Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, has asked the Federal Government to urgently find solution to recurring violence between the Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups of Benue and Taraba states.
He said that the crisis, which instead of promoting positive viable agricultural activities in the area to attract investors, plunge the populations into greater and greater poverty, while youths seem to look forward to the next crisis, having no employment options.
Being major food producing communities in Nigeria, Kaigama registered his concerns that the violence was plunging the already impoverished more states into greater poverty, and also affecting other states that benefit from the agricultural business.
Kaigama spoke in Abuja, on Thursday, at a Women Interfaith Peace building Initiative (WIPI) Conference, organised by the Foundation for Peace, Hope and Conflict Management (FPHCM), with the theme “Tiv and Jukun Women: veritable instruments in the search for peaceful co-existence”.
He said that the tensed relationship between the two groups, and the lingering crisis could keep investors away from positively exploiting the cultural heritage and the gifts of nature abundantly endowed to them in the areas they inhabit.
He urged elder statesmen and political leaders including the retired Lt-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma and Senator George Akume, among others to intervene and calm the nerves of the aggrieved ethnic groups, stressed the importance of women in restoring peace to troubled areas.
He said that women, being on moral and emotional advantage, could encourage and ensure their husbands, children and relations to drop arms and embrace peace and forgiveness.
He said: “Please tell your children, husbands or relations to drop their arms; they should avoid prejudices and stigmatisation, and learn to forgive and see in one another the image and likeness of God.
“The negative social consequences of the conflicts inflicted on one another have not and will never be helpful to anyone. Destruction and killings seen to have become a constant!. Suspicion, distrust and hatred are so strong that some Jukun and Tiv persons are allergic to the name of the other.
“Priests and other religious leaders must remain neutral, non-partisan and not act as ethnic champions, but offer prayers, promote reconciliation and forgiveness.”
Catholic Bishop of Jalingo, Most. Revd. Charles Hammawa, in his remarks, admonished Christians to maintain peace with all men as much as possible, urged women to rise up and contribute their quota to building trust and acceptance.
Represented by Rev. Fr. Peter Kamai of the Veritas University, he said, “In pursuing growth and development, the role played by women is crucial. In places affected by conflict, women suffer enormously. Yet, time and time again, it has proven that women can and are the agents and catalysts of change who make a durable peace possible.”
Earlier, the Executive Director FPHCM. Rev. Fr. Prof. Anthony Bature, said the Foundation which believes strongly in peace, justice, and fairness, was concerned with raising women as ambassadors to promote peaceful coexistence in their communities.
He said: “The aim of the conference is to have the women equipped with the right knowledge of peace building and they will serve as advocate for peace and equally preach peace and proffer solution as mother’s in their various communities.”