Thursday, March 01, 2012

On the bombing of the COCIN HQ Church, Jos

This is where our family worshipped, 1980 to 82.

BRIEF ADDRESS OF REV DR SOJA BEWARANG TO COCIN CHURCH LEADERS AT THE HEADQUARTERS ON THE OCCASION OF THE BOMB BLAST ON SUNDAY 26th FEBRUARY 2012 Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," a made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:1 – 13 NIV

Protocol

Dearly beloved COCIN Church leaders, people of Plateau and indeed all Nigerians, I welcome and greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to whom be the glory and majesty forever and ever.

This is the second time that I have called to address you on the state of the nation and the challenges of the church in the 21st century. The first call on the 16th January was to address you on the occasion of the removal of the fuel subsidy resulting to the nationwide strike. To - day I have called you on the occasion of the bomb blast, THE MOTHER OF ALL BOMB BLASTS that turned the President Church at the Headquarters to an arena and a tourist center. A Sunday when worship and worshippers were set into confusion and bewilderment.

I must thank you for responding to the call to come for this crucial briefing at a very short notice and at a time that movements on our roads are becoming not only hazardous but equally expensive. You have had to come, especially EC members when it was just a few days ago that you were here for the Executive Council meeting and some of you were at the inauguration of RCC Turu. This invitation dear leaders has had to be made because of the unfolding insecurity challenges in the country, challenges which are not just staring at us in the face, but are threatening to consume us if we do not move fast to address and contain. Distinguish church leaders COCIN is a church that has 107 years of peaceful co – existence across the country. Thus it has become very necessary for me to address you at this very crucial period in the history of our existence as a Church and Nation, because our internal cohesion is being progressively threatened by forces of Islamic fundamentalism that spreads violence and terror in an unabated manner. May I on behalf of the church use this opportunity to condole with the families and Government of Plateau State for the unnecessary and colossal loss of lives and property as a result of the bomb blasts. In the course of the bomb blast lives have been prematurely terminated in a brutal manner by those who do not mean us well. The church has been drawn backward in her quest to finish a place where the name of God will be worshiped and praised because of some few wicked, greedy, selfish, un-Godly and ungrateful people from within and outside Plateau State.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus, the only Prince of Peace comfort the families and replace what the worms have destroyed to the honor and glory of his name.

The philosophy of the Plateau person and a Christian in particular, is based on love, accommodation, live-and-let-live and a truly inviting disposition, particularly to visitors. In recent times this is abused and Christians are beginning to be seen as second citizens in the country.

TRUTH has always been hard to accept, someone said; “Truth is like drop of oil in a bucket and no amount of water can stop it from floating”. ONE truth we want to clearly state is that NO CHRISTIAN on the Plateau HAS and will EVER dream of starting a fight against people of another faith LET ALONE ARMING SELF WITH EXPLOSIVES TO CONCIOUSLY WIPE AWAY LIVES . In our 107yrs since the coming of SUM Missionaries on the Plateau, violence, coercion or force has never and will never be a tool or instrument for our evangelistic thrust, rather, it has always followed the footsteps of our master Jesus Christ in winning converts (Mark 6:11).

The Event of Sunday 26th February 2012 The Christian community in Jos particularly of COCIN Headquarters witnessed yet another Islamic Jihadist attack on their members at COCIN Headquarters Church (which shared a boundary with the Central Bank) in the early hours of Sunday, February 26, 2012, at about 7:20a.m. Information gathered by our officials has it that a navy blue colored Volkswagen Vento (sedan) accompanied pied two military personnel dressed in desert camouflage was escorted through the church security network deployed to strategic positions from the Central Bank axis to the Hillstation roundabout axis of Fidelis Tapgun Road Jos, by a Special military Task Force Hilux pick-up vehicle. On getting to the church gate, the military hilux drove on towards the Hillstation axis of the same road while the Vento car made a right turn to enter COCIN Headquarters Church. Meanwhile, there was another military personnel readily standing at the church gate requesting the church security to open the gate for the two personnel to drive in; They said in hausa bude masu. Sun kawo taimako ne meaning open for them they brought assistance. When the church security refused to oblige to his request, the vehicle rammed into the gate hitting everyone on his path, and made for the church auditorium. As soon as the vehicle had gained entrance, the soldier sitting at the front passenger seat threw himself out of the car and made a run towards the fence of the church through where he hoped to escape, while the driver sped without hesitation towards the church auditorium. Unfortunately for him, he ran over a motorcycle that was on his way and the car tire punctured. This retarded the speed of the car and on reaching the entrance of the auditorium, the bomb went off.

