More Human Smoke Rises in Jos
While the whole world was mourning and grieving the loss of lives and property in earthquake-hit Haiti, human premeditated violence struck the city of Jos. The capital of Plateau State in North Central Nigeria, Jos was thrown into another round of violence when unsuspecting church goers were attacked by unprovoked Muslim youth. "Muslim youths on Sunday [January 17] attacked Christian worshipers unprovoked," said Plateau State Commissioner of Police Gregory Ayankiang.
The students of ECWA Theological Seminary Jos (JETS), who had just returned from their Christmas break to start the semester, were thrown into confusion. They had finished their registration a week ago, and every one of them was excited and thrilled to start the semester. Lecturers who had been preparing to teach also came to school on Monday to begin the new semester in earnest.
All that changed. Monday classes had to be cancelled when we learned that the Muslim youth shot one of our undergraduate students, Shem Daniel, on his way back from church on Sunday. He was rushed to one of the hospitals in town unconscious. He eventually died from his wounds on Monday morning.
In the midst of the confusion, some Muslims who usually pass through the seminary compound to their irrigation farm came and wanted to pass to the farm. But our students sent them back because of the tension that was mounting. If it were Christians who went into a Muslim community in such a volatile situation, the Muslims would have killed them.
To encourage each other after the devastating news of our student's passing on to glory, the school management decided that we should have chapel. During the chapel worship, Provost Bulus Galadima read from Psalm 23:1-6 and Isaiah 40:1-29. He reminded us, "Our emotions are not trustworthy." In times of crisis, the Bible should be our sole guide. He emphasized that the Word of God is the greatest comfort we have in times like these. "God is still in control," Galadima reassured the JETS community.
Prayers were said on behalf of those whose loved ones have been killed or wounded. Toward Monday evening, the situation seemed to be under the security operatives' control. JETS management even decided that we could proceed with classes on Tuesday. But Tuesday morning things took a turn for the worse. After their morning prayer, the Muslims went wild, massacring innocent people. Jos has again been turned into a battle field.
January 19, 2010, Tuesday, the fighting started at 7:10 a.m. From my house on the seminary campus, I could hear frequent gunshots. The gunshots were accompanied by the burning of used tires, cars, houses, churches, business premises, and worse still—human remains.
At 10 a.m. the tension was overwhelming, to the extent that the state government had to impose a 24-hour curfew on Jos city and the neighboring town of Bukuru.
Despite the curfew, the fighting persisted. At noon the smoke from all the burning hovered over the city, creating an ecological hazard. People are stranded in their houses without food and water. Some are without shelter. "The refugees are without food, water, and blankets," said the Director of Global Relief and Emergency Response Mission in Jos. Worse still, with this crisis, there may be no end to the food crisis in Jos.
We had to cancel classes again on Tuesday. I was standing with several students when some strayed bullets started flying into our seminary campus. We immediately dispersed the students back to their hostels for safety.
The parents of our late student wanted to come and pick up the remains of their son on Tuesday. But due to the high tension, they were advised not to come for the corpse. Besides Shem Daniel, many other people have lost their lives in the violence, and over 4,000 people have been displaced. As in any violence of this magnitude, many people are looking for their missing loved ones.