Saturday, February 06, 2010

A letter from Archbishop of Jos, Rev Dr Ben Kwashi

The Archbishop of Jos, Rev Dr Ben Kwashi had a fine article in Christianity Today. Click on the title for the link. Now he has written a very fine letter.

2 February 2010

Dear Friends,

Peace and greetings.

As a person who has invested in lives – in men and women, young and old, people who were heading for destruction, drunkards, drop-outs, drug addicts, rich and poor, people of all categories, but people to whom through the grace of God we ministered the gospel of salvation, and who were then transformed, and changed to become valuable tools for further investment in the community – now, to see such lives destroyed aches my heart. In all my years of ministry God has called me to bless people, to invest in social community developments, in the building of schools, clinics, co-operatives for farmers, in setting up small scale businesses in villages and towns – and to see all these destroyed and come to nothing grieves my heart. I am even more grieved when I see great potential, great opportunities in lives in which God would have demonstrated his grace and power being destroyed by the machinations and evil calculations of some reckless and godless but cowardly and faceless people. I am pained and grieved.

I cannot but thank God for the elders of my generation who trained us to build, to develop ourselves and to look ahead for a brighter future for Nigeria. The sponsors of today’s acts of evil and those who arm these young people will be judged, whether in this life or in the life to come, because God is a righteous God.

It is fast becoming fashionable to look for reasons, whether remote, far-fetched or imaginary, in order to discredit the Christian gospel and the church. In 2001 in Jos a girl was said to be crossing a place of Muslim prayer on a Friday, and the next thing we knew was that churches were being burnt down. The confused fighting that ensued between communities, and several other issues which emerged and out of which different people wanted to settle different scores, all found a scapegoat in the church, and very soon it became labelled as a “religious crisis”. In 2008 an election collation process was interrupted in Jos North and even though this was a purely political matter, the church was the first target. Again the cheap excuse was to label the whole matter as a “religious crisis”.

This year Malam Kabiru chose to build his house on a Sunday morning; it was a structure not far from an E.C.W.A. Church and a simple misunderstanding that could have been so easily resolved there and then, soon became a matter for guns and cutlasses, resulting in several lives lost and an unquantifiable amount of property destroyed. Again, it was easy for the international media and those who do not wish this nation well, quickly to set in motion a polarization between religious communities and to build walls of division between peoples. This was done with the sole aim of hastily laying blame on the church and covering up evil deeds with powerful propaganda, with a total disregard for lives, property and homes lost, and for wounds which require healing. The media mentioned the worst stories, as if by doing so they have made a significant contribution to healing, reconciliation and peace. It is a glamorous failure on their part. Moreover they have failed to take up stories such as those of Christians who were kept safe in a mosque for three days until the crisis was over, or of over a hundred Muslims who were kept safe in a church until the curfew was lifted. They have totally ignored communities in Jos, Bukuru and the environs who came together as Christians and Muslims, with local police involvement, to agree on sitting down together, living in peace and harmony, and in covenant to settle all disputes on any matters amongst themselves without violence or bloodshed.

I have heard some people say: the crisis is all about settlers and indigeneship, and I wonder what that has to do with M. Kabiru’s building and the church? Was there a fight before the plot of land was sold to him? I wonder what that has to do with the production of arms, fake army uniforms, and the destruction of lives and property. Is that not a matter for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to resolve? Why should that cause the church to be so viciously attacked and attempts made to destroy the gospel of peace? Some have even said that it is the search for political supremacy. My question remains: why attack the church? The church, the gospel of Jesus Christ and Christians are the wrong targets.

I am convinced, I am persuaded, that there is no gospel if all that is seen is destruction. There is no gospel if man is not reconciled to God and man is not reconciled to man. There is no gospel if peace from God the Father is not brought to man and if peace is not given from man to man. I believe with my whole heart that there is no gospel of revenge or retaliation or vengeance. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God, so that whoever believes in the gospel, no matter the nationality or the locality of that person, the gospel will be seen in his or her life, and the fruit of that gospel will be seen in righteousness, holiness, service, development, health, physical and spiritual blessings that accompany the person in the community. The Christian gospel does not destroy: it builds and brings life in all its fullness to everybody without discrimination of race or sex, age or background.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

The Lord be with you,

+The Most Rev. Dr. Benjamin A. Kwashi
Archbishop of Jos

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