Advocate on the behalf of Christians in Plateau State, Nigeria
Compass Direct news reported that the terrorist group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for killing over 50 Christians in multiple states at the beginning of 2012, and World Watch Monitor reported continued violence throughout 2012 and into 2013.
This terrible violence has spilled over from 2011 where November saw villages near Jos - the capital of Plateau State - experience attacks which left at least 45 Christians dead.
Plateau State in Nigeria has long been home to many Christians... but increasingly they feel they are no longer welcome. They see Jos (the capital city) and the surrounding area as being under a carefully planned siege designed by Islamic extremists to bring Plateau State into line with the twelve northern states that have embraced Sharia (Islamic law).
Located in Nigeria's central region between the Muslim-majority north and the largely Christian south, Plateau State has seen decades of migration of the mainly cattle-herding Hausa and Fulani Muslims of the Sahel southwards into areas farmed by tribes that are largely Christian. The 'indigenes' (Christian tribes) have found themselves competing with 'settlers' (Muslim tribes) for land, resources, jobs and political power. In Jos many 'settlers' had taken on jobs in tin mines which have now closed.
The battle for Plateau State intensified during 2001 when attacks left more than 1,000 people dead. Another 700 people were killed in sectarian outbreaks of violence in 2004. Problems increased in November 2008, at a time of local elections, when church leaders reported that rioting sparked by Muslim attacks on Christians and their property left as many as 500 people dead, including six pastors, and 40 churches destroyed. 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. More than 25,000 people were displaced in two days of violence.
These conditions have proved fertile ground for Islamic extremists to provoke violence and encourage ethnic and religious separatism. The attacks of 2010 coincided with Nigeria facing a political crisis as a result of the illness of President Umaru Yar'Adua, which saw Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, take charge. It is possible that Islamists have seized this opportunity to exploit the tension in the area.
Goodluck Jonathan became President in 2010. It is widely recognised that maintaining security and protecting Nigerian citizens is a major challenge for him and his government.
19 February saw suspected Islamic extremists detonate a bomb outside a church building in Suleja, Niger state. The bomb reportedly injured five people – one particularly seriously.
The following week a car bomb was driven into an early morning worship service of a Church of Christ (COCIN) church in Jos, Nigeria, on Sunday 26 February. The blast killed at least four people and left over 40 others injured.
"When the bombs went off," said Yakubu Dutse, director of finance at COCIN headquarters "I saw the dead body of one girl and four other members of our church who were injured."
Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
The BBC reports that the attack sparked a riot amongst some Christian youth in Jos, which resulted in the death of two men and the burning of Muslim houses in the area.
Please pray for peace and forgiveness to enter the hearts of the Muslim and Christian communities living in troubled Jos.
Compass Direct news reported that the terrorist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for killing over 50 Christians in multiple states as violence continues into 2012.
Attacks continued in Plateau State throughout December 2011. On 10 December three bombs were detonated during the screening of a popular football match in Christian-owned "viewing centres" in Jos, killing one man, Joshua Dabo.
A bomb was also detonated in Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, Jos, though no one was killed until a policeman who later confronted the assailants was shot.
Many attacks were also reported outside of Plateau State, culminating in the horrific Christmas Day bombing of St Theresa’s Catholic Church, on the outside of the Nigerian capital, Abuja. A car bomb was detonated whilst parishioners left the church. 45 people died in the resulting fireball and a further 73 were injured – of which 50 were seriously injured.
Most Rev. Martin Igwe Uzoukwu, bishop of Minna Diocese, said at a press conference at the church site urged all Christians to forgive the attackers and to remain steadfast in the Christian faith.
"We are called to forgive, as that is what Jesus taught us," he said. "We should therefore forgive, even as we continue to pray for those who persecute us."
On 31 December 2011, in response to continuing attacks in northern Nigeria and the particularly shocking Christmas Day bombings, Compass Direct News reports that President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in some northern areas of Nigeria, deploying the military and other security agencies.
