Unyielding Attacks on Christians Continue in Nigeria

Dec 21, 2002 12:19 PM EST

NIGERIA - In what seems to be a never-ending chain of violence in the religious community of Nigeria, a prominent Christian leader along with his family were killed by Muslim extremists on December 12. Fear of further attacks over Christmas ring throughout the broken communities.

Reverend Bitrus Manjang, 69, described as a "peaceful man," was the recently retired vice president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria. The Reverend was shot dead in front of his home in Rim, Plateau State with one of his sons, his daughter-in-law and their six-month old child, in a wave of violence that claimed 17 lives, wounded many more and burnt down 20 houses.

The unrelenting attack came in response to a farmer's complaints about Muslim Fulani herdsmen trampling and destroying her grain harvest.

Bishop Ben Kwashi of Jos exclaimed, "It is our belief that a subtle war on the church in Plateau State has been declared. The church is suffering a lot and those in authority do not seem able to provide succor, help or protection."

The attacks against Christians by Muslim extremists in the Jos and Plateau states of Nigeria heightened in the past year. Since the major crisis in Jos, September 2001, when Hausa Fulani Muslims hoarded petrol oil to burn down Christian homes, there have been weekly assaults on the Christian Plateau State. Researches uncovered evidence of orchestrated attacks on Christian settlements that involve gangs of 300 to 600 armed Islamic radicals from Niger and Chad.

Only a few of the incidents are reported, among them, an abortive attack on Christians in Jos on November 17, whose roots stem back to the dispute concerning the Miss World competition. The competition, deemed offensive to Islamic beliefs, wrought violence through Nigeria; eventually, the competition moved its location to Southern China

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the same team of researchers who uncovered the remains of attacks, believe the attacks to be part of a eugenically motivated attempt to facilitate Muslim dominance and the institution of Shari'ah Law in the key states of the Middlebelt.

Christian leaders consider these attacks as more than inter-ethnic conflicts within Nigeria. Instead, they say the violence is lead by the same forces of radical Islam responsible for the bombing of the Twin Towers in America, attacks on Christian churches and aid workers in Pakistan, and on the nightclub in Bali, Indonesia.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: "Christians in the Middlebelt of Nigeria have long been suffering attacks from extremist Islamic mobs and the death toll is still rising.

"The murder of this prominent church leader has shaken the Christian community along with other threats of further violence.

"The state and federal authorities have a duty to protect Christians from these attacks by allocating sufficient resources so that an impartial and lasting peace can emerge."

By Paulina C.