“Stop mutual brutality, give hand of fellowship”: Nigerian Prelate to Warring Communities

Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese.
Credit: Public Domain

The continuous interethnic violent conflict between the Jukun and Tiv communities in Nigeria is a matter that is troubling the Archbishop of Abuja who is calling on members of both ethnic groups to put an end to the “mutual brutality” and extend to each other “the right hand of fellowship”.

“Why can’t the Tiv and Jukun in the name of God, stop the mutual brutality, the stereotyping, the daunting perception of one another and give one another the right hand of fellowship and do what they are known best for, farming and fishing so that they can experience economic prosperity and a healthy interpersonal relationship,” Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese said Sunday, June 28 during a televised Mass

“I pray it will be possible that senior Jukun politicians, priests, or traditional rulers sincerely look straight into the eyes of this people and say, these are our brothers and sisters made in the image and likeness of God, we will do no harm to them,” the Archbishop said in his homily.

He continued, “I also pray that Tiv stakeholders can look lovingly, the Jukun people in the eye, and say, we love and respect you with God’s love because you are our brothers and sisters.”

Predominantly located in Nigeria’s Taraba State, members of the Jukun and Tiv communities have had recurring violent conflicts since 1959, reports indicating that the crises are based on disputes over ownership and control of land. 

Clergy from the Diocese of Jalingo within the territory of Taraba State recently bemoaned the multiple cases of violence in their pastoral jurisdiction and called on all warring parties to give peace a chance. 

In his June 28 homily, Archbishop Kaigama who belongs to the Jukun ethnic group said, “The Jukun and Tiv in Taraba state, where I come from, have been needlessly at each other for decades. They give deadly blows to one another inflicting grievous wounds, exterminating innocent lives and creating economic hardship for the already poor populations.”

“Unfortunately, each group is at pains to prove that they are the victims not the aggressors yet one says, ‘Burnt Jukun and Tiv villagers or Jukun and Tiv people killed’; I wonder if aliens from space are responsible,” the Prelate probed.

As a way forward, the Archbishop who noted that the violence has been occasioned by disputes over “fertile agricultural land” urged Nigeria’s government to “start agricultural projects in the affected area and equip the youth with modern farming tools that will keep them busy.”

This, Archbishop Kaigama said, “will foster economic progress, social integration and peaceful coexistence.”

Addressing the Jukun and Tiv people who “claim to be Christians,” the Nigerian Prelate termed their acts against each other “unchristian.”

“You can’t be Christian and be doing the sort of things that we see being done,” Archbishop Kaigama said and expressed the concern that the “poisonous relationship” between members of the communities is being passed to younger generations. 

Emphasizing unity among members of the warring communities, Archbishop Kaigama said, “It is possible for the Jukun and the Tiv to unite, to live and work together happily and fruitfully.”

He added, “Please my brothers, Jukun and Tiv, Tiv and Jukun, we can unite. Overcome this unhealthy, retrogressive tendency and move forward in faith.” 

“May God bless you Jukun and Tiv and may you remain in peace and happiness all the days of your lives,” concluded the Archbishop.

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