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Herdsmen killings: Justice for orphans and vulnerable youths

By Rev. Fr. John Damian
16 September 2018   |   4:16 am
The Benue State SUBEB Boss released the shocking News, that more than 20,000 children were forced out of school due to herdsmen/farmers’ crisis.

Mass burial of two priests and 15 lay faithful that were killed by herdsmen recently

The Benue State SUBEB Boss released the shocking News, that more than 20,000 children were forced out of school due to herdsmen/farmers’ crisis.

This does not include the number of Internally Displaced persons. The so-called ‘foreign herdsmen’ keep slaughtering and dislodging people from their homeland. Yet, none of these murderers have been arrested or prosecuted. Instead, our soldiers who would have secured the country’s borders are seen in most cities across the nation where they are now mounting roadblocks causing unnecessary tension and obstructions to innocent road users.

Human life has no more value in our country today. People are butchered and brutalised indiscriminately. We have recorded so many mass burials as a result of these insurgents. You can imagine the number of orphans and widows this crisis has produced. I attended the mass burial that was conducted in Benue. That was the day two Reverend Fathers were buried alongside fifteen lay faithful. The burial was well organised and well attended. The governor and even the Vice President attended the burial. Most of the religious and traditional leaders were all there.

The prominent people were given the opportunity to address the people before the final commendation. They all gave resounding speeches. The Vice President even quoted the Holy Father, Pope Francis, while appealing to the people on the importance of forgiveness. The bishops insisted that the perpetrators should be brought to book. In this well organised burial, something was still missing.

The victims’ family members, especially the widows and orphans, were not given the opportunity to express themselves. They were not even allowed to present an ordinary tribute to their dead fathers or husbands. One of them managed to express her feeling through the social media. These orphans will never have another opportunity in their lifetime to bury their parents. As people were crying indiscriminately and uncontrollably, I did not even know who were the victims’ real orphans and widows. To me, this is an act of injustice.

I expected the Vice President or even the governor to award scholarship to the orphans, whose parents were murdered in cold blood. If the Church leaders themselves consider human being as the ‘Body of Christ’ (Church), maybe they would have compelled the governor or the Vice President to grant scholarship to the orphans and vulnerable youths. I mean, children of the victims. These are the same children that are forced out of school as the SUBEB boss rightly observed! Without proper education and training, some of these children will join kidnappers, robbers, militants and will in turn start terrorising the society.

After attending the mass burial at Benue, I decided to channel my prayers and preaching to justice for the poor orphans and vulnerable youths, whose parents were murdered either by herdsmen, Boko Haram insurgents or other insurgencies across the nation. We even have a registered orphanage home that caters for such orphans and vulnerable youths.

A lawyer, I was told, sued the Federal Government over herdsmen killings, seeking N200bn compensation for victims’ relatives. He blamed the killings on the failure of Federal Government to discharge their constitutional responsibility. This, to me, is a welcome development.

The government and Church leaders should not turn deaf ears to the plight of the numerous orphans and widows in our country today. Even the Qur’an encourages the faithful to “Give food to the needy, the orphan and the captives, saying, ‘we feed you only for the countenance (approval) of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.” (Surah 76:8-9).

Incidentally, September 24 is international Day of peace. There will be no peace in this country, unless the right and dignity of orphans and widows are established and guaranteed. Justice for one is indeed justice for all.