Written by Carmen McCain and Gimba Kakanda, Saturday, 14 January 2012
Last weekend, the stories of the killings of Christians in Adamawa and Gombe left me with a constant dull ache. I realized, as boys hovered their metal detectors over my Bible before I walked into church, that we could die as we prayed. And though the pastor pointed us to the revolutionary nonviolent teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5, Christians I spoke to were angry.
“It’s just lies,” one told me, when I argued that most Muslims were aghast at the killings. I couldn’t blame him for his anger—he had just lost a friend in Adamawa—but I wished that he could experience the kindness of my Muslim friends and realize they too love and hurt and breathe. It was in this funk that I signed online and saw the photos, like those in Egypt last year, of Christians protesters in Kano and Kaduna protecting their Muslim friends while they prayed.
Poet Gimba Kakanda, whose collection of poetrySafari Pants was published by Kraftgriot in 2010, wrote on Facebook that he and other Muslim friends had protected St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Minna during a Sunday service. Beginning to feel hopeful again, I asked Gimba if he would write something about his experiences. I yield the rest of my column to him. –Carmen
When I heard of the covenant made in Kano during the anti-fuel subsidy removal protests–of Christians willing to stand guard for Muslims and vice versa during religious services–I was hurt that the bond of our relationship has waned over the years to the point that a Muslim is considered an enemy of Christianity, an inhumane being adept in violence.
I didn’t grow up in a tense religious atmosphere. My upbringing wasn’t bound to intolerance. The Muslims and Christians of my early days seemed like adherents of the same religion. We had so much regard for each other that we marked religious festivals together, irrespective of whose it was. As a child, Muslims marking Christmas was a popular practice. Mothers would obtain Christmas dress for their children who would join Christians at parks or any available amusing exercise. We referred to Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter, in my mother-tongue, as Christians’ Eid-el Kabir and Eid-el Fitr.
This Boko Haram debacle causes me so much pain; it causes my faith to be branded as an enemy of Christianity. For a long time now, I’ve been thinking over the best way to restore the dwindling trust between the faiths.
It was my return to Jos sometime in September last year that made me realize the horrible extent of our religious divide. It was in the month of Ramadan. I hate travelling while fasting, and to save myself the hassle of scouting for food on my arrival, I called my host on the phone and asked him to get some food ready for my fast. He was Christian. When I got into the neighborhood, I was unaware that the quarter was a ‘death zone’ for non-Christians. Chollom didn’t tell me. I only realised the danger when I stepped out to locate a mosque. The one I knew was no longer there – it might have been the burnt edifice I saw in its place. At once, I waved down an okada rider and asked him to take me to the bordering quarter, Nassarawa Gwong! He sized me up with wonder, shrugged and zoomed away. I had no clue. I stopped another. This rider smiled as one would at a known teaser. “I no dey go there o!” He blurted, without offering a reason. I made it to the border on foot, wondering as people poured to the street to watch me amble into the other ‘death zone’!
I was unhappy with Chollom, but he said that he could never come to terms with the idea of not hosting me. That incident made me began to think about ways to solve such religious segregation. I discussed this with the poet Richard Ali when we met on that visit to Jos, offering what I considered a solution. Richard and I agreed on soon setting up an NGO aimed at fostering unity between people of divergent ethnic and religious differences.
On the eve of my birthday this year, a Saturday, I was chatting with a Muslim friend, when I suggested that a way to end these growing attacks on places of worship might be a community security set-up where Muslims stand guard for Christians during church services and Christians for Muslims during Jummu’at prayers. He bought that. So I called a relative, Ahmad Ibrahim Gimba, and informed him about the plan. He too bought it, and immediately arranged with a friend of his to inform their priest of our mission.
As early as 6 am on Sunday the 8th of January, my birthday, I was already up for the day’s task. I live in Tunga but the church, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church at Kpakungu, one of the largest churches in Minna, is familiar to me. Ahmad Ibrahim and I got there and were soon joined by our other friends who were very keen on the mission. Our Christian friend who worships in the church took us to the security guard to explain our mission. Before the 7:30 am service commenced we were already spread round the church: Awaal Gata, Shuaibu Usman, Dantani Usman, Danjuma Mohammed, Idris Lade, Mohammed Saba, Kabiru Mohammed, Aminu Umar… We were eighteen in all!
