HOMILY ON THE OCCASION OF BURYING THE 12 VICTIMS OF FULANI HERDSMEN ATTACK IN ASSO, WHICH OCCURRED SATURDAY 15/4/17, BY BISHOP JOSEPH D, BAGOBIRI 21/4/17
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8
At difficult moments like this when we bury our dead, whose only crime is that the belong to an ethnic group and religion different from that of their killers, our only comfort and source of solace is the fact of Jesus’ resurrection which guarantees our bodily resurrection. Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection and this fact helps us to cope with the evil that beset us today in Southern Kaduna and the world at large. May the souls of our departed love ones rest in peace with the Lord.
Easter Vigil Saturday 15/4/17 was another sad day for all of us (especially members of the Asso Community), just when we were preparing to celebrate Easter the next day, some armed Fulani Herdsmen invaded the Asso community with sophisticated weapons and killed 12 people while living many injured and lots of destruction to properties. The ugly incident happened right at the frontage of the Catholic Church in Asso, when Christians were assembled for the traditional Easter Vigil Celebration. Most of those killed had participated the day before (i.e Good Friday), in the dramatization of the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus in the hands of his adversaries. Little did they know that their end too will soon come like that of Jesus. Like Jesus too, we are confident that these souls are living in heaven with the Lord today.
The reckless killings of these vulnerable and defenseless people, which has become a pattern in our environment is the work of evil persons that are bent on destroying our society and the country at large. For so long now our society has been under siege by terrorist who are confirmed to be Fulani Herdsmen. They have often attacked and killed innocent people, burn down and reduced to rubles many communities. The number of deaths seems to be rising everyday with mass graves littered all around us, in places like Katsak and Godogodo in Jema’a Local government area, in Moroa Land and Takad areas in Kaura Local Government Area, around Zonkwa in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area and now here at Asso. We are left alone with no help either from the State or Federal Governments. If any help comes at all, it comes often too late and very little too. The Six soldiers that were left in Asso to protect the people could not come to their rescue, they too were running for cover we are told. No single arrest was made, and they could no demobilize the Gulf car that brought the terrorist to rain mayhem on the Community, an indication of lack of preparedness on the side of those sent to protect. Our people are killed even when the Police and Army are on patrol. Government is not doing enough to help bring this scourge to an end, despite the colossal sum of money that is being said to have been expended in the State towards providing security. The impact of Government’s spending in this regard is not being felt in terms of dividens of better security within this environment. From Asso therefore, we are calling with a loud voice that this culture of killing innocent and defenseless people with impunity must stop. Government must do more than she is doing now to put a halt to this insanity of terrorism.
The mass killings in our environment are pre-meditated, targeted and are becoming systemic or a pattern. Unless something urgent is done to stop this the natives of this environment would be at the fringe of extinction. The killers are well known and yet little is done to stop them. One Aliyu Ismail Gwarzo expressed this fact of killings being premeditated in a message that was well circulated in the social media when he said: Many say we Hausa/Fulani are behind Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen attacks. My answer is what do you expect? We do not have economic power or intellectual power. All we have is political power and they want to take even that from us Northerners. We must fight and we will fight back in order to keep it…The war has just begun, the mujahedeen are more than ready and by Allah we shall win. If they don’t want an ISIS in Nigeria then they must give us back the Presidency and Political power.
From this we can see that there is a well hatched and heavily funded programme of systematic elimination and uprooting of the natives of this environment with a view not only to impoverishing and reducing them to sub-human standard of living, but also in taking over their lands through violence and converting same into grazing fields. Today in the Pasakori area around Gidan Waya, farmlands have been reduced to grazing lands. The natives cannot enter these bushes to farm or harvest their crops for fear of being killed by the herdsmen. We do not know for how long this will continue and yet we have Government in place. This plot is being carried out in piece meal, and within a short span of years since this wave of terror started, thousands of lives have been lost, many people are displaced having lost their houses and are left squatting with relations. These killings are becoming systemic, and it would seem they are carried out with complicity from Government in the Nation. We have reasons for this suspicion.
