Eight Pastors Killed in Central Nigeria

Friday, April 2, 2004

Religious violence destroys 173 churches, claims the lives of 1,500 Christians.

by Obed Minchakpu

JOS, Nigeria, April 2 (Compass) -- Religious violence that erupted in the central Nigerian state of Plateau a few weeks ago has spilled into more towns and villages in that state and beyond, resulting in the deaths of eight pastors and 1,500 Christian believers, and the destruction of 173 churches.

The Plateau state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) released the names of seven of the martyred pastors to Compass in Jos city. They are Pius Kurnap, Simon Nimbon, Aminu Lachak, Musa Fannap, Salbol Dashe, Musa Vongkur and Emmanuel Nimmak. An eighth victim, a pastor of the Deeper Life Church whose name was unavailable, was killed with his wife and four children.

The ministers served Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God and Evangelical Reformed congregations, as well as the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) and the Evangelical Church of West Africa.

COCIN spokesmen Dinfa Mamshal and Sunday Lakong said that Muslim extremists in the state have recruited over 10,000 Muslim mercenaries from the republics of Niger and Chad to invade Christian towns and villages. Fundamentalist Muslim bands have gone on a rampage of killing and maiming Christians and burning down their churches, they said.

At a press conference in Jos on March 16, Christian community leader Ambrose Gapsuk said, “The invasion of Christian towns and villages by Muslim fanatics clearly demonstrates that the attack is a war against Christians.” Gapsuk is from Shendam town in one of the areas affected by violence.

Gapsuk reported that 1,500 Christians were killed and their churches and properties were destroyed.

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that religious violence in Plateau and Nasarawa has affected 10 local government areas in the two states, resulting in the displacement of 25,000 people.

Alhaji Musa Lima, special adviser to the governor of neighboring Bauchi state, told Compass, “About 50,000 displaced persons who managed to escape the hostility have temporarily relocated to some parts of this state.” Bauchi officials report that the influx of refugees has placed enormous pressure on local resources.

NEMA spokesman Biodun Oladunjoye said that among the displaced people are many women and children whose numbers are daily decimated by diseases and hunger. He also said that unless something is done urgently, refugee camps in the three states will see more deaths.

“Government is doing all it can to curtail the violence against Christians in the state,” Plateau state governor Joshua Dariye said in an address during Sunday worship at the Church of Christ in Jos. “We sympathize with the church over the death of its pastors and church members and will do all we can to check the spread of the violence against Christians in this state.”

On March 28, Muslim-Christian violence broke out in the state of Nasarawa, reportedly claiming the lives of 15 Christians in Keana, Doma, Jenkwe, Ekye and Giza local government areas.

“Security men have been drafted to the affected areas to restore law and order,” Nasarawa police commissioner Alhaji Muhammed Zarewa told Compass in the state capital of Lafia.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo, reacted to the continued violence by admitting that “the authorities in these states seem to be powerless or lack the inspiration to do something about it.”

Muslim leaders reportedly visited Obasanjo in his office in Abuja, the nation’s capital, on March 16 to discuss solutions to the conflict. “People will want to give excuses, but I don’t think we have any excuse to allow violence to engulf us and our land,” Obasanjo told them.