Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Violence breaks out again in Nigeria; Brethren reportedly not affected.

Violence again has broken out in the city of Jos, Nigeria, where there are churches and members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and where Hillcrest School is located, an ecumenical mission school that was originally founded by the Church of the Brethren.

However, according to a report from EYN leader Markus Gamache, no Brethren have been involved in the violence which began on Sunday morning, Jan. 17, and has been continuing through this morning.

The violence is reported to be based on political grievances of indigenous groups in the area, but is breaking out in the form of interreligious violence between Muslims and Christians. It follows similar outbreaks that occurred in this central Nigerian city in the past, including the most recent outbreak in late 2008 in which hundreds of people died.

The following has been received from Gamache, who lives and works in Jos:

"This time around in Jos northern area again," began his first report dated Jan. 17. He said that the violence broke out initially in a neighborhood of northern Jos called Dutse Uku, about 10 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Since Sunday morning, people have been leaving the city in fear, he said. "As of the time I am reporting this report there is no trace of EYN members being involved in any way."

The church first affected was St. Michael Catholic Church, Gamache said, explaining that EYN received word that the incident began with a dispute over use of a playground by Muslim youth during the church’s worship service. "St. Michael has a good playground for both Christian/Muslim youths. We learnt from the church members that the Muslim youth came to the playground to play while the worship service was going on, and the church leaders advised them not to play until when the worship service is over," he wrote.

"The destruction and casualty started right there at the church and in return of this, other close-by communities like Congo Rusa and Nasarawa Gwom started to protect their areas, and in this protection there is destruction of lives and property."

Gamache explained that the current dispute seems to have less to do with local politics than the violence of 2008. "The reason at this time seems different. Jos north is made up of different wards or communities in the city. Dutse Uku is a community originally occupied by the indigenes of Jos called Jarawa (Fizare) but as the city developed the place swelled up with different tribes from Hausa, Yoruba, and other people from the north east of the country. (The) 2008 crisis lost people, separated from their brothers and sisters; this means Christian and Muslims no longer stay in same community or share work as it use to be in the past."

Gamache is one of the Brethren church leaders who have been working on conflict resolution efforts with Muslim counterparts. His report added, "I have spoken to my Moslem friend Sheikh Isma’ila who is on the committee of the recent NGO that we are about to register called Integrated Service for Women/Youth Development with the aim of bringing friendship and the lost trust among the two faiths on the Plateau, and it is the aim of this organization to organize interfaith free-interest micro finance to create marketing friendship between the two faiths. Sheikh is a principal in one of the Islamic secondary schools that we just visited with group of missionaries from the United States Church of the Brethren," he reported.

"As from yesterday many house belonging to both Christians and Muslims including cars and shops were burnt to ashes. Nobody is allowed to visit the affected area at the moment...and as such I can not give a true level of destruction on ground. Based on the local news and telephone calls I made, there are about 35 people (who) lost their lives, dozens of people injured, and many were arrested."

In his second report, which was received today, Jan. 19, Gamache added: "This morning turns out to be something different as we wake up with 24 hours curfew from the government as a protection for the fight not to get worse or to go into different places.... Nothing is moving in Jos at all, the whole street is empty as it as been declared no movement in the city of Jos. People are complaining of water and food since they cannot come out to buy. Let us continue to pray for Jos and other places in the world."

The Associated Press reported that violence broke out between Christians and Muslims again this morning in Jos, and that the rioting that started on Sunday has burned homes and killed at least 27 people. The report added that security forces had brought the fighting to a halt later in the day today, and that the Plateau State government had called for additional military units.

The AP report describes the city as "situated in Nigeria's ‘middle belt,’ where dozens of ethnic groups mingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south."

Source: 1/19/2010 Newsline Special

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