Violence erupted in Jos, Nigeria on Thursday evening, September 27, when a group of suspected Faluni herdsmen attacked a house on the outskirts of Jos and killed 14 occupants, including a 75-year-old grandmother, several children, teenagers, young adults and a pregnant woman.
For the last several years, Fulani nomadic herdsmen who are all Muslim have been clashing with farmers from smaller ethnic groups who are predominantly Christian. These battles have been over many issues, including competition for land use and revenge over earlier killings.
Jos is a city in the north-central part of Nigeria that has about 40 percent Muslims and 60 percent Christians. Many missionary organizations and several church denominations have their headquarters in the Jos area. In addition, there is a missionary primary and secondary school, five significant seminaries and two mission/church hospitals in the area. Thus, there are more long-term missionaries in Jos than in any other city in city in Nigeria.
The city of Jos has experienced several periods of violence since 2001 in which more than 3,000 people have been killed. These conflicts were originally and primarily ethnic and political clashes but they also become religious in nature since one side is about 98 percent Christians and the other side is 98 percent Muslim. Many churches and mosques have been destroyed in the Jos area along with Christian and Muslim homes and businesses. Three churches have been attacked by Boko Haram suicide bombers and at least another 10 Boko Haram suicide bombings have taken place in TV viewing centres, public transportation parks, markets and other public places.
Unfortunately, after the Thursday evening killings, there was retaliation on Friday and Saturday against Muslims who were passing through the area which resulted in more violence and death. On Sunday night there was another attack apparently by herders in the village of Naraguta less than five miles from the first attack. Fourteen additional Christians were killed, including a primary school teacher who was working part-time as a security guard at a Baptist church.
A tense peace
Also killed during the crisis was a third-year Christian law student at the University of Jos who died while attempting to stop the violence. A senior deacon in Emmanuel Baptist church who was a former principal of the prestigious Baptist High School in Jos was also killed. He had been visiting missionaries that he supervised in a remote part of Nigeria and returned to Jos on Sunday evening just as this violence was breaking out. He was killed with a machete and his body was partially burnt. He remained missing for seven days until discovered in a hospital morgue.
Gunfire and sirens were heard throughout the city from Thursday through the following Tuesday morning. Though there is still tension in the city and Christians and Muslims both are avoiding certain parts of town, peace has largely returned to the city.
In this conflict, which has affected many parts of Nigeria, Fulani leaders claim, among other things, that their traditional migratory routes are being taken away from them and their way of life is threatened. Many Christian leaders believe this is a jihad against Christians by extreme Muslims and a deliberate attempt to impose Islam on the middle belt of Nigeria.
There have been both positive and negative responses by Christian leaders. Some pastors have armed their churches while others are reaching out to show the love of Christ to those on the other side.
Christians in Jos ask the international Christian community to pray for their safety, their peace of mind and for courage to show the love of God in these difficult days. They also desire prayers that God will lead wise men and women to find lasting solutions to these ongoing crises that have killed so many people.
This article was written for Christian Courier by a long-term missionary in Jos, anonymous for their safety.