Christian college graduates are refusing deployment to violence-stricken northern states under Nigeria's mandatory year of community service. This has raised concerns over evangelism efforts in Africa's most populous nation.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was created to promote unity and integration shortly after the West African nation's civil war in 1973. College graduates are deployed to states other than those of their origin to serve among other cultures and religions.
The Nigeria Christian Corpers Fellowship played major roles in the nation's Pentecostal revival, as members advanced the gospel in many hitherto unreached rural communities.
"The corps members …aggressively brought souls to Christ in the communities and strengthened our churches," said Silva Daniels, pastor of Love Aflame Ministries in Lagos.
Some of the nation's most prominent preachers, such as John Praise of Dominion Chapel In-ternational Churches in Abuja, received calls to ministry during their service.
But terrorist attacks and bombings by radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, and other volatile states have dampened enthusiasm among parents and graduates for such ministry.
Last year, 11 corps members were killed in Bauchi state during post-election violence following the election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian who replaced a Muslim president.
The government-assigned postings of southern graduates, mainly Christians, this summer to troubled northern states have sparked national outcries.
Hundreds of Christian graduates protested their deployments in front of NYSC headquarters in the capital city of Abuja in July. The nation's House of Representatives also ordered the NYSC to cease such postings over concerns for the safety of corps members. Many southern states requested that their graduates be posted to safer parts of the north or be excused.
Onome German, a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in the southern state of Oyo, said she would rather die than report to her post in the northern state of Sokoto. "Over my dead body will I go," she said. "I would rather die among my people."
Festus Oye, a computer science graduate, acknowledges the evangelical opportunities the service corps offers, but said safety is an overriding factor.
"Only the living can preach the gospel," he said. "I looked forward to doing [my service] and expanding the kingdom, but I don't want to die in the process."
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