After the service, there were some hitches. Policemen came around to know why Muslims would offer to guard a church. Even though we informed them that Ahmad had spoken to a member of the church and arranged that we would be coming, they were leery. The trouble with such system, I learnt a day later from a member of the church, Dominic Eigbegbea, is trust. Dominic is the president of the Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON), Minna Diocese. He was blunt, confiding in me that Christians don’t trust Muslims anymore, that whatever bound them together is handled with suspicion. He said that he discussed our arrangement with the other members of the church, and they cautioned that we shouldn’t be trusted, that we just want to infiltrate them, study everything about them and, when they are put at ease by our dubious gesture, launch an attack. Every Muslim is a terrorist, I gathered from their response.
The priest of the church, Reverend Father Emmanuel Jima, was philosophical about the development. He’s from Adamawa, a northerner(!) and was born to a Muslim family, he told me. We discussed the unfortunate happenings in the country, especially the insecurity situations aggravated by the dreaded Boko Haram militancy. The cleric lambasted the old generation for the present mess in the country. He talked softly but he was obviously unhappy that the bond between the two faiths has weakened to this extent, considering any forum that avails both Muslims and Christians a chance to rub each other’s back a way to restore the lost paradise of inter-faith fraternity. The youths are more perceptive, he iterated. ‘The burden of fixing the country is now left for you, the youth.’
Yes, a burden, this weighs me down. I must carry this cross. Unlike Christ’s, though, my cross is the weight of a faith, the crescent, deconstructed by too many misperceptions, too many stereotypes, unwitting and deliberate. May God save us from us, Ameen.
I am writing this post on 17 March 2012, but backdating it to the first of the year, for blog organization purposes.
My column for the new year with the not so subtle title of ‘Unity or Hell: Choices for the New Year’ was published as usual in the Weekly Trust on New Year’s Eve 2011, republished in the Daily Trust on 2 January 2012 (on pages 25 and 26) and again in the Vanguard on January 12. I wrote this following the bloody events of Christmas Day 2011, which has (with hindsight) unfortunately ushered in the “year of the bomb” in Nigeria. I pray that, despite the tragedies that have occurred so far in 2012, that we can rally around to unify against those who would divide the country. To read the original, click on the photo below. To read on this blog with links to the passages, I quoted, scroll down below the photo.
The four girls killed in the bombing (Clockwise from top left, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nearly fifty years later, in a very different context, another bomb has gone off in a church, this one St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State, Nigeria, this time on Christmas Day 2011, a holiday celebrating joy and peace. The latest in a series of bomb attacks around the country, it killed around thirty-five people including children and a pregnant woman and wiped out whole families. Boko Haram, a terrorist entity which asserts it is fighting for Islam, claims responsibility for the bombings. But just as the Ku Klux Klan violated Christian principles of love and non-violence, so also does Boko Haram violate Islamic principles of non-violence against non-combatants. Bombing a place of worship, especially on a holy day with families of worshippers inside, is such a sacrilege that I wonder if this time, remembering the 2010 Christmas Eve bombings and this year’s attacks on Muslims during Eid-el-Fitr in Jos, we too, both Christians and Muslims, will finally say, “This is enough!”
When I first heard, on Christmas morning, of the bombs in Madalla, Jos and Yobe, I thought of my column published the day before. I had written about the December 10 football viewing centre bombings in Jos in the context of Jesus’s teachings on peace. As I tried to process the shattering news of dozens of innocent people killed after attending Christmas mass, I thought of a verse I had edited out of the conclusion of my last article to save space. It was Matthew 10: 28-31, where Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Several thoughts on Jesus’s words about fear:
First: the body. After I mentioned Boko Haram briefly in one of my other articles, a reader wrote me, warning that it was dangerous to talk about Boko Haram—“I think it is safer to avoid even mentioning the name of these mad creatures. They are everywhere: they watch & listen.” My response was to re-tell the story of returning to Jos from New York in September 2001. “I realized that if I changed my plans [to return] either because of the attacks on New York or the crisis in Jos, I would be doing what the terrorists wanted, which is to make everyone change their lives and tiptoe around in fear. And if you do that, you are letting a minority of violent people rule your life, rather than God. I refuse to live in fear. My life is in God’s hands. If it is my time to die, it is my time to die. I will not refuse to speak out about truth or justice or peace out of fear.” The deaths of those people on Christmas morning were tragic, but while terrorists could maim their bodies, they could not touch their souls.
