Rev. Luke Shehu, an Israel-trained security personnel and strategist, is the President of Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association (ACIPA). In the below interview with Christian Benefits magazine, he speaks on the association’s recent Bornu prayer, peace and development conference and its efforts at complementing the efforts of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other Christian bodies in addressing the various challenges facing the body of Christ in Nigeria, and the country generally. Below are the excerpts.
Please, can we meet you sir?
I am Rev. Luke Shehu from Plateau state. I had a strict Christian upbringing from a fervent Christian family in a typical northern Nigeria setting. Though Plateau is predominantly a Christian state I was born and brought up in a predominantly and exclusively Muslim community in Jos. As a result of my parents’ strict and fervent commitment to Christianity, I had a very strict spiritual discipline and background.
Share with us your experience of growing in the north as a Christian teenager
At the age of 15 years I was assistant secretary and later Public Relations Officer of our church back then. While in secondary school I was assistant secretary of our fellowship. After I completed secondary school I was opportune to be the general secretary of ECWA Youth Fellowship, later the vice chairman and eventually the chairman of the fellowship. I also served as the head of local & district councils. I was also involved in the Boys Scout, the Boys Brigade and the Debate & Bible Quiz club in secondary school. All these informed my general interest in life. You can’t grow up in a family like mine and not be active in church activities. I was in Drama club. My experience in school added to my experience as a very good script writer and ferocious reader of all kinds of books that will add to my ideas and input to my life basically made me to develop interest and have experience in writing.
Tell us more about the academic aspect of your growing up or background?
I had my primary and secondary education in Plateau state. I studied Banking & Finance, and later accounting. I also read cartography at Kaduna State Polytechnic and Theology at the Redeemed Bible College in Israel. I was ordained in Ohio, United States of America (U.S.A). I served in a security organization in Nigeria for five years. I was in Israel for five years, and through divine grace and inspiration we started ECWA in Israel. I was the pioneer secretary of the Constitution Drafting Committee of the Association of Nigerians in Israel. Subsequently, I was elected unopposed as general secretary of the association. I was admitted into the Institute of Counter Terrorism of the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Israel for training in Security & Strategic Studies. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete my studies at that institute due to visa issues. While in Israel I was appointed the coordinator of Nigerian Christian Youths in the Diaspora. After my experience as security personnel in Israel, I returned to Nigeria and became the leader of ECWA Youth. Back in Nigeria we realized a need for a strategic organization to complement the activities of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other Christian bodies in tackling the socio-political challenges confronting Christians and Nigeria generally.
What is Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association all about?
While I was in Israel, following the challenges like insecurity that Nigerians are facing I felt the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) needs a complementary assistance in tackling these challenges. So, the idea of the association was formed in Israel. Along the line the inspiration to start ECWA in Israel came, and we started a fellowship, which is now a full-fledged ECWA church in Israel. When I returned to Nigeria with the idea of an association to complement CAN, we didn’t know the name with which to register the association. We had some consultations with some church leaders and Christian traditional rulers. We traveled to about 15 states to share the idea. We also visited a number of royal fathers to share the idea. After we had received the blessings of the church leaders, Christian traditional leaders and some royal fathers we came up with Arewa Christians and indigenous Pastors Association (ACIPA) as the association’s name. Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association comprise both Christians of northern origin and residents of the north. We created rooms for Christians of Yoruba, Calabar, Edo and other non-Hausa/Fulani tribes living in the north to join the association. One of the strategic objectives of the association is promoting unity among Christians, and also interfacing between Muslims and Christians. In order to achieve this objective, we have paid visits to several emirs including the Emir of Zaria. Part of the strategy was the Borno Prayer, Peace and Development conference organized by ACIPA last March 4-6, 2022. With regards to networking and vision to promote peace we visited His Royal Highness, the Shehu of Bornu and prayed with him. The conference was organized by ACIPA in view of our role to promote peace and unity in Bornu. It was one of ACIPA’s strategic initiatives for peace and unity.
Specifically, what is the vision and mandate of the association?
The vision and mandate of Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association is to promote unity among Christians. That is why for each local government or state we organize programmes we interface or reach out to church leaders; CAN leaders, Catholic leaders and leaders of other church denominations or sects, community leaders; royal fathers, traditional rulers. We interface with them and do background findings about their communities to know what the talking points are, the modules and the course outlines of our teachings for them. We also have evangelism and medical outreach which is the specific spiritual mandate of ACIPA where we hold crusade for two nights, give out medical treatment and tests. We have some supporters and volunteers who network and partner with us to offer or complement our orthopedic services. We have had four evangelism and four medical outreaches from last year 2021. We are looking forward to financial openings so that we can do at least four or five evangelism and medical outreaches in this year 2022.
How long has the association been in existence, and what has been its impact?
ACIPA has been in existence for about five years now. Last year November 7th, 2021, we held the 4th ACIPA’s day of prayer, dedication and special merit awards of excellence. On the impact, I wouldn’t want to blow our trumpet but I would say we have been able to build an interface among Christians in different communities. Through the annual ACIPA day we have been succeeding in building an interface of networking, harmony, trust and sharing of thoughts and ideas among different church organizations. We have built a relationship of information sharing, strategic networking of interests of Christians, promotion of peace and unity to complement the roles of the government with the traditional institution. His Royal Highness Dr. Daniel Shaga Ismaila, the Hama Bachama in Adamawa state is one of the three royal highnesses as our grand patrons. Our special visit to His Royal Highness the Emir of Wase gave us an opportunity to understand the dynamics of the roles and the gifts of the Emir and his contribution towards peace and security beyond his domain. We shared thoughts, ideas and information aimed at promoting peace and security in Plateau state and beyond. One key objective of ACIPA is to interface and promote unity within southern Christians. We have built a relationship with Apostle Titi Oluwadare, the founder/national coordinator of Cry Out Nigeria Prayer Network. She is also the founder/convener of Nigeria National Christians Coalition. We have about ten youths presently going through youth empowerment training in computer internet business initiative through the interface of ACIPA and Cry Out Nigeria Prayer Network; whose founder is a Yoruba woman from Lagos. So, within that context I believe this is the beginning of greater things that ACIPA is connecting to other organizations with the same ideas, concepts, burden and concerns for the promotion of unity and progress of Nigerian Christians.
What are other similar programmes organized by ACIPA in recent past?
The other similar programme organized by our association is peace and unity for development workshop for Base local government, one of the local governments in Plateau state known for incessant and notorious attacks by Fulani bandits, herdsmen and terrorists. We have had the workshop twice for Jos West local government and also twice for Jos South local government and for some other local governments in Plateau state. We are looking forward by God’s grace and resources to interface with our networking partners, church leaders and community leaders to replicate the Bornu prayer, peace and development conference or the peace and security for development workshop in other northern states. What we do is tailored-made strategic professional peace development workshops or conferences. What I mean by this is that it is not the usual peace and development conference. Ours has an in-built Christian theological based concept and ideology. It has social-based concept and philosophy. So, we intertwine or connect into the biblical mandate of the philosophy of peace theology, developmental theology and social justice theology vis-à-vis the accepted and normal peace advancement philosophy and teaching modules. That is what makes our programmes unique.