Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two EYN ministers have died in Nigeria violence, crisis fades for now.

Two ministers of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) died in the violence that broke out in the central Nigerian town of Jos on Sunday, Jan. 17, and continued on Jan. 19. However, the curfew in Jos has been relaxed now that the violent outbreak appears to have faded.

Ecumenical News International (ENI, related to the World Council of Churches) reported on Jan. 25 that the curfew has ended, but that the violence claimed the lives of about 500 people. ENI reported that the fighting may have been sparked by the building of a mosque in a Christian-majority area, and then spread to nearby towns and villages. "Followers of both Christianity and Islam in Jos, which has a population of about half a million people, each blamed gangs from the other's community for sparking the violence," ENI reported.

An update was received by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships staff on Jan. 25 from pastor Anthony Ndamsai, who serves an EYN congregation in Jos. The report included information that two ministers in EYN have died in the violence: Shadrach Dzarma (formerly reported in Newsline on Jan. 20 as Shedrak Garba), a student at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria; and Obidah Hildi, an evangelist working in Bukuru, a town close to Jos.

"Though the number of lives and property cannot be ascertained now...the damage is overwhelming," Ndamsai reported. "While Shadrach met his death from a street bullet on his way from the town, Obidah was slaughtered and burnt with his house. This was discovered two days later...."

Ndamsai wrote that the EYN Church in Bukuru, a town near Jos, was started in Hildi’s house and worship continued there for five or six years until a sanctuary was completed in 2001. "Obidah has been a peacemaker during the previous crises in that ward before he fell prey to wicked people during the crisis. That house was burnt to ashes and Obidah's wife was left behind a widow and homeless. I and my wife went and consoled her yesterday." The home of another EYN member, also a widow, was burnt to ashes but she was able to escape.

Ndamsai and his family have been among the EYN leaders working for peace between Muslims and Christians, and helped give refuge to Muslims during a previous outbreak of violence in 2008. "A Muslim man that we hosted in 2008 crisis ran to us for refuge because his life was threatened," Ndamsai wrote. "Even at the time I was writing this mail, he is still with us. We share the little food we have with him and other boys too in the neighborhood. Though hard it is to do such things and regardless of what people may say to us, we have to love everyone as Christ told us to do."

"I write you this mail to thank you for your prayers," Ndamsai said. "I believe you have been praying for us and God in his infinite mercy has spared us. We believe that God knows why those who died as result of this incident, because no sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge of the creator. Please continue to pray for us in Nigeria especially the EYN Church. It is a great challenge for a peace church in Nigeria."

Church of the Brethren mission workers Nathan and Jennifer Hosler were not in Jos at the time that violence erupted, although they were visiting just before the crisis (see report below). They work at EYN’s Kulp Bible College, located at the church’s headquarters in eastern Nigeria near the town of Mubi.

"Please pray for the city of Jos and Plateau State," the Hoslers requested. "This is not a religious conflict per se, but has ethnicity, resources, and politics involved. There has been much destruction of lives and property, with damage to an extent that appears worse than the 2008 crisis.

"Please pray for safety and for the lives of both Muslims and Christians. Pray for those on both sides who are mourning. Pray for healing and reconciliation. Pray for truth, that rumors would not ignite more violence. Pray for mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Jos and Nigeria as a whole."

The Hoslers added a request for safe travel, as they plan to drive through Jos later this week.

Source: 1/28/2010 Newsline

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