Immediately, the car shattered into pieces and the engine landed just about five meters before the pulpit and the shrapnel scattered all over. The driver’s body was amputated into several pieces also and shattered all over, within a radius of approximately one hundred meters. Furthermore, two young women an a child were killed immediately and confirmed dead and their corpses have since been deposited at the Plateau Specialist Hospital and JUTH mortuaries, while several others were injured and rushed to various hospitals namely; JUTH, Plateau Specialist Hospital, and ECWA Evangel Hospital, now Bingham University Teaching Hospital (Jankwano). Meanwhile, the soldier who leapt out of the bomb laden car was apprehended by angry members of the church and he died as a result of serious beating just as the security were trying to rescue him from them. Our officials visited the hospitals where the casualties were taken to and gathered that there were thirty seven injured people at the Plateau Specialist Hospital, and they include Mr. Alhamis Gukas, the Headquarters Church Warden, Hon. Yiljap Abraham, the state Commissioner for Information and Mr. Appollos Dabwang. There were thirteen at JUTH and the figure at Bingham University Teaching Hospital (Jankwano) had not been ascertained at the time this report was filed in. Their injuries ranged from very deep burns to fractures. And of course, some other victims had minor injuries. More so, twenty eight vehicles valued at over fifty million naira (N100,000,000:00) belonging to the Church and its members were destroyed.

The explosion also; a) Left the new church building under construction shattered b) The house of the Rev In Charge completely inhabitable c) The Secretariat which the Head office of COCIN shattered d) Several people injured inside the official residential quarters therein. In the meantime, the soldier who worked very hard at clearing the entrance for the bombers (who were also soldiers) was disarmed and arrested by the mobile police and military personnel who came to the scene of the incidence. He was beaten by the angry church youths before he was taken to the military hospital at Rukuba Cantonment.

A male eye witness and victim (name withheld for security reason) said that he saw the car racing in and all he could remember after the explosion was first, there was immense bright light followed by complete darkness and thick dust. Another victim who resides in the residential quarters within the church said that she was sweeping the sitting room that morning when she heard a very loud explosion and immediately, she saw huge balls of flame with roaring sound blowing in through the house windows. She said that she escaped the fire by lying on the floor.

While everyone who hears the sad incident is grieved and bitter about the actions of jihadists and the role of the military in unleashing terror on Christians in Nigeria, our prayer is that the Lord upholds our faith in Him. We are comforted too as the Boko Haram through its devilish agent meant evil for the church but our merciful and compassionate God turn it to good. COCIN Headquarters Church is the President’s church, where he worships, the Governor of the State and Key elders on the Plateau worship. Thus the head of the Church and the State with distinguished elders of the State could have been shattered in the distantly act.

RUMOUR GOING THE ROUND The Church frowns at the rumor going round and carried by some newspapers that there is a faction within the COCIN Church in Bauchi that resulted to the bomb attack. As the head of the church I am not aware of any faction within COCIN. Therefore the report if false and malicious.

OUR CHALLENGE I repeat what I said to you on the 16th January 2012. COCIN leaders, the events as we are experiencing in the country generally and at the COCIN Headquarters pose a very serious concern for the leadership and requires our collective response in prayers for wise council. Within these two months in the 2012 the church generally and particularly COCIN Regional Councils in the following States, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Kaduna and now Plateau have, and are still passing through difficult times. The church has consistently lost members young and old, male and female for no just reason.

