Gyang Bere, Jos
Jos, the capital of Plateau State, wore an excited look recently, wheny the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis honoured the state governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, and some others with Papal awards. The ceremony was performed on Saturday, January 25, 2020.
Mr. Edward Gyang Pwajok (SAN), a former member of the House of Representatives, would not forget the date in a hurry. It was the day the Archbishop of Abuja and the Apostolic administrator of Archdiocese of Jos, Bishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, decorated him with the Papal award on behalf of Pope Francis.
Pwajok was decorated as Knight of St. Gregory the Great. Also decorated were Plateau State governor, chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Lalong, Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Prof. Danladi Atu, and several others.
The award was bestowed on them by Pope Francis in recognition of their contributions to the church and for impacting positively on the lives of the less privileged.
The benefactors of Pwajok’s humanitarian gesture beseiged his residence at Maraban Jama’a in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State, as early as 6am that day, singing and dancing ahead of his investiture. Many of them accompanied the lawmaker to the Divine Mercy Cathedral, Jos, venue of the ceremony.
Many believe that Pwajok’s contributions to the new Electoral Act awaiting ascent by President Muhammadu Buhari was one of the developmental contributions that singled him out for the Papal award, coupled with his numerous free medical programmes and donations to charity.
Performing the investiture, Bishop Kaigama charged Lalong, Pwajok and Atu to foster peaceful co-existence in Plateau State. Kaigama noted that the Papal awardees, including the director-general of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Joseph Ari, were carefully selected for their immense contributions to the growth of the Christian faith and assistance to the needy and vulnerable persons.
He said Lalong was selected for God to use him to restore peace and promote peaceful coexistence in northern Nigeria.
“The award signifies recognition from the Pope himself for service already rendered and an invitation to continue an exemplary life worthy of emulation by other Christian brethren.
“Decorating political leaders such as Governor Simon Lalong, Hon. Edward Pwajok, and Prof. Danladi Atu, among others, the Pope is saying to you, be guided by firm Christian values inspired by Catholic social teaching, continue to protect life and property and uphold the dignity of life, continue to work to consolidate on the peace and ethnic religious integrity and harmony being achieved in Plateau State.
“Continue to carry everybody along, big or small, young or old, men or women, majority or minority, Christians of other denominations or Muslims or traditional worshippers. And be a courageous instrument of peace, dialogue and reconciliation in your leadership and service, even as chairman of the Northern Governor’s Forum.”
Lalong, who spoke on behalf of the others, pledged to redouble efforts in touching lives positively in society. He also condemned the execution of Nigerians in the North-East by Boko Haram insurgents.
“We are indeed humbled by this recognition from the Catholic Church, coming from the Holy See as bestowed on us by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. In receiving these honours, we are most appreciative and count ourselves blessed to be the first Knights and Papal Medalists unveiled just when the new Catholic Archbishop of Jos and the Metropolitan of Jos Ecclesiastical Province, Bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu, is stepping into the shoes of Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama who has since assumed duty as the Archbishop of Abuja.
“As members of the church who have received spiritual teachings that have guided us in our day-to- day living and enabled us to serve humanity in our different areas of calling, with this honour we assure of rededicating ourselves to the service of the church and to the glory of God.
“We are aware that as knights we are expected to be true Ambassadors of Christ and help in the propagation of the gospel of salvation as well as encourage the faithful towards seeking knowledge of the doctrines and teachings of the church.
“This responsibility is also expected to provide us the opportunity to help foster and develop vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and holy matrimony within the church so as to ensure that the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is propagated.
“We also recognise that, since the era of protecting the church with the sword was over, our major role today is to defend the heritage and doctrines of the church in words and actions and act with love, which is the heartbeat of God. It is, therefore, incumbent on us to use these recognitions not only in trying our best within human limitations, but ensure furthering the influence of the church and Christianity to our society, based on the fruits of the spirit rather than mere religious rhetoric.”
Lalong, who preached tolerance, peace and forgiveness, stated that Plateau has substantially emerged from the ashes of violence that engulfed the state some years back and explained that some of the issues were given religious colouration and deepened sentiments that polarised the people more.
He said: “The unfortunate developments relating to kidnappings and executions that have affected some of our citizens in the North-East recently have been matters of great concern. We are still mourning the latest ugly incident where a student of the University of Maiduguri was murdered by terrorists calling themselves ISWAP.
“Barely a week earlier, we had rejoiced over the rescue of another daughter of ours, Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, who was equally kidnapped by the terrorists. Those who are involved in this heinous crime input religion as their motive and try to justify their evil acts as revenge on Christians or citizens of Plateau State. We know from their antecedents that they are simply criminals who have sold themselves to evil and are bent on dividing us.
“As a government, we will never allow anybody to target our citizens or threaten them simply because they are Christians or adherents of other faiths. Even if they have no religion, they have the God-given right to existence and should not be threatened by anybody. Being a citizen of Plateau State is not a crime.
“Let me assure you that we are working with the President and security agencies to ensure that these incidents are addressed and our citizens under captivity by terrorists, kidnappers, bandits or any other criminals are released. I appeal to us all to be vigilant, prayerful and guard our communities against merchants of evil who always want to exploit religion, tribe and politics for their crimes. Peace is all we need and we must continue working for it.”