their own kind of security. History has shown that these kinds of security are bred in vengeance, retaliation, bitterness, hatred and malice. This gives birth to an almost endless cycle of senseless violence as can be seen in many nations of the world today. Where is our government in all the levels of governance? Where were they on this night? Where were they on 17th January? Shall we continue to have the ugly sight of mass burials? Are there no leaders who fear God, who will swallow their pride and choose to be humble before God for the sake of those faces of slaughtered children?
• The new dimension these attacks are assuming is revealing a system of well-trained terror groups who right now have attacked these villages, and only God knows which community will be next. Their merciless precision and fearlessness should give any government serious concern. The earlier that these kinds of groups are rounded up, the better for everybody. I know as of fact of many Christian religious, political and community leaders who are willing and prepared peacefully to arrive at workable conditions for people to live with. I also know as of fact that there are Muslim religious, political and community leaders who are willing to find solutions.
I am convinced that the prayers of the church world-wide are ascending like a sweet smelling sacrifice to the throne of mercy. It is my firm determination to encourage all who trust in the Lord to keep praying and never give up. One day God will enthrone good over evil, truth over lies, righteousness over wickedness and justice over injustice. It may be soon; it may be later, but “My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary”. I urge believers to clean and clear their minds of any form of bitterness, resentment or even any thought of vengeance against one another from within the fellowship, and then we can see clearly how to respond in times of difficulty such as this one.
The promises of the Lord are true and the way of the Lord is just. The good news is: we do not have anywhere else to turn to. In the words of the apostle Peter, in John 6:68: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These times call for a full turning of our hearts and lives to the Lord.
The Lord be with you,
+The Most Rev Dr BA Kwashi
Archbishop of Jos