Friday, April 2, 2010

Prayer for Peace, Sequel--April 2

"Praise awaits you, O God, in Sion ... O you who hear prayer. ...You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior." Psalm 65. 1-5

Praise God for an awesome answer to the prayers lifted up for the peace initiatives in Bukuru yesterday, Thursday. This morning we received a remarkable account of what happened there from our IICS colleague Danny McCain, who participated in the talks. As we had suspected, and also heard through Bishop Kwashi's appeal in January, youth on both sides, Christian and Muslim, were a big part of the troubles of the past weeks in and around Jos (
Plateau State, Nigeria). And those troubles were not minor. Danny speaks of genocide like conditions in the villages. In Bukuru itself the main market with hundreds of shops was completely destroyed, hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed and dozens of people were killed. We do not wish to overemphasize the atrocity, but only when we realize how bad things are can we properly appreciate what happened. It was nothing short of miraculous.

On Thursday (yesterday) Rev. Yakubu Pam, the chairman of the North-Central zone of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria, the umbrella organization of all Christian denominations in Nigeria), had called a meeting as an effort to bring peace between the Berom Christian youth and the Hausa/Fulani Muslim youth.

The event, held at the main Cinema of Bukuru, close to an area of severe fighting during the January crisis, attracted over a thousand people attending. Critical to the success was participation of the leaders of the warring factions, men responsible for so much death and destruction, Ishaya for the Christian youth and Magaji, the Muslim youth leader.

Aside from prayers, speeches and appeals, the occasion was used to honor these leaders for restraint in a recent encounter, averting another serious crisis; in turn they were asked to pledge themselves to a new role as peace makers, so that when they learn of trouble, they will go to intervene, also to "encourage others to be peace makers until peace is restored to Plateau. So help me God.”

This is clearly not yet the end of the story! But it is an extremely significant step in the right direction, and the first truly good news story that we have heard in quite some time. In his own speech Danny spoke about the need to forgive, if the cycle of vengeance is to be broken.

*** So let us continue to pray:
** Forgiveness is not something that can be manufactured, but we can pray that such a spirit of forgiveness will begin to take root, to undermine the spirit of hatred and bitterness.

** Let us also pray for meaningful employment for these youth. If these young men are to turn to a new life of positive contribution to their communities it is also vital that there be opportunities for meaningful work.

** And let us pray for a solution to another big problem, endemic in these communities - as indeed in so many cities around the globe – especially among young unemployed or underemployed youth, the attraction of drugs. We also need to pray that such issues can be addressed.

** But above all let us thank God for such a gracious answer to prayer. Danny writes, "I just wish that I could somehow communicate what happened in that old cinema hall yesterday. I do not have words and I am quite sure that pictures and even videos cannot adequately capture the emotions and potential good that will come out of that meeting."

** Thursday's meeting was the second of the kind organized by Yakubu Pam and his organization for peace: ³Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Inter-Faith Foundation. The week before on 23 March he had arranged an amazing meeting between the Christian and Muslim youth in the Kwarafa Cinema almost in the heart of the Muslim area in Jos. Let us pray that God will continue to bless these efforts with much success.

** Thank you for praying with us. As you share in the pain of these people, so far away, but close to our hearts, you will also share in their joy, as new directions take hold.

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