Northern Christians in search of Peace
[symple_highlight color=”blue”]The Sun reports on a meeting by Christians from the North of Nigeria on finding solutions to the scourge of attacks on their communities. Please read and pray along with our brethren…[/symple_highlight]
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They came in their numbers, among them ordinary folks, commu?nity leaders, traditional rulers, policy makers, church leaders and leaders of interest groups, all from the North.
They looked tired, bloodied, bruised, battered and brutalized, but they managed to hold their heads high. They stoically con?verged at the Ecumenical Centre, Abuja for the National Confer?ence of Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF) last week. They gathered to de?liberate on the incessant attacks against their communities.
On hand to give the much-needed support were the Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs for the Church of En?gland, Rev. (Dr) Toby Howarth and the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.
?We need to come together and provide a strong voice for our communities. We need everyone on board,? NOSCEF?s chairman, Olaiya Philips, told the delegates. Indeed, it was a desperate and strategic effort at restoring peace to the troubled northern states. The forum was organized for victims of Boko Haram insurgents, to compare notes on attacks against them and devise means of achieving peace.
Some of them Sunday Sun spoke with lamented how the insurgents have practically taken over the entire North East states, raiding and torching villages and communities with impunity. Of the five roads that lead to Maiduguri, the Borno State capi?tal, only Damaturu road remains accessible. Others have been overrun by terrorists making them unsafe for residents and travelers.
?We are completely cut off and anything can happen to us,? one of them lamented. On the modus operandi of the Boko Haram sect, he said ?They send us notices and when they come, there won?t be protection for us. Our freedom to worship has been curtailed. We are all terrified.?
They lamented that churches no longer open for services in Borno State, owing to numerous attacks against them, as they solicited government?s support and called on all believers for prayers to overcome the stormy challenges.
Forgiving the attackers?
Rev(Dr) Howarth, in his keynote address, urged Chris?tians never to retaliate. Forgive?ness, he counseled, is critical to winning the war against terror. Citing Egypt?s experience as an example, he said the country is still standing because Christians have refused to retaliate in the face of needless provocations.
?We must never strike back. That is the way of Christ. That is what Jesus did himself. We must refuse to retaliate because that will give the attackers enough reasons to do even much worse. We must tell our kids that they must not hate because the way of Christ is the way of love,? Howarth noted.
Admitting this could be tough in the face of ceaseless attacks, he pointed out that Christians worldwide are praying for their Nigerian counterparts to pull through and demonstrate their faith in the face of stringent op?position. ?God is with you. Jesus knows about your persecution and challenges. He won?t leave you and we are praying for you. That?s the best anybody can do in this circumstance,? he added.
Time to stand up
On his part, Olaiya called for maximum force and dialogue to overcome Boko Haram.
According to him, ?The army must start putting effective pressure on Boko Haram to stop the massacres. ?They should not be timid . They should harness military intelligence and police support. With the situation so dire, our communities need all the help we can get. They need to reach out with the olive branch to end this conflict for good in the way that Jesus taught us.?
These strategies,he assured, will win the war. He also said every Nigerian must raise their voices against increased violence across the nation. ?It?s time to stand up and speak out. It?s time we stood up and spoke out about the importance of religious values and religious freedoms of our people.
?It?s time we stood up and spoke out about the importance of protecting minorities against persecution. It?s time we stood up and spoke out about equal access to education, healthcare and justice for all Nigerians. It?s time we stood up and spoke out about preserving the secular state and the integrity of the nation.
?I do not fear the conse?quences of taking this approach whatever the controversy, but I do fear the consequences of war without end and incessant terror , for we have seen it ourselves.?
Olaiya warns ?There is a terri?ble price to be paid for silence in the face of violence, for apathy in the face of oppression, and for indifference in the face of injustice.?
The unrepentant de?mons
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor de?scribed the Boko Haram malaise as the current manifestation of long-standing demons that have been afflicting the soul of North?ern Nigeria.
Lamenting the thousands of churches and Christians de?stroyed by the sect, Oritsejafor said every peace-loving Nigerian must be committed to ending the sect?s demonic attacks.
To end the insurgency, the CAN?s helmsman said the coun?try must begin to be truthful in its classification and analysis of the sect?s activities.
?We must face the truth that Boko Haram?s underlining ide?ology is religion. Don?t tell me it?s political or poverty because it?s not. Until we accept this, we have not started winning the war,? he stated.
He also challenged Muslim clerics, traditional rulers and politicians to counter the sect?s radical ideology with a ?superior, stronger ideology that promotes peace?. A demonic ideology, he said, cannot be suppressed by guns but a superior ideological orientation. ?We need our Mus?lim brothers to help and engage the insurgents with superior ideologies,? he said.
Traditional rulers from northern communities pledged to serve as agents of peace in their localities. The Agom-Adara 111 in Kaduna State, His Royal Highness, Maiwada Galadima, said they would stop at nothing to promote peaceful coexistence in his domain.
Similarly, the Osana of Keana in Nasarawa State, His Royal Highness Emmanuel Elayo, promised he and his colleagues would form a powerful consen?sus against violence and attacks on their domains.
?Everyone is our subject and we have what it takes to direct them towards the path of peace,? he assured.
The conference ended with the signing of a charter for peace by NOSCEF. The charter appealed to government officials to step up security and called on every?one to collaborate for peaceful coexistence.
Olaiya announced the formal commencement of the Com?puters for Christians Project aimed at improving education for northern school children. The initiative, he stated, also includes an emergency preparedness and response plan for post-attack responses among Christians.
?As we continue to raise our voices for investment in jobs and businesses, we will provide opportunities for people to learn new skills and trades and start their own businesses.
While we continue to raise our voices for the protection and safety of our communities, we will provide assistance to our churches and prepare for disasters, so that should the worst happen, they will be ready to respond,? he explained.
Source: As reported by The Sun