The spate of endless bloodshed and ethno-religious crisis in the northern parts of Nigeria especially in Jos,Plateau State has been a source of major concern to the global community.
LoveJos Conference took place at KICC Center in Walthamstow on Saturday,24th September,2011 with the theme :Bringing Hope to Persecuted Christians in Northern Nigeria.
The conference attracted many Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the United Kingdom in a frantic effort to find a lasting solution to the regular bloodshed in the northern Nigeria.
LoveJos team is the initiative of some Nigerians in diaspora troubled by the regular bloodshed and carnage in northern parts of Nigeria and seeking way for the lasting peace.
Baroness Caroline Cox MP,former deputy Speaker of the House of the Lords condemned in strong terms the violence,massacre and persecution of Christians in northern parts of Nigeria.
The British lawmaker also advised the federal government of Nigeria to provide adequate security to lives and properties of Nigerians and bring the perpetrators and sponsors of such crimes against humanity to face justice as a matter of urgency.
Lady Cox is also the non-executive Director of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation and the Chairperson of the Executive Board of the International Islamic Christian Organisation for Reconciliation and Reconstruction(IICORR),a charity which she helped to set up to promote stronger relationship between Muslims and Christians.
“The persecutions and discrimination against the Christians in the Northern Nigeria must stop.I shall continue to salute the courage of those Christians that still worship and hold Bible studies in the ruins of their burnt down churches despite threats and several casualities suffered.”
Baroness Cox who is also involved in several charities in developing countries in Africa further narrated how she met determined primary school children in Kano,Bauchi and Plateau States learning English Language at a faster rate compared to their counterparts in Great Britain.She stressed the importance of education for the younger generations of Nigeria.She also visited destroyed churches in the North and met with the relatives of the victims of the ethno-religious crisis.
“I love the smile of those school children,learning English grammar at an impressive rate.How I wish school teachers in Great Britain could be as dedicated as those teachers I met in Northern Nigeria.Many of our UK’ s school children often leave primary schools without being able to perfectly read and write.”
Baroness Cox also extolled the virtues of moderate peace-loving Muslims of northern extraction that resisted the Muslim extremists at the expense of the lives and properties.She affirmed that both religions(Islam and Christianity) claimed to preach peace but could not explain the regular loss of lives over ethnicity,politics and religious matters in Nigeria.
“African people have taken over the spread of Christianity from the white men and women who first introduced the religion to Africa several years ago and this is highly commendable.”
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali who was the first non-white Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England.He is from Asian origin of both Christian and Muslim backgrounds and currently the President of the Oxford Centre for Training,Research,Advocacy and Development(OXTRAD).Bishop Nazir-Ali could not attend the conference but spoke through a video-link to the guests at the event.
He lamented the senseless death of people in Nigeria under the guise of religion,ethnicity and politics and wondered why the government appeared helpless to solve the problems.
“Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa but under our very eyes,the regular mayhem and destructions in northern parts of Nigeria has now become more and more serious as Christians in Nigeria suffered untold hardship and persecutions just like their counterparts in Sudan,Pakistan,Egypt and other countries of the world.This is due to the rise of the Islamic fundamentalism.”
He further stressed that Nigeria government must be able to guarantee fundamental freedom and human rights for all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity,religious beliefs,gender,politics or what have you.
“Nigerian is one Nation and one law must be applied to everybody living in the country. As Christians,we have moral duty to protect and defend the orphans,the oppressed people and the widows in our society.We must demand for equality and justice for all Nigerians.”
Bishop Nazir-Ali also stressed that it was a political blunder committed by Nigerian leaders in the early 80s when Nigeria joined the Organisation of Islamic Country(OIC) which technically placed Nigeria as a predominantly Muslim nation. He however stated that Nigeria could have just maintained an ‘Observer’ status in the OIC instead of a full membership status which placed other non-Muslims in a critical position.
In her own submission,Pastor Mrs.Esther Ibanga,Senior Pastor of Jos Christian Missions International who still resides in Jos with her husband gave a graphic account through a powerpoint presentation of how several people,especially Christians were murdered in cold blood in Jos while the government security men looked the other side as if nothing happened.She further explained the efforts of her church members despite intimidations from the extremists to organise peaceful rally in the city of Jos and to cater for the orphans and displaced victims of the ethno-religious crisis.She gave some shocking examples of what she regarded as “ethnic cleansing’ in the northern parts of Nigeria particularly in the city of Jos.
“It was like a Rwandan genocide taking place in northern Nigerian city of Jos;children and women were the main targets of these extremists.Even pregnant women were often murdered in cold blood while their unborn babies crudely removed from their bellies were also hacked and burnt to death.
It was a terrible situation.It seems the perpetrators of these horrible crimes were imported from neighbouring countries as nobody would ever imagine the savagery of the barbaric attacks on fellow defenceless Nigerians.”
Donations and pledges were also collected at the end of the event to assist and rehabilitate the victims and displaced people in Jos,Plateau State of Nig
By Dare Lasisi