Christians search for middle-ground between justice and forgiveness

By May 9, 2011

Nigeria (MNN) — In recent weeks, post-election violence has cost the lives of 300 Nigerian believers.

When Christian candidate Goodluck Jonathan defeated his Muslim opponent Muhammudu Buhari for presidency, rioting broke out across the country. Many Muslim voters claimed that the elections had been fraught with fraud.

International onlookers disagreed. "By all reports, it was the cleanest election since 1999," confirms Paul Estabrooks with Open Doors, USA.

Nonetheless, Muslim extremists stormed churches and Christian homes in what Christian Nigerians called premeditated attacks.

"How would you explain a spontaneous call to prayer on most of the loudspeakers of the mosques across the city at the same time, at 9 p.m. or thereabout in the night, with a shout of ‘Allah Akbar' as Muslims began to troop towards the mosques and designated areas, to be followed at 10 p.m. with another call on loudspeakers–this time with a spontaneous shot of ‘Allah Akbar' from the mosques, most of the streets occupied by Muslims, and the burst of gunfire sound that shook the whole city?" Nigerian pastor Emmanuel Nuhu Kure asked Compass Direct News. "This was repeated a few times, and the killings and burnings began."

Since the initial outbreak of violence at the April 16 announcement, the devastation has been severe for those who did nothing beyond holding the same faith as the elected president.

"Our data shows that over 200 churches were burned in this response to the election of the new Christian president: 300 people reportedly dead and 14,000 fleeing from their homes," says Estabrooks.

Christians have notoriously suffered violence at the hands of Muslim radicals in Nigeria, and Christian and international leaders alike are now demanding something be done.

Nigerian believers are calling for an investigation into the attacks. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended Nigeria be placed on the U.S. Department of State's list of worst violators of religious freedom and be designated as a Country of Particular Concern, reports Compass Direct.

In the meantime, believers are burying loved ones, brothers and sisters in the faith, even pastors. The damage will not soon be forgotten, and justice is in order. But for the message of the Gospel to continue moving forward, Estabrooks says Open Doors is encouraging believers to respond as Christ would.

"We need to pray for these people that they will receive justice, but that they still will be forgiveness-driven."

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