Second: on hell. Whoever is behind the Christmas bombings and other “Boko Haram” violence wants to tear the country apart. They want Christians to curse Muslims and the South to declare war against the North. They want to deny complexity, deny love, drag the rest of us with them to a hell of hatred and violence. They want us to ignore the teachings of Jesus, beloved of both Christians and Muslims, who said “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” If we fall into the trap the terrorists have set and begin to behave irrationally, hating those who had nothing to do with the terror and lashing out in violence against them, then we lose our souls and those who are trying to destroy Nigeria will succeed in their plan.
On this last day of 2011, as we mourn those innocents killed on Christmas morning, we can let this tragedy lead us on to a more unified voice against evil, both Christians and Muslims speaking out against terrorism and corruption, working actively together for peace against those who would divide at all costs. Or we can let our hatred lead us straight to hell. It is our choice. Happy New Year.
I have put off writing anything on this blog about the Christmas Eve bombs in Jos, in part out of weariness, in part perhaps feeling that if I didn’t write anything perhaps it would not be true, in part because we know so little real information–I don’t want to add to the rumour mongering and disinformation that so easily causes problems during these times. I am in Jos, right now, but most everything we hear is just hearsay.
Here is what I know and have seen: I went with my family to a Christmas Eve church service on the south side of Jos that started around 6:30pm. We crossed over the Gada Biyu Bridge on our way to the service around 6:15pm or 6:20pm. At the end of the service, someone came onto the loud speaker encouraging people to go home because there had been a bomb that had gone off around the Polo field. Looking at my phone, I saw I had two missed calls from one of my friends in Jos. When I called him back, he told me he had seen bomb blasts on Ring Road at Anguwar Rukuba. Thinking the earlier reports of bombs at Polo field were reported in the wrong location, we headed home down Zaria Road. Around the Polo roundabout, where the traffic was getting heavy and people seemed to be terrified, we were turned back by a panicky policeman who told us the road was closed and we should go “find a place to hide.” We could smell smoke and hear gunfire.
Fortunately, my brother has a place not far from where we were turned back, and, although he had planned on spending Christmas eve with us at my parent’s house, we ended up spending the night at his apartment. We sat around on his balcony drinking hot cocoa and hovering over the radio listening for news, listening to the night which became increasingly more quiet except for the lorries which kept rumbling by on the road (perhaps trying to find streets that were not blocked off?) I posted as my status on facebook via phone:
Red moon rising over jos, and now that the bombs hv stopped and the gunfire quietened, and the cars chased frm the streets, it is a silent night, (except for 1 distant siren/
It was a bizaare moment, the eerie silence marred by the occasional siren or gunshot. Going inside, flipping through television channels, watching interviews with Matt Damon and Harry Potter stars, and then seeing a brief blurb on BBC with Jos identified on a blocky map of Nigeria. Making out beds on couch cushions and blankets, knowing that less than a kilometre away, there were dead bodies, and fire, and mourning families.
Around 6:40am, my father got us up and said we should go. A guard working at the compound had just come through Gada Biyu and said the traffic was flowing. We left around 6:55am and passed through Gada Biyu around 7:03am. There were people out on the road, but we saw no mobs. I saw families with small children, with suitcases, perhaps looking for transport out of town. People were walking in groups of two or three as if out to see the damage. As we drove through Gada Biyu we passed several parked lorries. One of them had been partially burned, but there was still a cow with gigantic horns sitting in the back, alive, and seemingly unharmed.We later found out that at around 7:30am, people began burning cars at Gada Biyu, so we had passed through just in time.