It is a pity that in a time and age like ours, there are people who still believe that MIGHT IS RIGHT. This is the principle that the Fulani Herdsmen terrorists and their sister terrorist organizations are operating in the world today. This mentality guided jihadist organizations in their global conquests either in North Africa, the Middle East, in what used to be called Asia minor, which is present day Western, central and southern Asia, and also in Turkey. The jihadists established themselves in these places not through persuasive non violent preaching of their religion, but through the use of force that often go with mass murder of innocent and vulnerable persons. The Usman Danfodio Caliphate came to be established through violence and the show of might. This is exactly what the Fulani jihadists are doing today in Southern Kaduna, the middle belt region and now with incursions into both the South East and south West of Nigeria. The forceful take-over of land and other properties belonging to other people is an uncivilized and retrogressive behavior. It is a great pity that such irresponsible behavior is taking place in Nigeria where the rule of law is said to be in place. Nothing can justify this kind of satanic action of forceful take-over of peoples’ land and the atrocities that go along with this evil. This must not be allowed to continue.
While we do not support reprisal attacks, Communities must rise to current day challenges by evolving measures that are legal and permissible to protect themselves, their property and their land. They must work hard in dismantling all the structures of violence, discrimination and marginalization in the political and economic spheres, which are being employed today to keep them perpetually in servitude. We must say no to revenge, but yes to self defense. There is a big world of difference between self defense and revenge. While the former is spontaneous and requiring no deliberation since it is an instinctive survival strategy, the latter on the other hand requires due deliberation and so is pre-meditated. While the former responds concurrently to the act of aggression committed against it to prevent or mitigate its damage, the latter occurs a long time after the evil has been committed and is carried out as an act of reprisal or vendetta. Christians must not succumb to the temptation to revenge. They are to adhere to the Lord’s teaching on forgiveness, but proportionate use of self defense is not only permissible but sometimes an obligation and a duty and they do not need the permission of any Government official to defend themselves in the face of unjust aggression.
We once again call for justice and fairness in the running of the affairs of Kaduna State in particular and the Nation in general. Those that divine providence has entrusted with the chilling responsibility of governing the State and Nation politically must govern justly and in a manner that includes not one that excludes certain segments of the Society. We therefore ask for Good Governance in Kaduna State and the Nation that will include the following:
- That those who take up the mantle of leadership will see the whole state as their Constituency and so should devout themselves conscientiously to ensure Justice and fairness for all irrespective of Religious, ethnic and political considerations.
- That they will work hard to ensure equitable distribution of political offices among adherents of the two main religions in the State.
- That they will see to it that in the application and use of resources that had accrued to the State and the siting or locating of developmental projects and services for the improvement of the quality of life of the people, that due regard is given to the North/South divide in the State and that no part of the State is placed in a disadvantaged position.
- That the delineation of constituencies and siting of polling units which was arbitrarily and fraudulently carried out in the past to ensure rigging from the source in favour of one section and religion in Kaduna State must be revisited and corrected using both the geographical and numeric data that were ignored when the current policy was foisted on the people.
- We also demand that giving the destruction that has taken place in Southern Kaduna in terms of loss of lives and properties, that the policy of reconstruction and rehabilitation undertaken by the Federal Government in respect of the North East and some parts of Plateau and Kano State must be extended to Southern Kaduna not as a concession but an entitlement. We asked that a bill for this be presented at both State and National Legislative assemblies.
- That they will see to it that the success achieved so far in the promotion of a culture of Religious and ethnic harmony in the State by the Makarfi and other past administrations in the State are not only sustained but further built upon and strengthen.
In difficult times like this, I wish to call on us to rediscover anew our Christian faith and live it with greater commitment and generosity. We should turn God who is our strength and refuge. God alone is capable of saving us from the incessant attacks of our adversaries. He is a God ever ready to help in time of trouble, because of this, we should not be afraid, even when mountains tumble into the depths of the sea (Ps 46). Our challenges notwithstanding, this is no time for sorrow and despondency, because we know our God is in charge of the affairs of men. Our faith in the resurrection of Christ should spur us up and fill us with courage to live on. These deaths will not be in vain. Our liberation is at hand. God will fight and defend us from all evil. The souls of dead ones are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them.
Christ has risen and his bodily resurrection serves as the basis for the Christian faith. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 we read, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain”.
His bodily resurrection anticipates the future resurrection of all believers. First Corinthians 15:16 teaches, The resurrection of Christ serves as the basis for the future resurrection of all who believe in Him. In the resurrection of Jesus, our dead brothers and sisters are now alive. May their gentle souls rest in peace with the Lord.