It’s been about six weeks since we arrived in Nigeria (see map). Much seems familiar – from the Hausa greeting process to the way people dress so colourfully and above all the warm and genuine Nigeria welcome. Since we are new to Jos, there are also many things to learn and people to meet both for professional and personal reasons. We are learning to appreciate the beauty of the place and particularly the MCC House where we live –
an oasis of flowering trees and shrubs planted over 40 years by many MCC workers.
We have also been reunited with old friends from Maiduguri days and it feels like time has not passed – until we look at where our children are and note (some of our) graying hair and the slight sagging of our cheeks.
We are struck by the contrasts to 1993 as well. The intervening years from when we left have not been kind to the north of Nigeria – particularly in the last dozen years or so. While we note some levels of “development”, it is uneven and the daily struggle for so many is grinding.
The big change is in the sense of insecurity that underlies people’s lives and our work. News of inter-communal clashes with tens of people killed daily are not uncommon. The city of Maiduguri in Borno State where we lived and worked so peacefully in the early 90’s is a no-go area for us and a place of high insecurity for Nigerians. The army is out in full force trying to respond to the unrest instigated by the Boko Haram but have found that keeping control of their own forces in these anarchic environments is a major challenge as well.
On the other hand, daily we meet people who are working towards making a difference — women helping women to learn to read and write; groups of people helping each other start small businesses; committed health workers alleviating the struggle of this living with HIV/AIDS. Myriad folks struggle to sort out the truth of the conflicts from the rumours and to bring containment, clarity and focus. They seek to name, understand, and tell about the issues of deep injustice that create fertile ground for extremism in all its forms.
Above all, we know we are in a place where God and faith deeply matter. This is difficult for us to grasp because faith forms the basis from which the most inspiring commitments to creative, and life-giving work derive.
It is also the foundation for ideologies that see destruction and chaos as a means of righteousness.
We have decided to name this blog, “PeaceoNigeria.” We are here as learners and sojourners for a brief time seeking to work with all those who hope for the “Peace of Nigeria.” It is also a play on words – since this will be our “piece o Nigeria” a small window into life in this intense place where beauty resides with squalor, vibrant markets forestall insecurity, and the rains come to moderate and clean the dry season’s heat and dust.