Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deadly religious strife in Nigeria continues

Nigeria (MNN) ― At least 14 people died in Jos, Nigeria, in a flare up of Christian and Muslim violence. Reprisal clashes heightened fears of larger-scale attacks in the cycle of violence.

Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports that among the dead was a Christian family of eight, two adults, and six children. Spokesman Greg Musselman explains, "You have these radicalized Muslim youth. It was the end of Ramadan, they were celebrating, and again, violence flared up. They were looking for trouble, and they went after some Christian families.

In the escalating violence, two churches were burnt down. Christian and Muslim religious leaders have appealed for peace. Bombs were placed in front of houses of worship.

In 1999, Sharia law was implemented in 12 northern and central states. The question is: why does Plateau State seemingly crack under tensions more than other states. Again, Mussleman says, "Jos straddles the middle ground in Nigeria between the largely Muslim North and the Christian South. So the city and the nation is divided along religious, tribal and political lines."

Due to violence like this, many Christians have been displaced from Muslim areas, initially in the north, where Sharia -- strict Islamic law -- has been imposed. "There are the Islamic militant groups that have really emboldened since the 9/11 attacks, so even though you have a majority Christian population in Jos, you have the Islamists who want to turn that into a Muslim state."

According to a Reuters timeline of the unrest in the same area, there have been nine major flare-ups of rioting and violence between Christians and Muslims since 2000. In each of these incidents, hundreds lost their lives, churches were burned, and many more injured. "Anything that happens politically or any kind of little flare up is used by these Islamic groups to go after the Christians", explains Musselman. He adds, "That's why so many of them are killed. As much as we pray that it would stop, the current climate shows no sign of that slowing down."

Pray that Christians in Nigeria will demonstrate the love of Christ, in spite of the opposition they face. "This is an ongoing situation. It just seems to pop up every few weeks, and lately it's just becoming more intense," Musselman says.
Lately, however, more churches are throwing off the cloak of silence. "They realize that we really need to share the message, and they crossed the line in the sense of: 'Hey, if I get killed, I get killed, but I'm going to preach Christ.' So the message of the Gospel is going powerfully forward, and many of these Islamists are coming to know Christ."

Voice of the Martyrs Canada teams continue to remain active through their medical work, the aid they give to stranded families persecuted for their faith, and in many ways supportive through the prayer networks around the world.

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