Monday, December 8, 2008

Report about 'inaccurate reporting' by media

(Adapted from Christian Solidarity Worldwide) - Although tension has eased in Jos, Plateau State, following days of deadly violence, there is increasing resentment in the Christian community at "biased and inaccurate reporting of events" by the international media.

Several international news agencies have reported that the violence was triggered by the results of a local government election. However, Christians in Jos point out that voting passed off peacefully and the violence broke out in the early hours of Friday, 28 November, before electoral results had even been announced. Moreover, instead of targeting political institutions, rioters armed with guns, spears, machetes and other weapons immediately attacked Christian businesses, churches and the homes of clergymen. As usual, the rioters took Jos by surprise, and are now hiding behind election results to launch and excuse their mayhem.

Of even greater concern are reports that appeared to suggest that Christians had killed 300 Muslims over the weekend, whose bodies were deposited at a central mosque. In reality, the men died while obeying orders from a mosque in the Dilimi area, which was using its loudspeakers to instruct all Muslims to defy the authorities, participate in the "jihad", loot properties for money and then burn them. Local security sources insist the rioters were shot while defying a night-time curfew and launching fresh attacks, including an unsuccessful large-scale assault on police barracks. Commenting on these deaths the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Engineer Salifu said: "It was not Christians who killed them; it was their own unfortunate attitude". He also articulated local concern that such inaccurate reporting could fuel further violence against Christians elsewhere. 

While a final Christian death toll has yet to be determined, so far more than 16 churches are known to have been burnt down and at least four pastors are confirmed to have been killed, including a pastor from the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) who was shot dead in the suburb of Congo-Russia, and another from the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), killed in the Rikkos area. From all indications, the final death toll among Christians will not be less than 100.

There is also growing evidence that the weekend's violence may have been planned in advance. So far 500 Muslim rioters have been arrested, some of whom were dressed in fake police and military uniforms. Two hundred are now known to be citizens of the neighbouring Republic of Niger, while 300 are from the northern Nigerian states of Kano, Katsina and Sokoto. Some of the rioters informed police that they arrived in Jos three days prior to the violence. "They had weapons, many weapons" said another source, "they were ready, very ready". 

Commenting on the recent violence, Rt. Rev Dr. Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican Archbishop of Jos said: "This crisis is a wake up call to state and federal authorities to undertake a serious appraisal of all the previous crises in Jos and elsewhere that have affected the church in northern Nigeria, and to ensure that truth is told, truth is maintained and justice is done. We have become a convenient scapegoat and target for those with grievances about events both at home and abroad. The Church in northern Nigeria needs urgent national and international protection. We have suffered this violence for over 20 years and it is now becoming unbearable."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Summary of recent events in Jos

(Adapted from Compass Direct News)
 – Communal violence broke out in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Friday (Nov. 28) after Muslims began attacking Christians on claims of vote-tampering, leaving hundreds dead and thousands fleeing their homes. After officials reportedly refused to post local council election results on Thursday (Nov. 27) – prompting speculation that a party backed largely by Christians had won – Muslim gangs in the Ali Kazaure area began attacking Christians, according to local residents. 
Violence along political, ethnic and religious lines followed, with security forces said to be responsible for killing more than 300 Muslims whose bodies were later brought to one mosque. 

On Saturday (Nov. 29) officials reportedly announced that the ruling People’s Democratic Party, backed mainly by Christians, had won 16 of 17 council seats, defeating the All Nigerian Peoples Party, said to be primarily supported by Muslims. Muslim militants burned several churches, including that of the Church of Christ in Nigeria in the Sarkin Mangu area of Jos, and its pastor has been confirmed killed. Several mosques also were reportedly razed. Plateau Gov. Jonah David Jang said in a radio and television broadcast Friday night that the crisis was pre-planned by disgruntled elements who had schemed to manipulate religious sentiments to create instability in the state. Gunfire heard Saturday morning (Nov. 29) died down by the end of the day as the government sent troops to quell the violence. 

But tensions remained high on Sunday as authorities had extended a curfew on residents of several districts of the city, with military guards ordered to shoot on sight.  By the end of the weekend state officials said that 500 people had been arrested. There was fear that the rioting could lead to a repeat of the violence that hit Jos on Sept. 7, 2001, which resulted in more than four years of bloodshed, killings of thousands of people and displacing thousands of others. In 2004 an estimated 700 people died in Plateau state during Christian-Muslim clashes. Located in Nigeria’s central region between the Muslim-majority north and the largely Christian south, the state is home various Christian ethnic groups co-existing uneasily with Muslim Hausa settlers. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Prayer request for December 1 (Update on Jos riots)

The latest reports from Jos indicate that the city, under a strict 6 pm to 6 am curfew, has been reduced to a tense kind of quiet through the presence of troops and armored personell carriers. For some days the streets, especially in the northern and central parts, were full of people burning, killing, looting, and expressing deep hatred and anger. It will take many months to sort out who all was killed, and much longer for peace and sanity to be restored to these areas.

Loss of life is estimated in the hundreds. Our friend Dr. Ardill, who works at Evangel Hospital, close to the centre of trouble reported on Saturday that "the hospital is full and overflowing and the staff are tired after seeing over 200 injured in the last 24 hours. Although there were only 5 who died at Evangel, we have heard over 300 have been killed in the fighting." In the heat of the trouble last Friday and Saturday thousands fled their homes and took  shelter where they could, in army barracks, police stations and other public buildings. Some 6,000 people took refuge in a secondary school.

The McCains had about 60 taking refuge with them, while another 40 were able to sleep at our former university house not far from the McCains. A big problem was to feed them, since no one could get out, nor were markets open those first days. They report that university officials managed to get them some rice and garri (a starchy food).

Aside from Emmanuel Baptist church, which had already been burnt down twice before in earlier troubles (see the photo below), other churches near the university -- Trinity Anglican Church, where many faculty and students attend, a COCIN Church, a Deeper Life Church, and many others -- were totally destroyed.

Emmanuel Church after it was burned down the second time -- notice the text on the front wall, "Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do," by which was meant the Muslims who burned down the church the first time. It has now been burned down for the third time and the blocks of the new building, which was not yet finished, were torn down and carted away. The pastor, who was our student, lost all his books and his thesis on which he had worked for many months.

*Pray for those who have lost loved ones, the hundreds who were injured, for the congregations who have lost their buildings, and for the families who have lost their homes. Pray for all who are troubled. Pray that those who are stirring up trouble will be cast into disarray.
*Pray for Danny, Mary, Katrina, Yoila, Roselyn, and others who are caring for these refugees and feeling the effects of weariness. Pray that they may be able to find enough food to feed the hungry.
*Pray for strength for the doctors and nurses, for those being treated and for those who have not been able to get treatment, those who get to clinics only to find no bandages or medicines are left in the cupboards.
*Pray that a lasting solution may be found to solve this problem and that peace may be restored to Jos, which was known at one time as "The City of Peace."