German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke attracted about 2 million Christians and Muslims to a five-day evangelistic campaign in Jos (pop. 650,000). Christians who invited him to speak said the event has given a major boost to efforts at reconciliation in troubled Plateau state.
The mid-January campaign marked the first time since violence began in 2001 that Christians and Muslims in the central state of Plateau have freely met together on a large scale. Many Christians had fled their homes in areas where Muslims are in the majority, and vice versa.
By some estimates, religious and land-based conflicts in the region have claimed well over 84,000 lives since 2001. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, 173 churches have been destroyed in the state. Some observers believe militant Muslims are seeking to drive Christians from the state in order to impose Islamic law.
Governments in the northern cities of Kano and Ilorin canceled previous Bonnke outreaches over fears that Muslims would be converted. Not this time.
Alhaji Inuwa Ali, the leader of the Muslim community in Jos, led a delegation of Muslim leaders to welcome Bonnke. Ali told CT, "We Muslims welcomed [Bonnke] because he preached oneness of all people, irrespective of their religions. This is what we need in this country."
Bonnke told CT why he decided to preach in Jos: "Because the blood of Jesus is the best medicine for the healing of a sick land."
Yakubu Pam, state chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, told CT that Christians asked Bonnke to preach about reconciliation.
"Today, God has decided to redirect our steps toward the path of good neighborliness, to remove the hatred and distrust that was the hallmark of our existence."
Both Christians and Muslims have ...1