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World Council of Churches team visits Jang, prays at Dogonahawa mass grave

The governor who was speaking when he received a delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Living Letters team, disclosed that the state has…

The governor who was speaking when he received a delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Living Letters team, disclosed that the state has now adopted proactive measures that could foster sustainable peace in the crisis torn Plateau State.

These statements were contained in a news release on the website of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The Living Letters team which is on a visit to the state on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) also visited Dogonahawa village near Jos where many residents were murdered last March.

The visiting WCC team gathered and prayed for peace around the mass grave at Dogonahawa. They also held talks with the survivors of the March violence.

In early March, about 500 persons, mostly women and children from two villages of Berom indigenes were killed in their sleep during an outburst of communal and ethnic violence.  

Dogonahawa is a hamlet of about 100 houses, all clustered in a circle. It is located just seven miles from Jos, the capital city of Plateau State. At the time of WCC’s team’s visit vestiges of the sectarian clashes still surrounded the people.

Jang who spoke at the meeting, which had in attendance his deputy, Pauline Tallen and some members of his cabinet, said that Christianity and Islam had no reasons to be at loggerheads.

He said he was glad when he heard that the WCC team was coming to visit the state. “Your coming shows people are praying for us all over the world and this gives me joy.”

Living Letters are small ecumenical teams visiting a country to listen, learn, share approaches and help to confront challenges in order to overcome violence, promote and pray for peace. One such team is visiting Nigeria  between 15-20 May.

Jang said that his government had begun to take proactive steps to promote peace. “We have set up an inter-religious council of peace and harmony long before the crisis started. Right now, we are adopting some other measures that we believe are yielding fruits presently,” he said.

Earlier, Archbishop Michael Kehinde Stephen of the Methodist Church, Nigeria and Bishop (Dr) Robert Aboagye-Mensah, vice-president of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and member of the WCC Central Committee,  told the governor that the group had come on a solidarity visit to all who are suffering due to the conflicts and violence irrespective of their religious identities.

Archbishop Stephen said: “We believe that both the Christian and Muslim religions preach peace and are working for peace. We don’t see any reason why there should be violence in this part of the country if there is tolerance among adherents of the two faiths.”

He observed that the state has been bedeviled with several crises, noting however that religion has been used to cover other factors responsible for the incessant bloodletting in the state. He expressed hope that the visit of the team would help bring about more unity and cooperation between the different faiths.

 He added that, “We are created by one God who gave us the right to be whatever we want to be. But one day has been appointed when we will account for all that we have done here on earth. We cannot decide for others the kind of faith they should adhere to. We can preach to people based on our beliefs but we cannot force anybody. The day is coming that we will all know who is right.”

The governor who was quite forthcoming during the meeting, said he has observed that Christianity is going down in the western world. He also added that, “however, it is time for the African continent to take the gospel back to those who brought it”.

Meanwhile, the community leader, David Jik, told the Living Letters delegation how he lost his children and grandchildren during the violence. A 60-year old woman, Kumbo Chuwang, who was maimed during the violence, cried and explained how she and her family members had been attacked. A teenage boy, Tebita Danjuma, showed his body, burnt in the fire that was set to engulf the buildings in the hamlet.

The Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Bukuru Jwan B.N. Zhumbes, who accompanied the team to the villages, said several members of his church were killed in the violence, while many escaped and relocated in the wake of the crisis.

 Archbishop Michael Kehinde Stephen, leader of the Christian Council of Nigeria that hosted the visiting Living Letters team, mentioned plans that were underway by the local communities to construct a cenotaph at the site of the mass grave.

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