We cannot but begin this message on a note of gratitude to Almighty God who in its infinite goodness and mercy has made it possible for us to gather here in his name. It is by his divine will and providence that we are alive to see the New Year 2016. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen
The year 2015 was no doubt a historic and trying year in the history of our county Nigeria. Among many other things, it was another year of our General Elections and many prophets of doom had prophesied that Nigeria will not stand as one nation beyond that year. But by God’s grace and through the selfless sacrifice of many Nigerians we have been spared what was to be a national calamity and disintegration of Nigeria as a nation.
In our dear State Taraba it was quite a challenging year. The Southern and Central parts of our State have been engulfed in violent crises for the past three years resulting to the dead of many and massive displacement of people many of whom are yet to return. We have gone through the elections, re-run elections and court cases at the wake of which some lives were lost and property worth millions destroyed. May those who have been killed rest in Peace. Praying also for those who were injured, that they may recover quickly. Amen
That God has seen us through all these trying moments is enough reason to come together as a Christian community to thank Him and like Oliver Twist ask for more. It is on this note that I commend the efforts of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Taraba State Chapter for organizing this New Year service, so that we storm heaven with our prayers for better tomorrow, having examined our consciences in the light of God’s word and resolve to do our part.
God has blessed us with abundant natural and human resources both as a nation and as a State. If properly harnessed and judiciously used, these resources can take us to greatness. God has also blessed us with rich cultural heritage. He wants us to see our ethnic and religious diversity as a potential for development.
As we gather here as the Body of Christ aware of the happenings among us, we cannot afford to play the ostrich and turn blind eyes and deaf ears to a monster that rears its head in our State and the entire country. As believers in Christ the Prince of Peace and the light of all nations and peoples we must make sure that we do not allow this ugly beast to mar this promising New Year. The monster I refer to is the growing division along ethnic and religious lines. Sadly too, our politics has takenreligious dimension, as political parties are identified or associated with certain religions. This portends grave danger to the future of our State and the Country at large. Our youths are not helping matters as they have taken this battle to the realm of social media.
We need one another. Nobody is an island unto himself. Destiny has brought us together under this geographical expression called Taraba State. We have no other place to call home and if we must enjoy our home, we must learn to live with one another in mutual respect. There can be no development and progress if we cannot live in peace with one another. In our dealings with one another let us emphasismore the things that tend to unite us than the ones that divide us. Let us find common grounds to live and work together. And let us teach our youths to do likewise.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be guided by the teaching and living example of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the face of complex circumstances we find ourselves in. He never preached aggression and revenge when provoked. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, he told his disciples(Mtt. 5:44). In the Beatitudes he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mtt 5: 9).
We demonstrate that we are God’s children whenever we pray together in our various Churches the prayer our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples – the prayer of “Our Father”. I appeal to my fellow clerics that we should live up to our duties by being in the forefront in preaching and promoting peace. We must complement the efforts of the government by encouraging our congregation to perform their civic duties or in the words of Our Lord himself to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.
There is something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of new possibilities, fresh starts and new happenings. let us make that truly happen beginning with ourselves, our lives because it is when we become a new people, a better people that society can also become better and good for all.
Our Governor has consistently asked us to give him peace and he will give us development. We owe it a duty to support the government in any way we can so that it will be able to fulfill its constitutional role of providing the citizenry with basic necessities of life. Let us make it a part of our New Year resolutions to be ambassadors of peace.
This New Year message will not be complete without a word or two to our political leaders both elected and appointed. I must begin by congratulating His Excellency the Executive Governor of Taraba State Arch. Darius D. Ishaku on his recent victory in the Appeal Court a few days ago.
The judiciary, as it is said, is indeed the last hope of the common man. Your Excellency, congratulations. We pray that justice may reign in our State; may the wishes of the majority of our people always prevail. May the blood of the innocent no longer be shed in our land.
I commend the efforts of Your Excellency in restoring peace in the affected parts of the State. The reports reaching my office show that normalcy is returning except in some parts of Gassol and Bali Local Government Areas which fall under Gassol and Bakundi Chiefdoms where there are still reported cases of attacks. I appeal to Your Excellency to prevail on the traditional rulers in these chiefdoms to put in more efforts. Permit me your Excellency, distinguished guests to state here that the Catholic Church suffered greatly in the crisis in the state.
The Church with its little resources tried to reach out to the people affected by the crisis, by providing food and shelter and other things to alleviate the suffering of the IDPs in the State. Till date, some of my priests are without parishes as their parishes were destroyed and parishioners either killed or displaced.
The Church(es) and the State Government cannot shoulder the responsibility alone. I therefore appeal to the Elder Statesman and illustrious son of Taraba State General TY Danjuma (rtd) to use his position as the Chairman of the Federal Government Committee on the rehabilitation of the Northeast affected by Boko Haram insurgency to include Taraba in the rehabilitation programme. We are all aware that Taraba State is badly affected by crisis from 2013 to date. Wukari town alone was attacked eight times while Ibi, Donga, Gassol, Bali, Takum and Gashaka were also badly hit with devastating consequences.
To our legislators, both Federal and state, please represent your people well. I would like to see more bills passed that will protect lives and property of your people.
Taraba State is rightly described as nature’s gift to the nation. The economic prospect of our country is bleak with the dwindling fortunes of crude oil in the global market. This calls for re-strategising. In a communiqué we issued at the end of our meeting of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) held in Port Harcourt we noted.
“We therefore appreciate the desire of the government to re-invest in the agricultural sector and to seek other alternatives to oil and gas, which have fared very badly in the recent past. We encourage the Federal and State governments, the private sector and individual Nigerians to intensify their efforts in exploring the means of diversifying the sources of national income, while initiating genuine policies that would protect the citizens, create wealth and absorb our teeming unemployed youth.”
In this communiqué, we also called for a radical conversion of every Nigeria. In one way or another, we have all contributed to the mess we are in, yes, some more than others. There is need to change some beliefs, notions and above all attitudes. (Story of daddy and junior: world map and human head…).
I appeal to Your Excellency to consider these, among many others in your rescue programme: Use your good offices to harness the rich potentials of the State for the betterment of our people to restore peace by also dealing decisively following due process with those encouraging unrest and killings and those disturbing the peace . Be assured of our support and cooperation and prayers.
In conclusion, I wish all of us a peaceful, crisis-free and prosperous New Year.Also, it is my prayerful good wishes for the fulfillment of the hopes and aspirations of every man and woman, all families in 2016 (as they of course, accord with God’s will).
Peace be with you all!!!
The Most Rev. Dr. Charles Hammawa, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo was speaking as the guest speaker at the CAN 2016 interdenominational church service in Jalingo Taraba state.