My Nigerian friend and colleague in the work of peace and justice, Bulus Ali, has been an icon of peace to me; a representation of and witness for what Peace is and Justice does.
I’ve known and worked with Bulus for 30 years, first when he was an agricultural extension agent in Nigeria for CRWRC (now World Renew) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and more recently in his capacity as the liaison between the Reformed Churches in Nigeria’s Peace Justice and Reconciliation Committee (PJRC) and CRC ministries supporting the work of the PJRC.
I recently spent a week with Bulus helping with the first PJRC sponsored Muslim-Christian peace consultation in Nigeria’s Taraba State. The consultation is the beginning of an attempt to help local Christians and Muslims build a sustainable peace between factions who have warred for over 4 years, killing hundreds and half-destroying the town of Wukari. It is an exciting, daunting undertaking—and Bulus is at its core.
The consultation is the beginning of an attempt to help local Christians and Muslims build a sustainable peace between factions who have warred for over 4 years.
Bulus is a serious farmer now after he retired from World Renew in 2009–and that is what he happily calls himself. His house and yard are full of the fruits of his labor: palm nuts boiling to be pressed later for oil; plastic water bottles waiting to be filled with dark musky honey from his bees (much in demand!), and crates of soft drink bottles waiting to be filled with orange juice from his orange groves–which he will later serve to refresh participants in the Wukari peace consultation.
In peacebuilding work, the biggest asset one can have is the trust and respect of people from all sides and all factions. This is rare. This is a gift given only to one who is able to receive it and sustain it every day while living and going about one’s business in the community.
Bulus is a daily peace presence in a troubled place.
Bulus is a daily peace presence in a troubled place. He is not powerful, not brilliant, not a formal leader, doesn’t have high status–but he is a walking window into what justice is and what peace can create:
- Bulus is balanced and moderate. When others lose their cool Bulus stays calm and offers good, balanced judgment.
- He follows Christ naturally, without fanfare or self-promoting piety. He stays close to God through Bible study, prayer, and worship.
- Bulus treats others with care, in every sense of that word. He sees individuals rather than labels, tribes, or groups.
As a long-term member of the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Committee in Nigeria, Bulus has been both inspiring and indispensable. He’s practical, keeping plans moving forward and people engaged with a quiet comment or two at the right time. He’s courageous, willing to put himself and his resources on the line–even in the face of physical threats.
I asked him how he does it, how he keeps so grounded and focused on peace in the midst of stress, multiple demands on time and energy, and a tense social fabric that is being picked at by many forces. Here’s his answer:
“Peace work can be discouraging, seeing how the world is prone to conflict and wars. While I know that peace and reconciliation are God’s heart for a fallen world, I am fully aware that peacemaking is very challenging and does not come easily. Peace and reconciliation is team work. I also know that it is God’s will for us to do it. Since it is his will he will see to its success in His own time.”
In this part of Africa, it is obvious that Satan is real and has power–and the peacemaker needs to deal with that. As Bulus says:
“Satan is behind most of the conflicts that are going on. The Bible assures us that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet. Satan will not have the last word in the business of peacemaking.”
Bulus is a practical man as well as a deeply spiritual one:
“Apart from this assurance (that God is in charge) there are small successes that we have experienced in some of our efforts that serve as sources encouragement. An example is our efforts in Takum: Even though not all the issues have been resolved, relative peace has returned. Power sharing is going on. The Reformed Churches are becoming closer and closer in their Walk. The community is gradually being rebuilt.”
Bulus is one of our teachers. A witness. A living icon. I celebrate and am thankful for him and the gifts of justice and peace that he shares in his small part of Africa–and with those who know him.
And maybe now you do know him– just a little.
Editor's note: Who is in your cloud of witnesses? Who inspires you to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”? Like the writer of Hebrews, let’s remember our cloud of witnesses and be encouraged for the race ahead of us. Follow along with the series by signing up here. Is there anyone you'd like to highlight? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.