Everyone is asking: Why? Why are Muslims and Christians unable to live together in peace on the Jos Plateau? Why is there a continuing recurrence of violence? These are questions people in Nigeria and journalists from all over the world have asked me. I wish I had the answers.
The one thing I do know is that this time, as at other times, Christians once again have become the scapegoat of some evil intention to cause disharmony, separation, pain, destruction of lives and property, and disruption of normal civil life. This to me is evidence of what Jesus meant when he said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Evidence of this abundant life can be clearly seen in the progress, health care, and social services, together with the adult education, children's education and also tertiary education which the church brings to a people. These developments are functions of the gospel; they are products and evidence of an effective gospel ministry in any community. This same gospel also prepares people for leadership roles in all spheres of life. It is these fruits of the activity and life of the gospel which now have been suddenly burnt up in flames in one day, as the investments of a lifetime are turned into ashes.
It should be noted that in Jos we are coming face to face in confrontation with Satan and the powers of hell, and only God can save us. There are, however, many Muslims who totally disagree with violence as a means of settling issues, and of course it is not in accordance with the gospel to use violence to settle issues either. What seems to be a recurring decimal is that over time, those who have in the past used violence to settle political issues, economic issues, social matters, intertribal disagreements, or any issue for that matter, now continue to use that same path of violence and cover it up with religion. We must pray against the powers of hell. We must also pray for our state government, our Houses of Assembly at state and federal levels and our law enforcement agents, that they may choose the path of truth and justice, and deal with crime by its proper name, so that no-one, no matter how high or low, no matter of what faith or creed, should be exempt from facing the law.
The national leadership should be lifted up to God, that they may rise beyond a concern for political success and seek to do good and right in all things for the benefit of all people. This is a most urgent prayer request, because Nigeria as a nation has a large and ever-increasing army of leaderless, lawless, unemployable, unemployed, demoralized, and near hopeless youth. This, to my prophetic mind, is the big security issue which the governments at local, state and federal levels are not taking seriously. For example, every crisis in Nigeria in the last ten years has been executed by this generation of young people. With each passing year, they perfect their skills, and when they run out of a supply of money—or when they become bored with any situation—then any opportunity for action gives them satisfaction. This army has no religion, but can choose to go under the name of religion to achieve its motives. They are uneducated, and so their values are totally different, as are their ways of handling weapons or choosing how issues are settled. Please pray for us.
We deeply regret that a matter of work on a building site triggered the present huge setback for the people of Jos and Plateau State. Yet we rejoice that the gospel has not lost its power to save. God is still on the throne and evil will never, ever, have victory over good. We have a gospel to proclaim, and it is this gospel which holds the solution and the remedy for the mayhem, bitterness, anger, frustration and sheer evil which leads to the ruin of individual lives and the ruin which we see all around us in Jos now.
Points for consideration:
A. Once again, the international media have highlighted corpses and have shown and talked of corpses in the mosque. Corpses do not talk, and we do not know the names and addresses of these corpses.
B. The same international media have shown only the corpses in the mosques and are not interested in the corpses which are not inside the mosque. Corpses should be in the mortuary or should be buried.
C. It is worthy of investigation as to why the construction of a building should be carried out on a Sunday, during the time of Christian worship, with such a large number of youth, and why a disagreement on or near the site should result in these same youth producing guns, machetes, and fake military uniforms.
Brethren: be fully assured that our faith in Christ is intact, and shall remain so in life and in death. We have a gospel to proclaim, a gospel that brings light in darkness, hope in despair, courage in danger, and joy in sorrow. It is a gospel that brings life in all its fullness, and it is this gospel alone which can bring a lasting solution to the problems of the world and of Jos.
The Lord be with you.
Benjamin A. Kwashi is the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) Archbishop of Jos. "Speaking Out" is Christianity Today's guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.
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Last week we posted two other commentaries on the violence:
More Human Smoke Rises in Jos | This week's deadly riots struck home for the academic dean of ECWA Theological Seminary. By Sunday B. Agang
The Truth About the Religious Violence in Jos, Nigeria | It's not easy to state who started it or how many died. But the horror for those affected is clear. By Craig S. Keener