, 17 June, 2020 / 10:57 PM
The Clergy of Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese within the territory of Taraba State have, in a collective statement, bemoaned multiple cases of violence in their pastoral jurisdiction and called on all parties in conflict to “give peace a chance” and save the State from suffocation under insecurity-related crises.
“Our world is in trouble, our nation is facing great challenges of insecurity and our State is in crises,” members of the National Catholic Diocesan Priests Association (NCDPA), Jalingo Diocesan Chapter say in their Wednesday, June 17 press statement.
They explain, “Today in Nigeria, arm banditry, the threat of so-called “unknown gunmen”, Boko Haram Terrorists, rape, wanton murder etc. have become almost daily realities we wake up to hear and to behold. Back home, our dear State Taraba is almost suffocated by crises.”
In their statement signed by NCPDA Chairman, Fr. Ephraim N. Sani and Secretary, Fr. Julius Ioryue, the Clerics call on those behind the conflicts “to embrace the path to resolving disputes amicably through dialogue and give peace a chance.”
“Whatever is the case of disagreement and misunderstanding, we believe that sincere and objective dialogue in the context of justice, is the path to peace and resolution,” they say.
The north-eastern State of Taraba in Nigeria has been experiencing continuous violence as a result of warring communities domiciled in the region since 1959.
Recently, local media reported the killing of at least 11 people as a result on violence between the Tungwa and Utsua-Daa communities. This incident comes after another episode of conflict between the Shomo and Jole communities was reported in the State in April.
Last year, a Catholic Priest was killed and set ablaze in his car while travelling for a peace meeting on how to resolve the inter-ethnic crisis with fellow clergymen.
According to the Clerics in Jalingo Diocese, it is the current ethnic clashes between the Tiv and the Jukun that has expanded to involve other tribes in Donga and Kurmi Local Governments.
Due to the violence, they say, “human life has become so cheap that it takes no second thought to be wasted. Even the rules of engagement in wars are no longer observed. Consequently, innocent children and defenseless women are today targets of murderous acts.”
“A State with great potential and much prospects for income generation and development is reeling in poverty and under-development; many displaced, hundreds of human lives have been lost and peace has been elusive,” the Clerics lament.
Referencing the violence between the “largely Christian” Tiv and the Jukun communities, the Clerics say that the conflict “raises questions about the kind of gospel preached in the churches.”
“This fight is an indictment on the kind of Christianity we believe in and practice,” they say and add, “It should force us, the ministers, to look inward and ask ourselves what kind of gospel we preach to our people,”
In their June 17 message, the members of NCDPA in Jalingo Diocese “challenge the pastors and priests of these denominations to halt this dance of shame and nourish their congregation with the gospel values of peace, forgiveness, tolerance and love for one another.”
In addition, the Priests call on the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the State of Taraba to “play a more active role in bringing to fruition the prayer of Jesus for his followers; that they may be one.”
In the face of this state of affairs, the Priests call for concerted efforts to address the unfortunate situation.
“Fellow Tarabians, if we do not do something about these crises, politically, in the not too distant future, we shall pay the price of fighting each other,” the Priests caution and call on the people of God in Taraba State to work together in addressing the challenge.
“We challenge the entire citizens of Taraba State to show more concern and cultivate a more positive and objective attitude towards one another in these times of crises,” the members of NCDPA appeal and add, “A situation where the Southern and Central parts of the state are burning and the rest of us are eating and drinking and going about our normal business as if we are not involved, does not speak good of us as a family of human beings.”
To the State and the Federal governments, the Priests appeal that both levels of administration “invest more time and resources in the security of the State.”
Addressing the governor of Taraba State, they say, “As the chief security officer of the State, we appeal to his good conscience and his paternal responsibility to constantly visit and ensure that adequate security personnel are deployed in the affected areas.”
The Clerics urge security agents to “demonstrate a genuine sincerity of heart and purpose, accompanied by a patriotic spirit of commitment, which upholds the common good of everyone above sectional, tribal and religious interest.”
“Consequently, we call for a consolidated approach where the different security bodies namely, police, DSS, Civil Defense, Army are to be all involved in this “war”,” they add.
“Leaders should be non-partisan bearing in mind that they are elected for the good of everyone,” the Clerics of Jalingo diocese tell leaders in the State and continue, “Those who have been bestowed constitutional powers must do more to enthrone peace. Personal, political, religious and ethnic interest must be jettisoned for common good.”
They appeal to everyone to return to God in prayer. “This prayer must accompany all our other efforts, by the government, security agencies, the traditional and community leaders, religious leaders and all and sundry,” they conclude.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa