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Jos crisis: Meet men, women breaking ethno-religious barriers

Christians and Muslims in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State are breaking the ethno-religious barriers that divided the state capital along religious lines,…

Christians and Muslims in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State are breaking the ethno-religious barriers that divided the state capital along religious lines, following the crisis that swept over the state in 2001. Hundreds were killed and property worth millions of naira destroyed. The situation had resulted to lack of confidence amongst both faiths in the state but in what seems to be a light of hope, people still believe that they can still mingle with one another despite their differences. Daily Trust on Sunday reports. 

Lucy John is a resident of Congo-Russia in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State but sells peanut at the New Market area, a Muslim populated community in the same local government.  

From New Market, Lucy often walks to Al-Iman School, along Dogon Dutse, where students of the Islamic schools eagerly patronise her. In a city where ethnic and religious barriers have defined living arrangements since the 2001 riot that claimed over 100 lives, Lucy said Muslim-dominated communities were like home to her as she spends more hours of the day living and transacting business among them without fear of intimidation or attack.  

“The places I transact my business are Muslim-dominated. Every day, I go to New Market and Al-Iman School to sell peanuts. If you want to engage in business you don’t choose where to do so, as long as you want to succeed in life. That is why I don’t restrict myself to my community,” she said, reiterating that she feels safe among people of a different faith  

Like Lucy, Suleiman Musa has, in the last five years, walked from his Dilimi home, a Muslim community, to Jenta Adamu, a Christian-dominated community, to sell onions without any fear. Pushing a wheelbarrow containing neatly arranged onions, Musa said that before he developed the courage to delve into communities erroneously designated as “no-go-areas,” he had lived with the fear that any attempt to cross over to a community populated by people of a different faith could claim his life. 

The onion seller, who has a strong customer base at Jenta Adamu said, “I found out that insinuations that one could be killed here are not true. I come here and spend hours selling onions and nothing has ever happened to me. I go around the area and I have never been abused; no one has harassed me.”  

Lucy and Musa are only two among many people that are defying the ethno-religious barriers set by over two decades of crisis that engulfed Jos and turned the city’s past harmonious coexistence apart.  

 

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that soon after the 2001 ethno-religious crisis that erupted at the city centre, many families have relocated to communities dominated by their religious group. This, many say, was done to avoid becoming a victim in a crisis that could erupt without warning. Residents further say the recurrent ethno-religious conflict that has polarised the city into Christian and Muslim-dominated areas, has created distrust and further weakened several attempts at reconciliation. 

Residents who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday hope the action of Lucy, Musa and others like them would help to restore Jos to its past glory, where peace reigned.  

“My customers worry when I don’t show up, even during crisis. When I come here I don’t think any harm would come to me. The people know me because I have been trading here for over five years. We have built trust, and any day I fail to come, they enquire about me.

“There is no day that I will not come here, except when I am ill, and nothing has ever happened to me. If you really want to do business you must mingle with people of other faiths or ethnic groups. Business doesn’t know religion or tribe,” Lucy said.

In the last few years, Kwanan Malam Ya’u, Muslim-dominated community in Anguwan Rogo of Jos North Local Government Area, has become the selling point of Mary Michele. She sells roasted maize. 

“There has not been a problem. I have never been attacked. I have never thought that my life would be in danger for coming here.

“Despite the reoccurrence of crisis in Jos, nobody has ever threatened to kill me. Nobody has intimidated me because of religion. The area is a Muslim community but I have been coming here in the last 10 years. I roast maize for eight to nine hours, then return home, and nothing has happened to me,” Mary, who resides around the Faringada area told our correspondent.

She blamed the division between Muslims and Christians in Jos to unsubstantiated rumours by residents who plant stories of discord in the hearts of others.  

“I am always confident that nothing would happen to me while coming to Anguwan Rogo. My prayer is that there should be peace so that there would be development. There is still hope that things would go back to the way they  were,” Marry added. 

Muhammad Sani, a resident of Anguwan Rogo, who walks to Jenta Mangoro, a Christian community, to sell cosmetics in a wheelbarrow, said he even sold to his customers on credit without any iota of fear. 

Sani said for the past five years he had transacted business in the community, he had never faced any threat or intimidation.   

“I have a good relationship with the people. I come here almost on a daily basis. When I sell on credit, they pay me when I return the following day or at the end of the month. If there was no trust, I don’t think we would have had transactions on credit,” he said, blaming selfish politicians for the recurrent crisis in the state. He added that ordinary people like him were comfortable among people of different faiths. 

We’re happy with the development – Community leaders

Community leaders and other groups in Jos have described the action of these men and women as a brave and commendable, saying it would help to achieve peaceful coexistence in city and its environs.

Victor Kwara Chasu, the ward head of Congo-Russia, said he was happy to see Christians going to Muslim communities and Muslims crossing over to Christian areas. He hopes that such movements would assist in breaking the ethno-religious barrier in the Plateau State capital.

“I was at Rukuba junction on Wednesday and I saw Muslim girls selling peanut. I was happy because it gave the impression that things would be well in the future. A Christian cannot live without a Muslim, just as a Muslim cannot live without a Christian. That is my philosophy,” he said. 

The community leader also explained that the crisis that engulfed the state in the last two decades had been political, stressing that politicians use such conflicts to achieve their surreptitious objectives.  

“I call on people to be patriotic. Religious leaders should preach unity and oneness. We can’t live without each other,” Chasu said. 

On his part, Alhaji Garba Abdulkadir, the Turakin Jos, said he was happy that residents were beginning to understand that it is better to live with one another than separately. He said, “What we are seeing today is a good thing, considering how people viewed one another in the past. I am calling on both Muslims and Christians to emulate what these men and women are doing. We are calling on them to continue to mingle with one another. It will help to develop trust among the residents.” 

Also speaking on the development, Nura Alhasan, the chairman of Jos Peace Vanguard (JPV), a nongovernmental organisation making efforts to restore peace in the state, said credit must go to organisations who organise discussions and preach on the need to live peacefully with one another. 

“The leaderships of various organisations from both Muslim and Christian communities have been doing a lot to preach peace; and I think it is assisting us in breaking the religious barrier. So, we encourage people not to develop any fear,” he said.