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Murderous rioting reportedly sparked by Muslim attacks on Christians and their property in late November destroyed 40 churches and left six pastors and at least 500 others dead, according to Nigerian church leaders.

What began as outrage over suspected voting fraud in local elections quickly crossed over Jos's religious fault line between the Islamic north and Christian south. When angry Muslims took aim at Christian sites (rather than at political targets), Christian gangs responded in self-defense. Nigerian troops reportedly killed about 400 rampaging Muslims. Islamists in turn killed more than 100 Christians. More than 25,000 persons were displaced in the violence, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

Among the Christians killed was Joseph Yari of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), who died helping other Christians repel Muslim fanatics bent on burning down Christ Baptist Church. Her grief notwithstanding, Mary Yari, the pastor's widow, said she had forgiven the killers. "They were ignorant of the crime they … committed because they do not know Jesus Christ," she said.

On September 7, 2001, religious conflict in Jos initiated more than four years of bloodshed, with Muslims and Christians taking turns attacking each other. Thousands were killed, and thousands more were displaced. In 2004, an estimated 700 people died in Yelwa, also in Plateau state, during Christian-Muslim clashes.

Benjamin Nasara of the ECWA's Plateau Church said that church history shows "the blood of the martyrs brings about the birth of the church. We see these ones who have gone ahead of us as the seeds that God is using to make the church in Jos North and Plateau state germinate."



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February 2009

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