The Mission of the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Chaplaincy
“We the worshiping community of St. Francis of Assisi Chaplaincy Federal University, Wukari under the guidance of the Holy Spirit celebrate the Eucharist as one body in unity love and peace.”
CRISIS IN SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL TARABA IN NORTHEASTERN NIGERIA
by The Most Reverend Charles Hamawk, Bishop of Jilingo
There have been violent clashes in Taraba State, Northeastern Nigeria before but what the State is witnessing in 2014 is of unprecedented proportion. The crisis is both religious and ethnic in nature, considering the origin and escalation. Jalingo Diocese is situated in Taraba State.
From religious angle, the violent clash between Christians and Muslims began in Ibi town in Southern Taraba in November 2012 barely a month after the plane accident involving the State Governor, Danbaba Suntai. Since then, there have erupted four Christian-Muslim clashes in neighboring Wukari town and two more in Ibi town apart from others in smaller towns like Gindin Dorowa, Rafin Kada, etc. These involve massive destruction of lives and property.
The farmer-grazer dimension is also there. At the end of 2013, Fulani herdsmen invaded several villages in Tiv dominated Benue State which led to expulsion of all Fulani herdsman from Benue State. They moved to neighbouring Taraba State and in turn displaced the Tiv people in the agrarian rural farmlands in Southern and central parts of Taraba State where Tiv farmers are found in large numbers.
Thus while Christian-Muslim fights are going on in the township settlements, heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen are simultaneously sacking hundreds of Tiv farm settlements in Southern and central zones. Incidentally, the Tiv are predominantly Christian while th Fulani are Muslims, which make the whole thing more complicated.
Thousands of people both Christians and Muslims have been displaced and farming activities suspended which has made many to predict that there will be severe hunger in the next one or two years. There seems to be no end in sight as Fulani herdsmen have occupied the Tiv settlements and attack any Tiv person attempting to return. Many have lost their lives in the process of coming back to their homes.
Some people strongly believe that there is a political motive behind the crisis. Their argument is that the Acting Governor, Garba Umar who hails from the Northern part of the State is sponsoring the crisis in order to distabilise the Christian South which has been tipped to produce the next governor. The Acting Governor’s campaign posters are all over the streets which gives credence to the allegation against him.
Furthermore, while the crisis raged, the Ste Government did not do anything to stop it but rather busied itself with supplying relief materials. No security help was sought from the Federal Government. There has been very little or no media coverage by government-owned media. If there is any, it is about distribution of relief materials to give an impression that the government is concerned.
Several towns have been destroyed, thousands of villages have been deserted and hundreds of thousands of people rendered homeless. The Catholic Church is one of the worst hit. Thirty parishes have been adversely affected, some completely destroyed and others partially.
Eighty-five percent of parishioners in the Southern and Central arts of the State have been displaced. Many Churches and Rev. Fr.’s houses have been burnt down.
It is rather disturbing that Taraba State is situated in the North-Eastern part of the country and has experienced massive violence and yet it has not received media coverage like its neighbors such as Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. The current reality is quite grim as farmers mostly Tiv have been denied access to their rural home to resume their farming activities.
Each time they attempt to return, they are attacked and killed by Fulani herders who have occupied the farmlands. Many people have been displaced for over two years. This has led to total close down of four parishes while others are surviving under difficult conditions.
Fr. Anthony is looking to build a 3000 seat church attached to the Federal University Wakuri in Nigeria. Currently the Catholic students, and Catholics in the area do not have a place to meet. Masses are usually held outdoors and are sometimes disrupted by the weather. This facility would allow Catholics to worship in a modern, safe and climate appropriate place.
Thanks to generous donations a well has been dug and there will be fresh clean water available at the facility.
The foundation for the building has been dug. All by hand.
The Appeal for Assistance
How can you help? Contact Fr. Anthony and he will be able to let you know where you can send donations to make this dream into a reality.
Nigeria, an African country on the Gulf of Guinea, is known for its natural landmarks and wildlife reserves. Safari destinations such as Cross River National Park and Yankari National Park showcase waterfalls, dense rainforest, savanna and rare primate habitats. One of its most recognizable sites is Zuma Rock, a 725m-tall monolith outside the capital of Abuja that’s pictured on the national currency.
At nearly 180 million people it is the seventh-most populous country in the world. About half of the population identifies as Christian.