Heard from others: The rest of the day, yesterday, Christmas day, seemed fairly calm from our location in Jos North. When on Christmas evening I spoke with my friend Godfrey Saeed Selbar, who had told me about the bombs at Ring Road, he told me that he had been out and had heard the first bomb blast on Ring Road, sounding distant. He had gone outside and had only been a few metres from the second bomb that went off. He said he knew at least four of the people killed in the blast and that he tried to help one victim whose leg had been blown off. He said he still had blood on his clothes. He said later there was another bomb at a drinking spot not far from where he was. He has photographs of around 15 people killed in the bomb. He also told me that a few other people had been killed by the youth on Christmas morning. He will upload photographs to his blog when he is able to access the internet. When I just tried to call him to get an update (4:19pm, 26 Dec 2010), his phone was switched off. [UPDATE: 30 December 2010: Godfrey has just uploaded a few photos and an account of his experience of being “flung to the ground” by one of the bombs in Anguwar Rukuba. WARNING that there is at least one graphic photo of a dead body on his site.]
Another friend told us that a nine year old son of a friend had been caught in the blast while running an errand. He had not been killed outright but had his jaw and the side of his face blown apart and was taken to the hospital hardly breathing.
I have also heard that youth have blocked off Ring Road with corpses insisting that the governor come and see. According to the hearsay, some tension over this ended in soldiers shooting some of the youth. Apparently some of the corpses have since been taken away. (But this paragraph is all hearsay)
What happened, according to the news: From the reports I’ve read, it seems that about 6 or 7 bombs went off in two different locations, on Ring Road and the Anguwar Rukuba area and at Kabong near the new Gada Biyu overpass bridge, around 7pm on Christmas Eve. News reports from various agencies are reporting that there were 32 killed and 74 wounded in the attacks.
Destroyed building and brunt Trailer following the Christmas eve bomb blast in Jos (c) Vanguard
Briefing journalists yesterday, Plateau State commissioner of police, Mr. Abdulrahman Akano, said a total of seven explosives were planted in two parts of the state capital.
According to him, five of the explosives were planted at the Kabong area while two were planted at Angwan Rukuba. One of the bombs was planted in a busy market at Kabong where people were making last-minute purchases for Christmas while another was planted at a relaxation spot in Angwan Rukuba.
He said the police and other security agencies had swung into action to get to the root of the matter and had already got some leads which were being followed to unmask the culprits. He said dynamites and about 100 match boxes were recovered from one of the places combed by men of the bomb unit of the police and were being analyzed.
The most recent information I have found is from RTE: “Houses set alight in Jos, Nigeria.” 26 December 2010. Xinhuanet also reports that at least one was killed and houses burnt today, Sunday 26 December. 2010. In church today, we heard news that there was tension around Katako Junction and have heard from other friends living near the abatoir that there has been conflict in that part of Jos. However, we have seen no smoke and have not heard very much gunfire from where we are.
As a Christian, it is quite a blow to have such violence committed on a day so sacred and devoted to peace. One of the best known Christmas scriptures (Luke 2:14) features angels bursting through the night sky to sing to shepherds:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
It is hard to understand. Why? Why on Christmas? (Why ever?) Why kill innocent people celebrating the birth of Jesus, who is venerated in Christianity and Islam?
I have seen a lot of anger from Christian friends on the internet. And it is completely understandable. However, I think the important thing to remember is that these bombs were the acts of extremists and cynics. Any acts of violence against the innocent Muslim population in Jos will play right into the hands of those who planted the bombs. The bombs were planted to create chaos in Jos. The best way to defeat the intentions of the evil people who did this is to act in accordance with the very peace that we celebrate during this season.
When I first heard of the bomb blasts I thought immediately of the article for my column I had submitted to my editor at Weekly Trust only two days earlier, set to come out the following day on Christmas. In it I celebrated the successful Peace Cup Games, organized by the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Inter-faith Foundation, in which teams, made up of half Muslim/half Christian participants, from Jos North and Jos South concluded a two week peace-building football camp with a final match.
Players from the teams from Jos North and Jos South hold hands as they enter the stadium for the Jos Peace Cup games, 21 December 2010. (c) Carmen McCain
I had been very hopeful about the peace-building efforts and the friendships built between youth on these neighborhood teams and their communities, quoting the idealistic words of the musicians who had performed at the Peace Cup ceremony: Jeremiah Gyang, the multi-ethnic rock band Threadstone, and the Hausa hiphop group JAPS:
The musicians perhaps said it best. “All our wounds were self inflicted cause we burned down our bridges,/ then we realized that hope was all we had,” belted out the Threadstones in their “Miracle for a Lost City.” Hiphop musician Sani Japs told me, “What religion has shown us, both in Islam and Christianity, is peace. The Quran has shown us we are all one, but the best one among you is the one who forgives and forgets. So what I think will bring peace is if all of us think of ourselves as One Nigeria, brothers and sisters.” This sentiment was also expressed by Jeremiah Gyang, who sang, “Zo, mu rera wakar Nigeria, Zo mu rera waka sallama.” Come let’s sing the song of Nigeria, Come let’s sing the song of peace.”
