A Catholic priest serving in Nigeria’s newly created Wukari Diocese in Taraba State which has a long history of tribal conflicts has erected a 12-foot crucifix in the Diocese to foster reconciliation among the warring tribes.
Fr. Anthony Odey who erected the crucifix says that he hopes the gesture will “draw and invoke the spirit of prayers” to end the intractable decades-long war between Tiv and Jukun tribes.
“Peace is what we have always prayed for and with the crucifix, we believe that Jesus will speak to his people since he is the prince of peace,” says Fr. Odey, the parish priest of St. James’ the Great Pastoral Area of Wukari Diocese that was created in December last year.
Adu, the area in which the pastoral area is located, is an agrarian farming community that is dominated by Tiv-speaking people who have been the victims of inter-ethnic violence that was first experienced in 1959.
The Tiv/Jukun violence reportedly occurs frequently in phases with the second phase appearing in 1980, the third in 1990, the fourth one in 2001, and the fifth one occurring 2019.
The fifth phase which claimed the life of a priest who was shot and burnt while returning from a meeting to mediate in a conflict was followed by the recent one in 2023.
In the November 6 report, Fr. Odey said that the constant attacks have instilled fear in the people within the community and feels that the crucifix will be looked at as a source of solace thereby inspiring the perpetrator to embrace peace.
“Members of the community are always afraid of coming back home because there is no peace. And if the Gospel of Jesus must be preached, we need people, and that people can go there to pray, trusting that God will heal and restore them,” the Nigerian Priest said.
This year’s July clashes that involved the Karimjos and Wurkuns tribes claimed at least 50 lives with massive destruction of property.
In August, the pioneer Bishop of the Diocese decried communal clashes in the region calling for peace as “a breathing space” to realize development in the zone.
“We are really tired of being the epicenter of communal clashes in the State and in the country – a situation that has refused to give us a breathing space for peace and development to thrive in the zone in particular and the State in general,” Bishop Mark Maigida Nzukwein said.
The bishop added “Peace and tranquility have eluded Southern Taraba for quite some time now because, unfortunately, the inhabitants of this zone have refused to give peace a chance. Or rather they have failed to understand the true concept, the value and foundation for peace.”
The 54-year-old Nigerian bishop urged the State Government to rise up to the occasion in the State and, in justice, explore all means possible in order to broker a truce between the warring parties for the sake of peace.