Christians in Jos, Nigeria, Fear Further Attacks

by | Jan 19, 2010 | Charisma Archive

Gunshots and smoke continued to alarm residents of Jos in central
Nigeria today, with the Christian community fearing further violence from Muslim
youths who on Sunday attacked a Catholic church and burned down
several other church buildings.

A 24-hour curfew
imposed yesterday in Jos and the suburb of Bukuru by the Plateau state
government was extended through Wednesday. Police said continuing violence was
initially triggered by Sunday’s unprovoked attack by Muslim youths on
worshippers at the St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Nasarawa Gwong, in the Jos
North Local Government Area.

Also burned were
buildings of the Christ Apostolic Church, Assemblies of God Church, three
branches of the Church of Christ in Nigeria and two buildings of the Evangelical
Church of West Africa, Christian leaders said.

The number of
casualties continued to grow, reportedly reaching more than 100 as security
forces tried to rein in rioters, with both Christian and Muslim groups still
counting their losses. Hundreds have reportedly been
wounded.

“We have been
witnessing sporadic shootings in the last two days,” said the Rev. Chuwang Avou,
secretary of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. “We see
some residents shooting sporadically into the air. We have also seen individuals
with machine guns on parade in the state.”

Avou said many
of those who are shooting are civilians, not policemen, and that they have been
mounting road blocks and causing chaos in the area. At least 35 people have been
arrested.

“What we have
witnessed only goes to show that the problem in the state is far from over,” he
said. “Many families have been displaced. There are a number who are receiving
treatment in the hospital. The dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the state has not
solved any problem, as there is still tension in the
land.”

Avou said the
crisis broke out when Muslim youths pursued a woman into a church during worship
on Sunday, wreaking havoc on the service.

“Some Muslim
youths invaded some churches and started burning and destroying properties,” he
said. “We were told that the youths pursued a lady to the church. Nobody knew
what the lady did. What we just discovered was that the entire atmosphere was
ignited and houses were being burned.”

A Muslim group
in the area, however, dismissed claims that Muslim youths ignited the tensions.
They accused Christian youths of stopping a Muslim from rebuilding his
house.

State
Commissioner of Police Greg Anyating stated that Muslim youths were to blame for
setting off the violence.

As violence
continued today, there was a mass movement of Christians and Muslims from areas
where rampaging youths were unleashing mayhem on the city despite heavy
security. The Nigerian army was reportedly summoned to try to restore order.

The Rev.
Ignatius Kaigama, co-chairman of the state Inter-Religious Council and Catholic
Archbishop of Jos, condemned the recurring civil disturbances in the state and
called on all to “sheath their swords and be their brothers’
keepers.”

The secretary of
the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Wale Adefarasin, said attacks on
Christians are a manifestation of terrorism in the country.

“What we should
realize is that the government is not helping situations,” he said. “It is an
illusion that Nigeria is safe.”

He added that
terrorism affects both Christians and Muslims negatively, and it is the duty of
elected officials to ensure that terrorists are detected early and
deterred.

“The Muslim
fundamentalists want to take over Jos by all means,” Pastor Adefarasin said.
“They claim that Jos is a Muslim state, which is not
true.”

Violence hit the
same area on Nov. 28-29, 2008, when murderous rioting sparked by Muslim attacks
on Christians and their property left six pastors dead, at least 500 other
people killed and 40 churches destroyed, according to church leaders. More than
25,000 persons were displaced in the two days of violence.

What began as
outrage over suspected vote fraud in local elections quickly hit the religious
fault line as angry Muslims took aim at Christian sites rather than at political
targets. Police and troops reportedly killed about 400 rampaging Muslims in an
effort to quell the unrest, and Islamists shot, slashed or stabbed to death more
than 100 Christians.

 

The violence comes at a time
of a leadership vacuum in Nigeria, with illness requiring Muslim President Umaru Yar’Adua to leave the country on Nov. 23 to seek
treatment in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Sectarian violence in Jos, a
volatile mid-point where the predominantly Muslim north meets the mainly
Christian south, left more than 1,000 people dead in 2001.

 

Another 700 people
were killed in sectarian outbreaks of violence in 2004. Located in
Nigeria’s central region between the Muslim-majority north and the largely
Christian south, Plateau state is home to various Christian ethnic groups
co-existing uneasily with Muslim Hausa settlers. 

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