An outbreak of violence between Muslims and Christians in the capital of Bauchi province in Northern Nigeria has left at least eleven people dead. Nine of the victims are said to be Christians, six of whom were shot and three killed with machetes. At least six churches, perhaps as many as 13, have been destroyed by fire, as well as three mosques and over 200 houses. Around a hundred people have been injured. About 4,500 people were displaced from their homes, and many of them have taken refuge in military barracks.
The latest eruption arose from a dispute between the congregations of a mosque and a nearby church on February 20, although the details remain unclear. Violence appears to have continued for at least three days. A night-time curfew has now been imposed, and a military and police presence established on the streets; the federal government has sent soldiers to the state to provide additional security. The security forces have also been deployed or placed on alert in adjoining states.
The police have given assurances that those responsible for the outbreak will be punished, and the state governor has asserted his resolve to maintain peace. However, some doubt the authorities’ commitment to the security of lives and property, especially those of Christians. Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “The chair of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Bauchi, Musa Tula, has expressed dissatisfaction over the measures being taken to ensure the safety of Christians in the state. He has also disputed the governor’s claim that the crisis is politically motivated, attributing it instead to religious tensions.”
Nigeria is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim North and a largely Christian South. Some of the territories that lie along the dividing line explode into violence from time to time. Tensions have been running high in Bauchi since November 2008, when more than 300 people died in Jos, in neighboring Plateau State.
Christian and Muslim leaders have called for calm and for peaceful co-existence between adherents of the two religions. But various Christian groups have asserted that violence in the North is likely to stop only if the government acts more strongly to prevent the killing of Christians and to bring their murderers to justice.
- For the Christians injured and bereaved in the violence, and for those whose churches, homes or businesses have been destroyed. Ask that God will comfort them in their distress and provide for their needs.
- For the rapid restoration of order in Bauchi, and that those responsible for the killings will be brought to justice. Pray too that the continuing tensions between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria will not erupt into further violence.
- That the Nigerian authorities will act decisively at local and national level to provide protection for the country’s Christian citizens and to deter attacks upon them.