I HAVE CALLED YOU AS LEADERS TO SAY THAT WE MUST GO BACK TO GOD AND POUR OUR HEARTS TO HIM IN PRAYERS. I need at this stage to encourage you from the word. In the face of a possible defeat and massacre, the servant of Elisha was confused and was at the point of giving up. Upon seeing the Syrian army, with its overwhelming display of might and arrogance, he cried to his master, demanding for what should be done. Elisha responded, and it is from his response that we as Gods’ chosen servants these dark days must take our cue. Our trust is not in human ability, but on He who is able to do far more than we ask or think. Elisha said, “ do not be afraid, …Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”(2Kgs. 6:16). My prayer for you is also along the line of Elisha’s prayer. May the Lord, God, whom you serve, open your eyes to discover the deep secret of trusting in him and relying on Him, even in the face of provocation and unwarranted impositions by the enemies of the Living God. Paul going through very difficult faith challenges of his life says; For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," a made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:1 – 13 I have called you to remind you THAT THE COUNTRY AS IT STANDS NOW SEEMS TO BE HELPLESS AS THE SECURITY THEMSELVES ARE HELPLESS. Human life is WORTHLESS to some group of people or how can one for WHATEVER REASON CONCIOUSLY ARM HIMSELF WITH DEADLY WEAPON IN AN ATTEMPT TO KILL HIMSELF AND OTHER PEOPLE FOR ANY REASON AT ALL. With the increasing activities of YAN TA’ADA whose target is CHRISTIAN WORSHIP CENTERS what can we say is the fate of the Christians in a country where the constitution guarantees us freedom of association and freedom of worship? What is happening is very scary to the unity of the country and the church.

THUS I HAVE CALLED YOU TO EMPHASY IN THE AREA OF PROPER SECURITY OF OUR CHURCHES AT ALL DAYS AND MORE ON DAYS OF WORSHIP. NO CHURCH ACTIVITY WILL TARRY TO LATE EVENING, ALL FELLOWSHIP AND CONFERENCES MUST END BY 6PM At this juncture I can’t help but recall the bold statement of our dear President Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan when he publicly admitted that there is virtually no sector that the sect had not infiltrated. He observed that they are found within the Executive Council, the National and State Assemblies, The Military and para-military establishments, the police, the SSS and elsewhere. Being the Chief Security Officer of the nation, we cannot but agree with him completely and ask too that something be done to fish them out. As if this was not worrisome enough, he went on to drop yet another mind bogging comment when he asserted that the crisis as it is being prosecuted under the guise of BOKO HARAM or rather ‘yan TA’ADA’ is far worse than the civil war fought and won without victor and vanquish. It baffles me and probably the minds of most level minded Nigerians that the identity of secessionist and rebels hiding under the name of the Islamic sect BOKO HARAM or ‘yan TA’ADA’ has remained an issue for speculation despite the fact that for many months they have been unleashing their reign of terror on innocent Nigerians. It baffles me also that even when some suspects are apprehended, they are treated with some fear as though they are sacred cows that are above the laws of the land. It is more mind bogging and amazing that the emerging scenario is the impression, and which is fast gaining acceptance that certain people are above the laws of this land and in addition, that peace in Nigeria is at the resolve of some selfish, misguided and deluded extremist radical Islamic sects who use terror to press home their demands, even though we know that common sense demonstrates clearly that their demands contradict and infringe on the rights, which we are all entitled to. With the crisis of Boko Haram that is centered on bombing churches, if nothing is done to stem the tide, it may well gather into an unstoppable typhoon. The consequences of such a possibility can best be imagined than described.