A week of attacks in November by Fulani Muslim herdsmen and Muslim soldiers left at least 45 Christians dead in Plateau State, Nigeria.
Local Christian leaders reported that the attacks began on 20 November, with the largest assault claiming the lives of 35 people in Barkin Ladi and nearby Kwok village on 24 November.
Most churches remained closed the following Sunday and those that opened saw only sparse congregations. For example, only 50 out of the 1,200-strong Church of Christ in Nigeria congregation in Barkin Ladi attended the Sunday service on 27 November due to a mixture of fear and mass-emigration. A local church elder said that "we could not go on with the worship but held a prayer meeting, and then our pastor left to Kwok village for the burial of the 26 killed there".
Emmanuel Kyesmen, secretary of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation, stated that "as a church, we have become targets of attacks…Our pastors and members are being killed in Plateau state by Muslims, while thousands of others have become refugees in their fatherland. There is the urgent need for the Nigerian government to find a lasting solution to this problem".
There have also been appalling attacks in other areas of Nigeria in recent weeks, leaving at least 150 dead and 700 displaced. See full report »
September saw a month of continued attacks in Nigeria's Plateau State which claimed the lives of more than 100 Christians. On 9 September, one guerrilla-type 'hit and run' attack on the Christian community of Vwang Kogot resulted in 14 Christians being killed by Muslim extremists. The dead reportedly included a pregnant woman and six children. Once again, military uniforms were sighted amongst the attackers.
Dachung Dagai, pastor of a Church of Christ in Nigeria congregation in Vwang Kogot, said that the village has been attacked three times since he arrived eight months ago. Dagi reported all three attacks to security agencies, but no action has been taken, he said. See full report »
Muslim extremists with the alleged help of Nigerian army personnel killed 24 Christians in Plateau state.
On 11 August the attacks started in Ratsa Foron village, where assaults that day and on 15 August left six Christians dead.
On 14 August in the community of Chwelnyap in Jos, Muslim extremists killed two Christians and injured one woman. Chollom Gyangof Chwelnyap confirmed that this attack was carried out with the support or tacit approval of Muslims in the army’s Special Task Force (STF), a unit designed to stop sectarian attacks.
Gyang said area residents found identification cards of Muslim soldiers, berets and other pieces of their uniforms in the villages that were attacked.
On 15 August in Heipang village, Muslim extremists killed nine members of one Christian family along with another Christian.
"They were in army uniform. I even know some of them; they came along with the Muslims to attack us," said a tearful Nnaji John, who lost her family in the attack. "I can swear to God Almighty that the attack was carried out with the support of the soldiers; I saw them."
On 21 August attacks in Kwi, Loton and Jwol villages killed six more Christians with witnesses stating that Nigerian army soldiers participated in the assaults or at least accompanied the assailants.
During August and July two bombs exploded near churches in Jos. Despite the damage caused, no one was hurt.
Elsewhere across Plateau state violence continued. On 29 April in Dengi town, Muslim extremists set fire to the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) church and also the homes of six Christian families in an hour-long attack.
During January, tens of Christians were killed in a cycle of attacks. See full report »
Very early on Sunday morning, 7 March, Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Rastat, three farming villages near Jos, the state capital, were attacked by Fulani herdsmen, who set fire to 75 houses and left hundreds dead. The victims included women, children and babies, who were killed with machetes.
"We were woken up by gunshots in the middle of the night, and before we knew what was happening, our houses were torched and they started hacking down people," said survivor Musa Gyang.
The assailants reportedly came on foot from a neighbouring state arriving before security forces responded. Despite a phone call to the military at 1.30am, soldiers did not react until about 3.30am. Some claimed that this attack was in revenge for the massacre at Kuru Karama, though the Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, has also been reported as rejecting the 'retaliation' motive.
