— by Dave
Since our arrival in Nigeria we’ve attended many different churches and experienced different forms of preaching, singing and worship. We’ve heard prayers of gratitude because there was no violence this past week. We’ve been told that there are families who choose not to bring their children to church in order not to expose the whole family to potential killing in case of violence. The heightened security throughout the city including road blocks, scanners and barricades around churches is something we’re getting used to seeing on Sunday mornings.
The church that we finally selected to attend on a regular basis begins at 6:30am and is only 5 minutes from our house. Over 900 people pack the sanctuary of this Catholic Church led by a priest who has become a close friend. A fascinating prayer that everyone prays by heart every Sunday morning after the sermon is not the Lord’s prayer but a PRAYER FOR POLITICAL, ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS PEACE IN PLATEAU STATE.
2010 was a bloody year for Jos and Plateau State. Close to 1,000 people were killed in spates of violent conflict between people groups. The clashes were called “religious violence” by many news sources, but digging deeper reveals that ethnic, political and economic interests were at the root of the conflict. Jos has seen similar clashes over the years since 2001.
In August 2010 the General Assembly of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos focussed their discussion and prayers on the theme, “The Challenges of Religious and Political Conflicts to the Church in Plateau State”. In a 2-page message to the world they include advice to the Nigerian government, a request for aid from care givers around the world and a statement to the church which said:“We pray for peace in our hearts, our homes, our state and country. Let us be the first to say “no to violence” and be in the frontline of developing a culture of peace and non violence. Let us make room for others, respect each other, learn to appreciate our differences and overcome evil with good. No doubt, many people are hurting deeply, having been traumatized by the experience of the violence we witnessed. We must however “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice”, and have the courage to forgive. With St. Francis we pray, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me show love; where there is injury, pardon, where there is doubt, faith, where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.””
The Catholic leadership concluded their statement with a prayer that has been sent out to all of the Catholic Churches in Plateau State and is repeated faithfully every Sunday morning:God the Son our Redeemer; God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier, We praise and thank You for the precious gift of Plateau State endowed with good weather, fertile land and a generous people. We have been plagued by political, ethnic and religious crises And have suffered the destruction of lives and property We humbly ask for forgiveness from you and from one another Heal our wounds with the radiance of Your love and mercy And teach us to live in peace and harmony Use our leaders as instruments of peace, social development and love Help them to be selfless in service and to lead us in the path of dialogue and reconciliation, so that we can truly be one family, working for the common good Bless and provide for our youth and help them to be peace loving Lord, may the weapons of evil, hatred and violence be silenced by love May we enjoy unity and stability as your children who live, move and have our being in you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. V: O Jesus Prince of Peace R: Be merciful to Plateau State and grant us permanent peace V: Our Lady Queen of Peace R: Obtain for us peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our State. All: Amen.