The Baptist Conference in Plateau State on Saturday challenged the Federal Government led by President Bola Tinubu and the Caleb Mutfwang-led state government to address the incessant attacks and killings in the state.
The President of the Plateau Baptist Conference, Rev. Koeleh Saleh, who gave the charge during the church’s 47th Annual Conference, which ended in Jos on Saturday, revealed that over 62 members of his church, including pastors and their children, were killed during the various attacks that occurred in several communities in Mangu and Bokkos LGAs of the state within the past eight months.
At the conference attended by several dignitaries, including Mutfwang the state governor, Saleh, recounted the frequent attacks on Baptist churches and the killing of their members in the past eight months. It was noted that in Mangu LGA of Plateau alone, thirty-three of his church members were killed on May 15 and 16, 2023, while eight others died shortly afterwards after their displacement on account of hardship and illness.
He further noted that this was followed by another attack on Hirpia, a Christian community in Bokkos LGA, on June 15, 2023, which led to the murder of an additional five church members including the wife and two children of Rev.Emmanuel Makama who is the pastor of Nasara Baptist church in the community.
According to him, besides several lives lost and those that were wounded, the destructions and economic dislocations caused by the attacks were monument.
He noted that most of the affected communities deserted by the people as a result of the attacks had remained so till date while the invaders had continued to graze freely in the communities without any challenge, a situation which he described as an injustice to the people.
He said, “The Baptist church in some of these affected communities had more than a fair share of the effect of those dastardly unprovoked assaults. In Mangu LGA, we lost 33 members to attacks on May 15, 2023 besides eight persons who died after their displacement on account of hardship and illness.
“Among the slain was the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Rev.Mangmos Tangshak, who was also the Moderator of Albarka Baptist Association and one of his church deacons.
“Besides the destruction and looting of member houses, the Baptist churches that were destroyed during this attack included Alheri Baptist Church, Jwak-Maitumbi, Alheri Baptist church, Kwaghaskipanglang, Godiya Baptist church, Changal and Shiloh Baptist church, Kombili.
“This was followed by another attack on Sabongari on July 7 2023. The attack led to the desertion of the community and then the Christmas Eve attacks on 15 communities in Bokkos LGA on December 24, 2023. The Baptist churches affected include Nasara Baptist church where 11 persons were killed among whom was Pastor Philemon Gushe. Members’ houses including the pastorium were burnt down and the church auditorium was vandalised.
“In Chiran village where over 40 persons were slaughtered in cold blood, we lost five members of Kauna Baptist church. The church pastor, Rev. Jonah Joseph, narrowly escaped with his four-year-old son who was macheted on the head but miraculously survived. While we were still nursing the wounds of the Christmas Eve attacks, the murderous militia invaded Mangu town in January 2024 killed several people and set churches ablaze.
“So, It has been indeed a very turbulent year for us, yet in fulfilment of the word of God, the gate of Hades could not prevail over the church and so, we are assembled here today for the 47th annual conference.
“In all, we lost over 62 of our church members in various attacks by murderous militia in Mangu and Bokkos communities within the past eight months alone. Indeed, our country Nigeria, has been through hard times.:
Saleh regretted that the insecurity in the land kept escalating rather than abating.
He said that was why the church was calling on “President Bola Tinubu and the Plateau State Government to do something urgently in this regard towards saving the lives and properties of the people.”
The church leader, who expressed shock over the killings and the extent of the destruction in the state for the past years without any solution, called on the Federal Government to heed the call for the establishment of state police to address the problem.
He also encouraged the people to remain strong in the face of the enormous calamity that had befallen the people.
He said, “As a church, we are conscious of our stake in nation-building, namely; to pray for our leaders and the peace of the land. This remains the spiritual and moral obligation that we owe the state and our nation and we pledge to continue to uphold this task as sacred.
“However, the truth must be reiterated that without justice, the peace we are looking for will remain a far cry. How can we justify a situation where people will be living peacefully in their ancestral lands and herders will attack and displace them only to take over those communities, and the aggressors are seen grazing freely within the ruins of their victims?
“We are calling on the government at all levels to muster the requisite political and leadership will to take decisive actions over the injustice that Plateau citizens have lived for the past two decades.”
Mutfwang acknowledged the security challenges being faced in the state, noting the contribution of the Baptist church in preaching peaceful coexistence among the citizens despite the unprovoked and sustained attacks.
He congratulated the Baptist Conference for a successful 47th annual conference
While commiserating with the church and its members over the loss of their loved ones, the governor assured the people that his administration would spare no efforts in bringing the situation to an end.
“As a government, we will continue to work with church leaders and other stakeholders in efforts to address the current security challenges and bring lasting peace in our communities.
“You can’t continue to kill people who are sleeping at night and chase them away from their ancestral homes. We must bring this to an end,” the governor, who was represented by his Senior Special Adviser on Christian Religious Matters, Rev Steven Dangana, said.