THE ROLE OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT Having commiserated with the Plateau State Government over the wanton destruction of lives and property, the COCIN Church wishes to seize this opportunity to appreciate and commend the efforts of government, Plateau State House of Assembly, Traditional Rulers, Plateau Elders and Members of the National Assembly and House of Representative to stand by the church during this very difficult moment. In addition, the Church appreciates Government for providing accommodation for the Rev in charge, medical responsibility of those hospitalized and assistance to the families of those who lost their love ones. We are calling upon Government as a matter of urgency to intensify security of its citizens and places of worship.

THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The Church also wishes to appreciate the visit of AIG and Plateau members of National Assembly and House of Representatives. The Church equally calls upon the Federal Government to be up and doing in working tirelessly to ensure the speedy apprehending and bringing to an end this menace call Boko Haram. Having appreciated the magnanimity of the Federal Government, we however view certain actions and roles of the law enforcement agencies, particularly, the military with deep concern. If soldiers are detailed to protect us, they must do so without favor.

The Church calls upon the Federal Government for compensation

THE NEED FOR UNITY AMONG PLATEAU PEOPLE The issue of repeated crisis on the Plateau must not be interpreted in the light of bad governance for every leader since the time of J D Gomwalk has gone through crisis challenges. It is not political because of all the crisis I know, no political office, nor political leaders have suffered any lost. It is neither tribal because the era of tribal wars has long passed. I am convinced that it Jihadists movement for control and expansion of Islamic Kingdom. Thus the need for the UNITY of the Plateau man and woman can’t be over emphasized for divided we fall and united we stand. As Plateau people we must not be a CROWD but a TEAM and each shepherd of one another. Benjamin Franklin on signing the declaration of the American Independence said; “We must indeed all hang together or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately”. Plateau people must need to hang together no matter our differences whether cultural, tribal, denominational or political. In fact unity means combining or joining of separate things or entities to form one.

THE POSITION OF COCIN My fellow church leaders every President has its size of problem to contend with. It is just about the second month since my assumption of office as the President of COCIN and already there are problems that requires our collective thoughts, encouragement and words of council. What will our collective resolve about the future of church? May I reaffirm our position as a Church, that no preacher particularly of COCIN stock will preach provocative sermon as this will be a contradiction for the purpose of our establishment and existence. The Church of Christ In Nigeria is Evangelical founded on the principles of Missions and Evangelism. The purpose of the Church is holistic as seen through its Mission Programs, its Medical services in Rural and Urban areas and schools spread all over the country. Thus it will be foolish for us to fight those for whom Christ died, people that are the target of the great Commission. We will not resort to the kind of behavior that our aggressors resort to because we believe it is foolish to fight for God, who has millions of Angels at his disposal to fight for him if need be. It portrays our God as weak when we think we, his creation will be the ones to fight for him. COCIN will never be provoked to fight for God because he is a God of love and life and does not delight in the death of a sinner. We will instead always call on our members to be alert, to watch and pray. We will always call on constituted authority to do what is their constitutional responsibility to protect law abiding citizens from internal or external aggression.

To those who think they will achieve their goals only by violence, be reminded of the words of Jesus who said “Put your sword back in its place….for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” The violence you are spreading is what will consume you and your descendants. As believers we do not fear those who can only destroy our physical body do not have authority over our souls. Doing this to us has not and cannot diminish our resolve to continue serving the true God.

1. COCIN views the events 26th February 2012, with deep regrets and outrage. We pray for healing for those who have been hurt and traumatized, comfort for those who lost loved ones and courage for people to move on with their lives as God is in full control. People of goodwill have nothing to fear. 2. For the Church, the truth about Plateau crisis cannot be any other than JIHADIST desire in history to expand Islamic territory. So the Plateau crisis has little to do with politics but is rooted in the observation of the German National Colonial Conference and Islam of October 6th 1910, as an expression of Islam’s threat to peace, which states that: The Mohammedan always in his heart will be hostile to the Christian ruler, because it is a fundamental doctrine of his creed that infidels shall not rule him.

