Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 27 January 2010
Nigeria: Religious Violence in Jos – The Christians Speak Out
|Amidst international reports of the recent Christian-Muslim violence in Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau State, Nigerian Christians are presenting a different and disturbing picture|
According to local Christian sources, the violence began on Sunday 17 January in the Nasarawa Gwong area of Jos. Two hundred Muslim men gathered to renovate a house belonging to a Muslim and began chanting intimidating slogans. Muslim youths nearby interpreted these as a call to arms and attacked a church during a worship service. They destroyed the church and went on to loot and burn Christian homes, church buildings and shops. At one church the youths, dressed in military uniform, ransacked the pastor’s office and bedroom and “arrested” six young Christians. The theological college at Bukuru was reported to be under siege. Another Nigerian Christian source commented that, amidst the chaos, Christian leaders were being particularly targeted.
Although there has been no official figure from the Nigerian government, there could be around 300 dead. Thousands have fled their homes; some reports put this figure as high as 18,000. Church leaders have received distress calls from all over Jos from people fleeing the violence. The whereabouts of the Nigerian President, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia, is now unknown.
The State Police Commissioner, Mr Greg Ayanting, said in a media interview that the attack by Muslim youths on the church was unprovoked. Since then, however, Nigerian news sources have reported that Mr Ayanting has been redeployed. Christians believe he has been targeted because of his frankness.
The reports from Christians in Nigeria make three specific claims: that Muslim army commanders may have helped the rioters; that Muslim journalists have conducted a disinformation campaign; and that the attacks were premeditated by Muslims, perhaps as part of a plan to stifle Christians in Nigeria. They acknowledge that some Christians have retaliated and do not excuse their actions but they believe the principal blame for the unrest lies elsewhere.
Were the Muslim rioters helped by the military?
Many of the attacks on Christians were made by people in military uniform. Local Christians believe that they were Muslim youths whose uniforms were supplied by Muslim officers to facilitate their attacks on Christians. Reports indicate that the Muslims were “heavily armed with guns and sophisticated weapons” but the Christians “had only stones and the likes”.
Christians believe it is significant that the senior officers now in command in Jos are Muslims. It is also reported that the military sent to bring order to the situation appear to be splitting along religious lines.
Is the media being manipulated by local Muslims?
One Christian source indicates that the Muslims claimed they were reacting to the refusal of some local people to allow the rebuilding of the Muslim man’s house, which stands in a mainly Christian area and was destroyed in the riots of November 2008. But, says the source, the story has been “maliciously changed in the international media controlled by the Muslims” to centre on rebuilding a mosque. This, say the local Christians, may have been intended to gain sympathy from Muslims around the world.
A Christian leader in Jos states that Muslims manipulate the media locally and are now doing the same internationally in order to discredit the Church. He also says that Muslims have already carried false reports about the conflict.
Is there a “grand design” to smother Christianity in Nigeria?
As in the rioting of November 2008, Christians believe that the violence did not break out spontaneously. They believe there is evidence of premeditated attack and there are suggestions that some Muslims are working to foment trouble for Christians as part of a “grand design” to “smother Christians and Christianity” in Nigeria.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, comments,
“The voice of the Christians of Jos must be heard. Sadly, it seems that Christians have moved from defence to retaliation, and we cannot condone that. Our brothers and sisters have been victimised in what they believe to be a premeditated attack. Please pray for all who have suffered in this violence, and pray that Christians will cease to retaliate.”
|Nigerian Christians are striving to be heard and their plight should stimulate all Christians to prayer on their behalf.|
- That peace will be restored in Jos and Plateau State and that the Lord will bring an end to the violence.
- For all families who have lost loved ones.
- For safety for church leaders, and wisdom and strength for them to know how to lead their people in this difficult time.
- For a spirit of forgiveness from the Christian community, particularly the young people, that they will not be provoked to launch counter-attacks.