Called to Witness Nigeria, Travelogue

Connecting Amidst the Rubble

The two tribal chiefs from the communities at conflict with one another join hands after sharing with the Called to Witness group the process of reconciliation that the CRS peacebuilding has helped them to embrace.

This afternoon we were welcomed into the village of Namu, in the Archdiocese of Shendam, about 3 hours outside of Jos. The Archdiocese of Jos Office of Justice, Development and Peace Caritas Committee had briefed us earlier regarding the 2005-06 crisis between the Gami and Pan Tribes which had resulted in the destruction of property, lives and relationships, including the displacement of thousands in the Namu community. Our welcome by the recently resettled people of Namu included a hope filled ‘handshake of peace’ between the Christian Chief of the Pan Tribe and the Muslim Chief of the Gami Tribe which took place beneath the branches of a gnarled old tree that had survived the recent violence.

Several of us then had the honor to spend time with a few of the youth who live in the village and, like young people everywhere, they were eager to share their stories. Two teenage boys told us of their water woes—most notably that the closest well is over 10 km/6 miles away and of a water system that was installed but has never worked. They also shared their joy by inviting us into their home, proudly showing us their new handmade furniture, and explaining that extended families with as many as 25 or more children lived in each 2 room dwelling. The reality of the situation was stark as we witnessed new houses being constructed along side the charred remains of fire bombed homes.

Another young man introduced us to his wife, 2 children, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and various siblings and cousins. As he showed us around he quietly shared with us that his father had been killed during the conflict and then went on to speak of his hope for the future. As we prepared to depart, 13 year old Genevieve, who had joined a group of children running their dark hands through my blond hair, took my hand, smiled up at me and called me her friend. I was humbled by the sincerity of her precious gift of friendship.

During the long ride back to Jos we reflected on our basic human rights and responsibilities and shared intentions for those we had met, while we pondered the contrasts we had seen and the connections we had found amidst the rubble in Namu.

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