More dead in Nigeria than first thought

By March 11, 2010

Nigeria (MNN/ODM) — Open Doors (OD) representatives in Nigeria say the atmosphere in Dogo Nahawa south of Jos remains tense after the slaughter of as many as 500 villagers last Sunday.

Staff members testify that the chilling scene of mutilated bodies, many women and children, is hard to take in as they go around comforting the bereaved and encouraging the wounded.

Security forces that have been deployed in the area stood watching yesterday as mass burials started. Many locals are accusing the government of not reacting to rumors about the impending violence in the early hours of Sunday morning.

An interview between Mission Network News and Open Doors' Africa Director helps put the attack in perspective:

Q: Did the Christians of Dogo Nahawa suffer the attack because of what Jos Christians did to Muslims in January?

A: We understand that what is happening in Nigeria is first and foremost a spiritual battle between darkness and light. The battle has many disguises and faces. Some are saying the attack was revenge for the January fighting. Others say it was the result of fighting over farmland. There are also those who say it is a fight for the control of the city of Jos as capital of Plateau State. All of these may very well be part of the general motive, but it would be oversimplified to say that any one of these is the sole reason for the most recent attack. The villagers of Dogo Nahawa had nothing to do with the January violence. Additionally, a great percentage of those killed were women and children. Our coordinator explained, "One group of 65 bodies we saw included only nine men. The rest were all women and children."

Q: How do we help Christians in the West understand this and the other attacks in the past?

A: I think it is very important that we at Open Doors remind people that this is a spiritual battle. And in the realities of this battle, some Christians react to the honor of God and others don't. I think it is also important to understand that the Nigerian Christians are not super human beings. Those Christians in northern Nigeria face discrimination, humiliation and attacks almost on a daily basis. They have built and rebuilt homes and churches so many times. They have gone to morgues to look for the bodies of their loved ones so often. Is it realistic to expect them not to snap at a certain point in time? The question is: "Would I, in a similar situation, defend my family and community?" Our coordinator testifies that the youth of Dogo Nahawa are livid over this attack. When a pastor encouraged them to forgive, they were extremely offended. This is not to be commended, but it has to be understood.

Q: What is Open Doors doing to help the victims of Sunday's attack?

A: Our team is on the ground visiting the bereaved, the injured, and those now in the hospital. A high priority for us is to respond to the immediate need for food and water. Open Doors has been pursuing every avenue available to us to help the church equip their members always to be able to give an answer to the hope they have, to reach out to Muslims in love, and to react to their adversaries in a way that is pleasing to God. We also help ostracized Christians find others ways to earn an income.

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