Jos: Finding Succour To The Troubled Tin City
Sat, 25/08/2012 ? 2:32am | ANIETIE UDOBIT News Metro

As we countdown to the 4th Annual International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue, organised by New Era Education and Charitable Support Foundation, in partnership with the Council for? Parliament of World Religions, the United Religions Initiative, the Jewish- Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, and several other international groups, ANIETIE UDOBIT writes on the choice of Jos, a troubled city, as venue for the conference.

In recent times, Jos, the Plateau State capital, has attracted immense attention, both locally and internationally. This is as a result of the activities of different ethno-religious groups who scramble for the soul of the Tin City, as it is fondly called. The Berom, Naragata,? Afizere, and descendants of the Hausa-Fulani,? who settled in Jos as traders and miners, all lay claim to the ownership of the city.

Situated in central Nigeria, with about 1million population, and founded in the 20th century, Jos is described as ??one of the healthiest places in West Africa?? considering its temperate climate, as well as plateaus and scenic beauty.

The Tin City became an important commercial and tourist centre because of the influx of people from other tribes in the country, mostly the Igbo, Yoruba. Europeans were not left out.? Overtime, all the ethnic and religious groups cohabited in peace, hence, Plateau State is known as the ??Home of Peace and Tourism.??

In addition to great institutions and industries, Jos has produced and nurtured great stars in sports and the entertainment industry.

Unfortunately, however, the hitherto peaceful city, as well as the entire state, has been thrown into chaos. Many lives have been lost since the crises started.? The first deadly conflict in this city, between the Igbo and Hausa communities, was recorded in 1945. They clashed over access to tin mining opportunities.

That ugly incident arguably marked the beginning of violence in the city and the country in general. Though inter-ethnic relations in Jos could not be said to be cordial since inception, inter-religious crisis is a new development in the state.

With the Maitatsine uprising in Kano in the 1980s and the subsequent creation of Jos North Local Government Area in 1991 by the then military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Jos began to be threatened by intolerance, tension and mutual suspicion.

The first violent ethno-religious crisis in Jos took place in September 7, 2001, which in turn introduced religious intolerance.? In November 2008, another crisis occurred, which lasted for about four days, leaving in its trail, the loss of lives and property. A 24-hour curfew was imposed on the troubled city while government set up different panels to investigate the crisis.

But before reports could be made public, another crisis struck the ancient city. On Sunday, January 17, 2010, Jos witnessed another ethno-religious conflict. Though different versions of the immediate causes of the crisis emerged, solution seems to be far from the people as destruction of lives and property is witnessed almost on a daily basis. The University of Jos also came under siege as students and staff were not spared.

With the recent insurgence by the Boko Haram, the situation in Jos has worsened as residents continue to witness a lot of tension and rumour of possible attacks. The people are continuously engulfed in fear, anger and pain, even as settlers leave the city in droves.

Recently, about 130 dead bodies were found in Jos neighbouring communities as hundreds of assailants, previously assumed to be Fulani herdsmen, who were armed with guns and machetes, stormed Christian communities.

It is arguable that young people are a major force in the contemporary world. How communities progress and flourish is determined, to a large extent, on how much the youth are involved in building and designing the future. Young people are potent instruments in promoting global peace, social harmony, friendship and sustainable partnership.

When appreciated and positively engaged, they can initiate actions that result in unprecedented social growth and development. Religion, on the other hand, has the capacity to facilitate the attainment of excellence and influence citizens for change, peace and social justice.

In recognition of the role of the youth in the society, especially in a bid to achieve peaceful co-existence, the Fourth Annual International Conference on Youth and Interfaith is slated for October 25 to 27, 2012, in the beautiful but troubled city of Jos.

The conference is quite significant as it comes at a time when the country is facing the most horrible security challenge, which is partly traceable to ethno-religious intolerance.

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