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Special Prayers for Peace in Nigeria’s Taraba State “our missionary duty”: Catholic Bishop

Entrance to Jalingo Taraba State capital. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The prayer sessions organized in Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese for peace in Taraba State is part of the missionary responsibility of the faithful, the Local Ordinary of the Episcopal See has said.

Addressing journalists Sunday, November 21, Bishop Charles Michael Hammawa said, “Prayers serve the dual purpose of crying to God for peace as well as talking to the people to make them see reasons to live together as one.”

“This spiritual exercise of course is part of our work as Missionaries and we would continue to do it at all costs,” Bishop Hammawa said.

The Nigerian Bishop added, “As a Church and the body of Christ, it is our duty to call on God for His intervention. But it is equally very important for us to talk to the people.”

“What we are doing is to also use the prayer sessions to talk to the people. It is not enough to just give sermons during Sunday and weekday Masses,” the 59-year-old Bishop who has been at the helm of Jalingo Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in July 2008 told journalists.

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He noted that bringing people together in a prayer session “affords us the opportunity to really talk to them and appeal to them for a change of attitude.”

“We must begin to have more regard for the sanctity of life and desist from any tendencies to destroy life,” Bishop Hammawa said, adding that the prayer sessions are being organized in the areas of Taraba State “worst hit by violence.”

Innocent civilians and security operatives have fallen victim to the violence in Taraba State, according to reports.

These conflicts are predominantly centered on disputes over land and cause great insecurity and widespread displacement across the region, according to a report.

In the November 21 press conference, Bishop Hammawa said the “crisis in the state, especially in the southern part of Taraba and Gembu that have resulted in the death of thousands and destruction to property, is unnecessary.”

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“Wukari and Takum have been terribly hit by the crisis just as Gembu in Sardauna local government area,” Bishop Hammawa went on to say, adding that as a Church, “we are probably the worst hit by this crisis.”

Apart from losing thousands of our members in these areas, Bishop Hammawa said, “So many of our Parishes have been attacked, looted and destroyed.”

“You are aware that one of my Priests was also gruesomely murdered,” the Church leader told journalists.

He further said there is a looming food crisis because “people were displaced and could not carry out their farming activities.”

“Even as we speak, we still have pockets of attacks here and there such that people are even afraid of going to their farms,” he recounted. 

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Against this backdrop, the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese appeals to the people of God to be peacemakers.

“Our message is clear; if you are a Christian, you must be able to live up to that title. You must be an ambassador of peace at all times,” he said, and continued, “We must not relent. Angels don’t come from heaven to fight. It is the people themselves who sit down, plan and carry out these attacks and so we must begin to talk to them seriously for a change of heart.”

He added, “It is not enough to drag security to these places. What really matters is the attitude of the people and that is what we hope to influence positively at the end of the day.”