On 17 March Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two more villages, killing 13 people, including a pregnant woman and children. Because the style of killing was typical of jihadist fundamentalists, Christian leaders suspect Islamic extremists are encouraging the attacks, seeking to use religion as a reason to stir up trouble regarding existing land and ethnic conflicts.
On 17 January, religious violence erupted in Jos after Muslim extremists attacked a Catholic church and burned down ten other church buildings. Although a Muslim group in the area blamed the Christians for the outburst of violence, State Commissioner of Police, Greg Anyating, stated that Muslim youths were to blame for setting off the violence.
Bukuru market, a large commercial area to the south of Jos, was burned to the ground, with at least 1,000 shops and homes in the markets destroyed in the inferno. On 19 January a massacre took place in the nearby village Kuru Karama. This was widely reported as an appalling attack on a Muslim village, though this has been disputed.
Overall, the Plateau State Police Command said that at least 326 people were killed in this outbreak of violence. Tens of thousands were displaced. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) accused the state General Officer Commanding the Third Armoured Division, Major General Saleh Maina, and some soldiers, of taking sides in the clash.
In January 2010 a major wave of violence swept through the city of Jos and surrounding areas in Plateau State, Nigeria. By 20 January at least 326 people had been killed and tens of thousands fled their homes. Because of this the army was put in charge of all security in the area in the hope that they would be able to calm the violence.
However, instead of calming the violence it seemed that the largely Muslim army units took sides in the conflict. People reported occasions where soldiers stood by as Christians were shot in their presence and where the army took two whole hours to respond to a cry for help from a Christian village which had, in the meantime, suffered a massacre.
The situation became even more worrying when eyewitnesses reported both in March 2010 and August 2011 that soldiers actively participated in attacks on Christian villages.
This is why the Open Doors advocacy campaign echoes Plateau State Governor Johan Jang’s call to remove the army from Plateau State.
Since the start of the violence, Open Doors has been standing with these Christians – bringing encouragement, prayer and relief to those in need. Open Doors worker Isaac* shares his experience of reaching out to those affected by the attacks on Gimti and Gwonjang villages: "While much was heard about the plight of people in Dogo Nahawa, the 200 Christians of the high-lying villages of Gimti and Gwonjang were left to suffer alone. All homes and churches in these villages were burnt down and sixteen families were displaced.
"These villages were left unaided, possibly because of the difficulty of reaching the area and the fear of attacks along the way. In an effort to avert further attacks the locals had placed obstacles, like big branches and stones, in the roads. This delayed us terribly – and the curfew was looming. But despite the obstacles, we knew we had to visit these Christians.
"When we reached the villages, we were disturbed by what we saw. Frail elderly men and women were lying under trees, trying to rest. Children looked starved with dried lips. Food was scarce. In one village there were even people sleeping on the floor of an old school building. Trauma and fear were written on their faces.
"On our first visit we came to encourage and to assess the need. When we returned we brought food, bedding and Bibles. We also went to the market to buy goods to distribute. Again this was very difficult. A task that would normally take one hour took us two and a half hours – and the curfew was creeping up on us.
"The gratitude of the villagers made all our efforts worth it. The village leader was the first to speak: 'Thank you for your love and concern for my people. At a time when no one else would come to our aid, you took it upon yourself in spite of the difficulties. This is what Christ has asked us to do. We are so grateful to have you here.'
"Another believer shared, 'It was a moment of joy for me to see the gifts you brought to us today. Do you remember the Bible says true religion is that which looks after those who are helpless? This is exactly what you did for us. May you and your ministry be blessed!'
"I was touched by the courage of these believers. The aid we brought did not seem like much to us, but it was clear that it meant a lot to Christians in Gimti and Gwonjang. It was so rewarding to see how what seemed like so little went so far in showing care and solidarity at a time such as this."
You can write to the Nigerian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom voicing your concern about the recent violence in Plateau State, Nigeria.
Sources: Open Doors International, Compass Direct, International Christian Concern, Barnabas Fund