And my thoughts wandered back to that old Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night”: “Truly He taught us to love one another; / His law is love and His Gospel is peace./ Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother/ And in His Name all oppression shall cease.”
Barka da Kirismati. Happy Christmas. May the peace of God be with us all.
Sani Japs and Nazeefy Shuiabu from the hiphop group JAPS perform at the Jos Peace Cup games. (c) Carmen McCain
Umar Jawfu (guitar) and A.Jay Kafang (vocals) of rock band Threadstone perform at the Jos Peace Cup games, 21 December 2010, Bukuru Stadium. (c) Carmen McCain
Jeremiah Gyang sings at the Jos Peace Cup Games, 21 December 2010, Bukuru Stadium. (c) Carmen McCain
Sitting on my brother’s balcony I sent this text message to my editor:
“My column tomorrow is going to look awfully ironic. Jos in flames again. Apparently at least 5 bombs have gone off. We had gone out for christmas eve service and can’t get home but fortunately my brother has an apt in town where we are holed up.
But re-reading over the article, I was glad I had written it anyway. Perhaps the uneasy calm that lingers over some parts of Jos (I say this with the knowledge that my words here may later sound ironic) has something to do with the efforts of the Young Ambassadors, who have been tirelessly going around the state trying to bring Muslim and Christian communities together. Slowly, slowly, step by step, if we can continue to follow the teachings of Jesus who taught peace and love, patience and forgiveness, truth and justice, perhaps we can achieve peace.
And to those angry people, claiming Christianity, I have seen on the internet advocating a war of revenge and retaliation against Muslim communities you are assuming to be guilty, with no proof, please look first at this sermon preached by the great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Christmas 1957: “Loving Your Enemy.” I keep posting this link over and over again on this blog, but I was particularly touched when I went back on Christmas morning, after finally reaching home, and read it again, realizing that it was actually a Christmas sermon. We need his words, reminding us of the peace Jesus came into the world to bring, now more than ever:
First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us. It is also necessary to realize that the forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression. The wrongdoer may request forgiveness. He may come to himself, and, like the prodigal son, move up some dusty road, his heart palpitating with the desire for forgiveness. But only the injured neighbor, the loving father back home, can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words “I will forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you’ve done” never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, “I will forgive you, but I won’t have anything further to do with you.” Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again.
Without this, no man can love his enemies. The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.
Second, we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy-neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is. An element of goodness may be found even in our worst enemy. Each of us has something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves. A persistent civil war rages within all of our lives. Something within us causes us to lament with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things, but follow worse,” or to agree with Plato that human personality is like a charioteer having two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in a different direction, or to repeat with the Apostle Paul, “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
This simply means that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. When we look beneath the surface, beneath. the impulsive evil deed, we see within our enemy-neighbor a measure of goodness and know that the viciousness and evilness of his acts are not quite representative of all that he is. We see him in a new light. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know God’s image is ineffably etched in being. Then we love our enemies by realizing that they are not totally bad and that they are not beyond the reach of God’s redemptive love.
Third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but to win his friendship and understanding. At times we are able to humiliate our worst enemy. Inevitably, his weak moments come and we are able to thrust in his side the spear of defeat. But this we must not do. Every word and deed must contribute to an understanding with the enemy and release those vast reservoirs of goodwill which have been blocked by impenetrable walls of hate.
Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
So when Jesus says “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies-or else? The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.[Emphasis mine-CM]
Another reason why we must love our enemies is that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. This is understandable, for hate brings irreparable damage to its victims. We have seen its ugly consequences in the ignominious deaths brought to six million Jews by hate-obsessed madman named Hitler, in the unspeakable violence inflicted upon Negroes by bloodthirsty mobs, in the dark horrors of war, and in the terrible indignities and injustices perpetrated against millions of God’s children by unconscionable oppressors.
