Friday, April 2, 2010

Prayer for Jos, Sequel--January 28

“But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10.14

Dear praying friends,

Thank you for praying with us! Since writing you last week we have heard from numerous friends and colleagues who testify to the power of prayer to give peace in the midst of violence and suffering.

*Praise God for a degree of normalcy that has returned to Jos. Federal troops moved into Jos in large numbers to help bring the situation under control, to restore order and enforce the curfew, which is now relaxed to 6pm to 6am.

*Pray for those who have lost so much. The numbers of those known to have been killed are more than 300, probably closer to 400. The number of those injured or displaced, traumatized through the loss of loved ones, their homes and possessions are far higher. Pray for speedy help for refugees in the thousands, without adequate food, water, or blankets, with no place to return to. Many are too afraid to go back.

*Pray particularly for the English-speaking congregation of the Reformed (NKST) church in Anglo-Jos, where we and many NKST students from Unijos have worshiped. The parsonage was badly damaged; the photo attached with this represents many other homes destroyed. One of our Unijos students, Abel, lost everything in the crisis when his house, next to the parsonage of the church, was set ablaze along with it. He was thankful to escape with his family and a few vital papers before the attack came. But we are also sad to hear of destruction to the Muslim neighborhood in retaliation for attempts on the church. Pray that Christians will not forget to model the behaviour which Jesus taught, and that Christian leaders will encourage a way that makes for peace and good relationships.

*Pray that violence will not spread further in a radius from Jos to the lower Plateau State and neigbouring states. We received horrific stories of massacre from outlying villages, where it is far more difficult for troops to bring order. There has also been significant conflict at the college of education in Pankshin where the Wiebe’s are teaching. Most of these communities have a relatively small cluster of Hausa Muslims, mostly traders, at the center of town, while mainly Christian local people, “indigenes”, live on the outskirts. Through the use of cell phones and texting the news of violence spreads quickly; over the past years those who hear of trouble have inclined to taking matters into their own hands, retaliating against the group perceived to be responsible.

*Please pray that those responsible can be brought to justice, and an attempt be made to address the underlying causes. This week more than 300 were arrested in connection with the violent attacks, and some taken to the capital Abuja for questioning. The amazing discovery was that those who perpetrated the present crisis are for the most part the very same ones arrested last year, but set free on bail, and never prosecuted.

*Pray that the real causes for the violent attacks can be addressed. It appears that the crisis started with a clash over the redevelopment of some land by its owner in Jos; opposition to the project escalated into a religious crisis, with ‘suspected’ Muslim youths attacking Christians and churches. But the truth is hard to come by, because Muslim authorities are at pains to deny such allegations, for the simple reason that it almost inevitably leads to reprisal against Muslims in other communities. So the blame is placed on Christians, which has the opposite effect, resulting in identifiable Christian communities or institutions, and particularly churches and seminaries being targeted. There is a high price for exposure of true motives and actual perpetrators. As a nation Nigeria can be compared to a tinderbox; it seems to take the smallest provocation to set off a vicious cycle of reprisal.

* Pray that God will bless the various efforts to address the underlying issueswhich are certainly not just religious, but represent a struggle for ethnic and political superiority in Jos. The latest crisis clearly resulted from resentment for last year's rioting, and desire for revenge.Pray for those who attempt to bring reconciliation betwen the Hausa/Muslim and local tribes/Christian communities. With a series of riots between 2001 and 2008 the city has steadily divided into Christian and Muslim areas, the southern part comprising mostly Christian “indigenes”, with the northern part (where the university is located) mainly Hausa-speaking Muslims, who are still classified as settlers and thus are restricted politically and in other ways, though they have lived in Jos for decades. But the “indigene” restriction has worked in the favour of Hausa/Muslims in northern cities like Kano, where traders from other states, mostly Christian, are similarly restricted, and church buildings are probably more vulnerable than are mosques in Jos. Until the "settlers" in the northern states are granted rights, any modification of settler status in Jos is rather unlikely, particularly because in the last years Jos has taken in many who fled the northern states over imposition of conditions of shari’ah there.

We close by quoting the prayer of the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin A. Kwashi

“We must also pray for our state government, our Houses of Assembly at state and federal levels and our law enforcement agents, that they may choose the path of truth and justice, and deal with crime by its proper name, so that no-one, no matter how high or low, no matter of what faith or creed, should be exempt from facing the law. The national leadership should be lifted up to God, that they may rise beyond a concern for political success and seek to do good and right in all things for the benefit of all people. This is a most urgent prayer request, because Nigeria as a nation has a large and ever-increasing army of leaderless, lawless, unemployable, unemployed, demoralized, and near hopeless youth. This, to my prophetic mind, is the big security issue which the governments at local, state and federal levels are not taking seriously. For example, every crisis in Nigeria in the last ten years has been executed by this generation of young people. With each passing year, they perfect their skills, and when they run out of a supply of money—or when they become bored with any situation—then any opportunity for action gives them satisfaction. This army has no religion, but can choose to go under the name of religion to achieve its motives. They are uneducated, and so their values are totally different, as are their ways of handling weapons or choosing how issues are settled. Please pray for us.”

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