When the Plateau State crises began in 2001, Reverend Pam was not personally affected by the violence. However, Rev. Pam describes himself as a Christian radical when the crises first began. “My view was quite straightforward, it was just an eye for an eye. Kill one Christian, kill one Muslim. We will retaliate.” He turned down many invitations to meet with Muslim leaders to discuss peace because he did not believe there could be peace between Christians and Muslims.
Rev Pam and his wife, Lucy, at the Peace Cup Tournament in December 2010. Copyright Carmen McCain.
In late February 2004, dozens of Tarok Christians were killed in Yelwa, a village in southern Plateau State. Two months later, hundreds of Fulani Muslims were killed in reprisal attacks. Just days after attack against the Muslims, then-President Obasanjo visited Plateau State. As the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Pam was selected to ask the President three questions regarding the crises in Plateau State, one of which was why he had not visited the area two months ago when Christians were killed.
In response to Rev. Pam’s questions, the President replied: “What role have you played to bring about peace as CAN chairman in Plateau State? CAN, my foot! What kind of CAN chairman are you? Did your own Christianity teach you about revenge? You are an idiot. A total idiot. And I have no apologies for that.”
After this incident, Rev Pam was selected to be the chairman of the Plateau State Inter-Religious Committee. Through this committee, Rev Pam began interacting with top leaders from the Muslim community and developed close relationships with Muslims for the first time in his life. After being selected as the chairman of the Inter-Religious Committee, Rev. Pam was transferred to a church in Kwararafa, a Muslim-majority area in Jos. The church building had been destroyed in the 2001 crisis and the church was in the process of rebuilding the structure. Because of the importance of the relationships he had developed with Muslims on the Inter-Religious Committee, Rev. Pam felt that he also needed to visit the Muslim neighbors around his church to develop relationships with them. The relationships that Rev. Pam developed with the Muslim neighbors in his community indeed yielded great fruit. The Muslim neighbors have protected Rev. Pam’s church from being burnt in at least three separate occasions when youth from outside of the area have tried to destroy the church.
In 2006, the UN invited Rev. Pam to the Youth Assembly on Global Peace that met every August for three years. At the program, people from around the world shared their experiences of violence in their local communities. Rev. Pam was shocked to learn that other places were also experiencing violence similar to that of Plateau State, places like Rwanda and India. Hearing testimonies of conflict by people from different nations, ethnic groups, and religions helped Rev. Pam change his thinking from focusing on the welfare of just Christians to instead thinking about the welfare of all human beings, regardless of their religion or ethnic group.
Over those years he was attending the UN programmes, Rev. Pam was also thinking about what he could do within Jos to foster peace. In early 2009, Rev. Pam met with some key leaders to discuss a new organization that would engage the youth to be leaders in bringing peace to their grassroots communities. The organization was named the Young Ambassadors for Community Peace and Inter-Faith Foundation (YACPIF).
Rev. Pam speaking at the Jos North Peace Cup Opening Ceremony.
Rev. Pam’s work with the youth began in his church’s community of Kwararafa. A group of Muslim youth began coming to Rev. Pam’s church to discuss issues regarding peace. Rev. Pam shared what he had learnt at the UN, including how violence had destroyed other places like Rwanda. He told the youth that the violence needs to stop because nobody would gain anything from violence. Rev. Pam and the youth agreed that they could work together to avoid violent conflict so they could live together in a peaceful environment. The youth were interested in the discussions and continued coming on a regular basis throughout December 2009. During these discussions, the youth and Rev. Pam talked about engaging more youth in the community to participate in peace. However, the crisis in January 2010 prevented them from immediately carrying out the plans. The youths who participated in the discussions with Rev. Pam were the same youths who protected his church from being burnt in that crisis.
Once the area had calmed down after the crisis, the youth planned a peace rally to bring together more youth to encourage them to prevent violence so they could develop a peaceful environment. The Kwararafa Muslim youth mobilized about a thousand other youth in neighboring communities to attend a peace rally at the Kwararafa Cinema Hall. All of the youth who spoke at the peace rally were eager for peace to return to their communities. Because of the successful peace rally in Kwararafa, YACPIF sponsored peace rallies in seven other communities in Plateau State: Bukuru, Dadin Kowa, Nasarawa, Zaria Road, Rayfield, Tudun Wada, and Riyom. The Bukuru peace rally was held in March 2010, shortly after Bukuru had been burnt. This rally was instrumental in transferring Magaji from a political thug into a peacemaker. At the peace rally in the Rayfield and Mai-Adikio communities, a Reverend and an Imam stood together, raised their clasped hands, and publically declared that they would work together to promote peace from that day. The series of peace rallies was concluded with a state-wide rally in 1st July 2010, attended by thousands of youth from across the state.
Rev. Pam at the state-wide Peace Rally in July 2010. Copyright Carmen McCain.
In January 2011, violence threatened Jos again. The Bukuru community had been burnt the year before and all of the Christians had been driven out of Bukuru, leaving Bukuru as a predominantly Muslim community. The Christians whose houses had been destroyed had relocated to Gyel, and they were still angry because of their loss. Because of the tense atmosphere in Jos, there was fear in both the Christian and the Muslim communities. The Muslims feared that Christians would march into Bukuru for revenge and the Christians feared that the Muslims would march into Gyel.
One night in the midst of the tension, Rev Pam received notice that the Christian youth were already gathering to march into Bukuru for revenge from being driven out of Bukuru the year before. He called the pastors of churches in that area and told them to warn their youth to not fight. Rev Pam also received news that the army was present where the Christian youth had gathered, but they could do nothing to prevent the violence because the soldiers were too few. Rev Pam called the General Officer Commanding (GOC) and asked him to send more soldiers to help prevent the revenge attacks. The GOC promised that soldiers were on the way, but it would take time for them to arrive. Meanwhile, the pastors tried calling their youth to order them to stand down. However, the pastors phoned Rev. Pam back and said that the youth refused to listen. The pastors reported that the youth were about to enter Bukuru.
Since the soldiers would not arrive in time to prevent the Christian youth from attacking Bukuru, Rev. Pam decided to use his position as a CAN leader to reason with the youth to stop the violence. Therefore, Rev. Pam drove his car to the place where the Christian youth had gathered. When he arrived, he discovered that many youth had gathered with stones, sticks, and guns. As Rev Pam pulled up, the youth started cheering and hailing Rev Pam, thinking that he had come to provide them with fuel for burning the Muslim houses. Instead, Rev Pam got out of his car and climbed onto the roof. The youth gathered around the car. When the youth had surrounded the car, Rev Pam shouted at them, “You must stop this thing! You must stop this thing! Right now, the armies are coming and they have been given an order to shoot. You may be our governor tomorrow. If you die today, you will not have the privilege to lead us. I have taken enough shock of the youth that they have killed, I don’t want to lose any of you. I take God, I beg you, I beg you, I beg you. I know your heart is hurt. You want to get into Bukuru. But please, don’t go.”
The youth who had surrounded the car surrendered and agreed not to enter Bukuru for revenge. However, they said that a few youth had already gone inside Bukuru. Rev Pam begged them to call the youth who had already entered Bukuru and beg them to come back. The few youth who had entered Bukuru had already burnt two or three houses, but they were called back. Shortly after Rev Pam addressed the youth, the soldiers arrived at the scene and the situation was diffused.