Also as expressed by a Muslim Sheikh at Baghdad, who wrote in a letter to the early Christians missionaries titled; The Last Word to Europe, saying:

...A Christian, whatever may be his position, because of the one fact that he is a Christian, appears to us a blinded creature, who has completely lost the dignity of mankind.

Similarly, an Egyptian Gazette contains a report on the attitude of Muslims towards Christians, thus:

I have never seen in my life a more silly or disgusting thing than the sight of a Mohammedan who sits with Christian in a public place and declares to the Christian that he likes him as much as he likes himself, and that they both worship one God and profess a sound religion which encourages virtue and fights vice. While saying these things the Moslem may be feeling against the Christian hearer hatred so intense that a single spark of his concealed hatred will suffice to burn both persons and reduce them to atoms.

The security challenges before the new Commandant of the Security Task Force.

I do not envy the new commandant of the STF. Just two days of your arrival on the State the church witness the most devastating bomb blast at the Headquarters of the State which is predominantly COCIN. You have a great task ahead of you to do if you to be accepted by COCIN members given what happened last Sunday. You have to work hard and honestly too to build confidence in people and maintain the reputable image of the great Nigerian Army which is known Internationally for Peace Keeping outside the Country. You must aim at achieving that on the Plateau. The Church wish you well provided you remain neutral and pursue the cause of your duty with a high sense of credibility. I want to assure you that COCIN members and the Christian Church on the Plateau are very peaceful and law abiding. The Church is always angered when it is attacked and members killed before and form of security is provided and when they want to defend themselves they fall double victims of brutality, arrest and detention.

RECOMMENDATIONS 1. We feel that the Nigerian Armed forces is a neutral organ, since they have a constitutional responsibility to defend and protect all citizens of Nigeria without showing partiality, bias or prejudice as was witnessed in the 26th February bomb blast. This is a dangerous trend capable of creating security breach. We are therefore calling upon the Federal Government to reassess the neutrality of its security apparatus and Armed Forces. Confidence in the security personnel is fast eroding, we therefore call upon the Federal Government to reassess and maintain the neutrality of the Armed forces of Nigeria. 2. The availability of weapons in the hands of unofficial people needs to be investigated. 3. We wish to assure all and sundry that despite the provocative manoeuvres by BOKO HARAM the church will move on, wax stronger as no gate of Hades will prevail against it.

CONCLUSION The role of the Church on the Jos Plateau is to offer holistic and quality life to its members both spiritually and materially. The Church, therefore, condemns in its totality the breach of peace on the Plateau since chaos and crisis are not concomitant to the provision of quality life. Furthermore, development has been spearheaded on the Jos Plateau and indeed in the whole of Nigeria by the Church, through its numerous educational, medical, economical and social programs. Crisis situation usually destroys and stifles development. Christians are by nature peaceful and no Christian in his/her right mind will dream of starting a crisis against members of other religious faiths. Christians are largely usually not on the streets on Sunday mornings, they are usually busy attending various Sunday services. However, with regards to the event of Sunday 26th February 2012 security of churches must be intensive to avoid further lost of lives. Let us take a leaf from the Lord’s charge to Joshua in Joshua 1: 6 - 9 which states: “… Be strong and courageous for you are the one who will lead this people to posses the land… Be strong and very courageous. Be sure to obey all the instructions Moses gave you… Study the Book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night and you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do…”

While we continue to pray about these challenges, I urge you to be strong and very courageous.

Finally, let me seize this opportunity to specially thank you for your sacrifices in the face of threats, intimidation and even loss of lives.

My brothers in the Lord; be rest assured that with the Lord on our side victory is certain.

Thank you for listening may God bless, protect and guide you as you travel back to your respective destinations.

We will continue in prayers during the week thanking God for his protection for what could have happened last Sunday can be better imagined than described.

I bring you greetings from missionaries in the UK, USA and Australia.

Once more, thank you all for coming may God bless you and take you back safely.

Thank the Press for timely and honest report of the Sunday 26th incident.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria Long live Plateau state Long live COCIN

Thank you for praying with us


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