Nigerian Brethren Send Update on Violence in Central Nigeria

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

An update on the violence that has occurred in the city of Jos in central Nigeria has been received from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The Nigerian Brethren have requested prayer following an outbreak of sectarian violence over the past weekend, sparked by a disputed political election in Jos. Hundreds of people have been killed, and many buildings have been burned down or destroyed including churches, mosques, homes, and businesses.

The detailed report sent by Markus Gamache, the EYN manager in Jos, was received today by e-mail. Gamache has made personal visits to EYN congregations and properties in the area over the past few days to check on their wellbeing, and also collected eye-witness verbal reports, gleaned information from media accounts and accounts by security agents.

EYN churches and properties in the Jos area have not been affected during the crisis, Gamache’s report indicated. He listed about a dozen specific EYN members who were injured or lost property or businesses, but reported no Brethren pastors or members killed. Among the EYN injured were at least two children.

The crisis took place primarily in the commercial center of Jos, particularly the Jos-North Local Government Area, the report said. Gamache characterized the conflict as one between “settlers” who have come into the central part of Nigeria from the north of the country and who are mainly Muslim, and indigenous people of the area who are predominantly Christian. “This struggle for political, social, cultural, and religious control has been on since the Colonial Era, which often results to several ethno-religious crises, the last one being Sept. 9, 2001,” Gamache wrote. In 2001 some 1,000 people were killed in rioting in Jos.

The election for the chairmanship and councillorship of the Jos-North Local Government took place peacefully on Nov. 27, but violence began the next day before the outcome of the election was announced, when the settler community–mainly Hausa and Muslim–began to suspect that their candidate was not going to win, the report said. Attacks on Christians and churches began, and then Christians responded by attacking Muslims, the report said.

Gamache sent a list of churches and mosques that were burned down, and pastors who were killed. He wrote that “because of the nature of the crisis, settlement pattern, and the security situation in Jos, these information may not be very precise.”

At least four pastors were killed, according to the report: a Baptist pastor, two pastors of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), and a pastor of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA). At least 10 churches were burned down or destroyed from a number of different Protestant and evangelical traditions, and including a Roman Catholic church. Muslim properties that were burned down or destroyed included mosques and schools, and the headquarters of one Islamic organization. At least eight mosques and at least three Muslim schools were burned or destroyed. Christian-owned and Muslim-owned homes, shops, and business ventures were burned, destroyed, and looted in a number of neighborhoods.

Staff of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships continue to monitor the situation. They are working with Brethren Disaster Ministries to consider how the church in the US may best respond and offer assistance to those affected by the violence.

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