Christians targeted in election-related violence

By March 29, 2011

Nigeria (MNN) — Violence
threatens next month's elections in Nigeria.

Already, political violence has
been disruptive to church activities. Police have warned church goers that places of worship are targets, and
they have made note of several attacks on believers within the last week.   

On March 20, three would-be
attackers in Jos were killed in a failed attempt to bomb the Evangelical Church
Winning All (ECWA) and the nearby Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN). The same day, a bomb planted at the Mountain
of Fire and Miracles Church failed to detonate.

The bombing attempts were
preceded by Muslim Fulani tribesmen attacks on March 10, where more than 4,000
people were displaced. In the Tafawa
Balewa area, 463 homes, 11 shops, and 13 churches were burned.

There are also rumors that extremists are
trying to create a
state of emergency ahead of the Presidential elections. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says, "They're
going to elect their National Assembly on April 2. They're going to elect their
new President on April 9, and then on April 16 they
will elect their State Assemblies and their State Governors." He adds that these reports are not unusual for the
country. "It is a time of
upheaval. At times in the past, that has meant trouble for Christians, and
that's one of the things we're concerned about."

The violence has taken a clear sectarian overtone. Nettleton explains that "there is an
element of religion that comes into some
of this campaigning, particularly in the Muslim areas where they say, ‘Hey,
we've had a Christian as the president for these last couple of years. It's time for a Muslim to be the president

Nigeria's 2011 presidential race is squaring three Muslims: General
Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mallam
Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and Ibrahim Shekarau of the
All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP)
against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan from the Christian south.

Officials say the bloodshed won't
derail the polls. However, there's a difference between polls
proceeding and a peaceful election, Nettleton  notes. "It's hard for me to imagine that the
violence will completely stop; however, we hope that the government and the
authorities there will at least tamp it down and provide some protection for
the people."

With so many attacks targeting
ministries, churches, and believers, Nettleton goes on to say that the security
issues could disrupt outreach. "It's a challenge for the Christians there
who want to do ministry, who want to do outreach. Obviously, when everything is so polarized by
the election and by the publicity surrounding the election, it is a difficult
time for Christians to step forward and witness and be involved in ministry."

Pray for peace. "When attacks are happening and some of them
seem to be targeting Christians and ministries, it is a difficult time for our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria. And it's an important time for us to be praying for them."

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