By Mathias Luka Agbu
“A church’s vitality is not measured by how many people fill the pews, but rather by how much these people are filled with Jesus”-Mark Wilson
In my lifetime I have seen numerous recurrences of the Jukun and Tiv crisis. Over the years, the triggers for each of the conflict have been slightly different and government responses to the crises has always target the immediate causes. Since the trigger of each of the conflict is unique, it is safe to conclude that the underlying cause for this conflict have not been addressed yet, hence the recurrences in every slight provocation.
There is no doubt that the government is a principal state actor, but a collaborative stakeholders’ approach can accelerate the path to a lasting peace. Personally, I have a strong interest in seeing lasting solution to this age long crisis. Because this crisis has been a major drawback to our progress as a people. To arrive at a lasting solution, I believe there is the need to identify the real cause and address it at the root.
In this piece, I wish to propose a unique and different approach in addition to the many ideas presented through other avenues over the years. Most times, in problem solving, finding a common ground could be a key and a rallying point that can lead to a sustainable solution.
My approach is going to focus on the value system of the Jukun and Tiv people. I believe our biggest crisis is our loss of good values. The effect or result of this approach is not immediate but long-term. If we must have a sustainable solution, we must focus on how we can change the value system of the people. Majority of the Jukun and Tiv people derive their value systems from amongst others — their religious beliefs.
Interestingly, the Jukun people and the Tiv people are predominantly Christians and belong largely to the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN), Reformed Christian Church of Nigeria(RCCN) and the “Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar” (N.K.S.T) translated Universal Reformed Christian Church. These churches belong to same denominational block — the TEKAN block. It will be impossible to separate the church from the society. I believe every society is a product of the teachings and preaching they have been exposed to.
Every society is a product of her value system. The church is responsible for building and instilling the right value system in any society. Our messages must reflect God’s principles and values. Love is God’s value system. Love is the center of true Christianity.
The church is the supposed determinant of the worldview of majority of Jukun and Tiv people. This commonality can be a viable convergence point that can be utilized given the call to love your neighbour as yourself is a strong tenet in the Christian faith. In John’s letter to the church, which in this context will be to both sides, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” 1 John 4:20.
This is a proof that if the secular peace instrument has failed and have not produced the desired solution, it is up to the church to come to the rescue and be the game changer. I believe the church must move towards finding solutions to the ills of the society. The church must be solution oriented. We cannot continue to shy away from the problems in the society and still expect to influence and impact that same society.
This is a challenge for the church to employ the key value of Christianity which is love; loving God and our neighbors as ourselves and put an end to this feud. And the pastors or priests over these people have the responsibility to preach the message committed unto them, which is the gospel of love and peace.
The pulpit has a command of influence on the populace. History teaches how the apostles used the gospel to bring an end to superiority battle. In the early days of the church some group maintained that the life of a Jew is more valuable than the life of a Gentile. Using his pulpit one of the early “pastors” – St Paul the Apostle – stipulated in his famous Epistle to the Galatians that ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).” Can our pastors preach similar epistle; that there is neither Tiv nor Jukun, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. I believe if we can believe and genuinely preach this message, it can be the game changer.
This gospel of our sameness in Christ must be preached by the church on both sides. Growing into the fullness of Christ is the ultimate of the Christian faith. And Christ is love personified, some of his words are; Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Little wonder, the first believers were called Christian translated “Christ-like”. With the sustained crisis between two ethnic groups that argued to profess Christ, are we really Christlike in the manner of the Antioch believers. The ball is in the court of the church. The church needs to equip the believers — to turn away from holding to the outward form of the religion but rejecting its real power — to the fullness of the stature of Christ.
The culture of the kingdom of God is superior to the Tiv and Jukun culture. Our faith is eternal — both for the now and hereafter while the tribe is temporal. As such our loyalty to that which is eternal should supersede that which is temporal – the tribe.
In conclusion, given that all conventional instrument has failed to yield a lasting peace between the Tiv and the Jukun, the Church must rise to become the light. It is time, the pulpit makes it loud and clear the message of love. I always referred to this scripture as the litmus test for maturity in Christianity: My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. (I John 4:7).