But there is another side which we must never overlook. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
A third reason why we should love our enemies is that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.
May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and forever more, and may we be granted the miracle of peace this Christmas, in this city Jos, and in this country, Nigeria. Amen.
For more information on the most recent violence in Jos, see the following reports:
A youth peace rally is planned in Jos for Thursday, 1 July 2o1o, 10am. The rally will be held in the Jos Rwang Pam Stadium along Tafawa Balewa road. The rally anticipates between 20,000 and 40,000 participants.
Young Ambassadors from Jos East at the YAPCI Peace Rally, July 1, 2010 (c) CM
The organizers of the event, an NGO the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Interfaith Foundation, which includes a nearly equal representation of Christians and Muslims, has planned eight other events in Plateau State in the past few months. According to Yakubu Pam, the executive director of the foundation, whom I spoke to on the phone, the first event was was held at Kwarafa Cinema, Jos, and had several thousands in attendance, the second was in Bukuru and again had over a thousand in attendence. The rest, held in smaller communities, were as follows:
3. Dadin Kowa, over three hundred participants,
4. Rayfield, over three hundred participants
5. Tudan Wada Stadium, over two hundred participants
6. Nassarawa Gwang, over two hundred participants,
7. Riyom LGA, over one thousand participants,
8. Nepa (sp?) community in Jos, over one hundred participants.
The rally planned for Thursday is a private initiative and is not sponsored by the Plateau State Government. It hopes to bring together young people from Plateau State and surrounding states to make a commitment for peace.
The Daily Independent, in it’s coverage of the Bukuru event on 1 April 2010, quotes Yakubu Pam on his vision for grassroots level youth talks:
“When I look at other peace conferences that had taken place in Jos and other places in respect of this Jos crisis and discovered that only select group of people were called to come and discuss in the peace talks, yet nothing happens at the grassroots because they were not made to be part of the peace process and that is why my foundation target audience is the grassroots,” Pam stressed.
Pam said the youths were the active participants in the recurring crisis in Jos and other parts of the state and must be taken into consideration by the government in its quest to seek for lasting peace in the state.
He pointed out that his foundation has engaged youths, which cuts across Christians and Muslims in the state and the result of this, he said, was the bringing them together to discuss and chart a new course towards getting out of the recent crisis that rocked Jos and Bukuru metropolis and the councils in Northern part of the state.
“Due to our contacts with these youths before now, we were able to have acted swiftly last week Wednesday to avert another crisis that was looming at Bukuru community in Jos South. We called on the warring Gyel youths and Hausas to lay down their arms and return to their respective homes without hurting each other. We know them and they give us their listening ears,” he said.
Pam challenged Plateau State government and the Presidency to change their approach towards finding lasting peace in the state from selecting only few privileged ones on the Plateau to be engaged in peace talks on behalf on the people; rather the youths should be engaged directly so that government could know what are their problems and find a way of solving them to put an end to youth restiveness in the state.
My father, Professor Danny McCain, who was a participant at the 1 April Bukuru event, described in his journal (I’ve quoted with his permission) how the 1 April community event in Bukuru was called following an averted crisis the week before. Apparently, as Pam described above, Christian and Muslim youth leaders had been able to disperse angry mobs of youth who were about to start fighting. My father writes:
Pam […] explained that the organization was providing special recognition for the two people who had helped to avert that serious crisis. He then pulled out our certificates and called Magaji Sule, the Muslim youth leader forward. Later, Ishaya Bot, the Christian leader came forward. The chairman presented the certificates to them with a strong exhortation to be peace makers. He then had them raise their right hands and repeat after him phrase by phrase a spontaneous pledge that went something like this: “As a leader of the youth, I commit myself to be a peace maker. I will not allow the peace to be broken again. When I learn of trouble, I will go there and intervene. I will encourage others to be peace makers until peace is restored to Plateau. So help me God.” […] One of the most moving moments of the whole event was when these two youth leaders came together and embraced each other enthusiastically, with big smiles on their faces. What a powerful statement that made to their followers! Both were very happy—genuinely happy for the recognition and for the hope of peace. The crowd was happy as well. Before they had hardly received the certificates, people were already shouting, “Take care. You need to get those laminated.”
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