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17 August 2011

deaths of at least 15 Christians.

machete_320.jpgAfter a recent lull, there has been a fresh outbreak of violence in Nigeria which has resulted in the deaths of at least 15 Christians.

Last week Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital, was subjected to a series of attacks. After allegations of an animal theft, Ferom was attacked twice on 4 August with eight members of one family killed in the first attack and a further three people killed in the second. On 14th August, Muslim rioters took to the streets in north Jos and killed three Christians by machetes. The Residents of Jwol community reported an attack on Friday in which one person was killed. There was another slaughter at Hiepand leaving at least 8 dead, some with gunshot wounds.

Residents claim that the police and army were complicit in these attacks and produced a helmet, a blood-stained military belt, cartridge cases, and 5 military identity cards in evidence.


Other attacks

Jos and its surrounding areas have seen an increase in tension and violence in the last ten years. The attacks on Ferom, Jwol and Hiepand follow many previous incidents:

    • On 17 January 2010, Islamists attacked worshippers at a church in Jos Jarawa. The violence spread over twenty different communities. It was reported that Muslim soldiers deployed to control the violence joined in the attacks against local Christians.


    • On 7 March 2010, extremists attacked Dogo-Nahawa, leaving over 500 people brutally murdered. Many were decapitated, scalped and had their hands and feet cut off. Survivors told The Times that entire families were killed, some to chants of Allahu Akbar.


    • On 17 March 2010, Islamists attacked the village of Dogo na hauwa, to the southeast of Jos city centre, leaving fifteen houses burnt, eight people killed and four admitted to hospital. The mutilated victims included four children and three women.


  • On July 2010 there were attacks at Chawai, where seven people were killed, and at Wukari, where thirty three people were killed.

Background to the unrest

Islam spread into Nigeria from the north from the late middle ages. The north is now predominantly Muslim, while the south of Nigeria is predominantly Christian. Many fear that these attacks demonstrate a renewed effort by some Muslim extremists to make Islam the dominant religion throughout Nigeria.

Since 1999, starting with Zamfara, twelve of the northern Nigerian states have implemented Sharia law, and this has coincided with these regular, violent outbreaks. In that year, northern Muslim political and religious leaders established the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, an organisation designed to promote the adoption of Sharia in other Nigerian states. Christian groups in the southern and middle belts of the country have reacted sharply to what they perceived as a Muslim effort to lay the foundations for an Islamic state.

On 21 February 2000, violent clashes broke out in the city of Kaduna, the second largest in northern Nigeria, following a march by tens of thousands of Christians to protest against the proposal to introduce Sharia law as the criminal code throughout Kaduna State. Unusually for a northern state, Kaduna has roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims. It was reported that more than four hundred people were killed as a result of the clashes.

Under Sharia, non-Muslims are barred from being judges, prosecutors, and lawyers in the courts to which they may be subject. In some states Muslims are now subject to Sharia even if they prefer civil courts that have protections provided under Nigeria's bill of rights.

After a visit to the area where the attacks occurred last year, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, said:

“The situation is very delicate and tensions are running high. Whatever grievances Muslims have with the government should not be taken out on defenceless Christians in the villages and settlements. It would be good for partners in the church and state to develop an early warning system to prevent attacks. We need to continue to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in that area, and express solidarity by visiting them and making sure that their basic needs, such as food and shelter, are met. I urge Christians to work with the agencies who are partners with the Christians in Nigeria.”

Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:

"We need to pray for all of these Christians who are suffering attacks. We need to highlight their cause and campaign on their behalf. Please pray and support the Love Jos campaign and other groups working for our persecuted brothers and sisters.”

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