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2 Christian journalists killed in Nigeria

JOS, Nigeria (BP)–Continued ethnic violence in Nigeria has claimed the lives of two journalists working for a Christian publication in Jos. The April 24 killings continued the pattern of ongoing violence in the area following the March 7 massacre in which as many as 500 individuals of Christian descent were murdered in nighttime raids by ethnic Fulani Muslims.

The journalists, Nathan Sheleph Dabak and Sunday Gyang Bwede, were working for “The Light Bearer,” a newspaper published by the Church of Christ in Nigeria, according to news reports. The slayings came less than two weeks after the April 13 murder of a Church of Christ pastor and his wife in Bauchi state who were forcefully taken from their homes by Muslims.

Four other Christians were killed April 24, apparently in a revenge attack following the discovery of the corpse of a teenage Muslim who had been missing, the Compass Direct news service reported. The four reportedly died — three of them stabbed to death — when hundreds of Muslim protestors rampaged throughout the area. Their names are not yet available.

Compass Direct also reported that police also exhumed eight bodies from shallow graves in a predominantly Christian village near Jos, bringing to 15 the number of corpses found in the area during three days.

A press statement from the Church of Christ in Nigeria said the journalists were on duty, covering the violence when they were attacked by a mob. According to International Christian Concern, a human rights organization that focuses on the persecution of Christians worldwide, the Muslims stopped to take the pair’s cell phones and other belongings. When a friend of Dabak called his number, the person who answered the phone said, “We have killed all of them; you can do your worst,” the ICC reported.

The bodies of the two men were located the next day in the mortuary of Jos University Teaching Hospital by a search team led by Soja Bewarang, vice president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, according to thisdayonline.com.

An ICC representative in Nigeria said the journalists were stopped by a mob and killed when it was learned they were Christians working for a Christian newspaper. During the March 7 massacre, attackers asked people “Who are you?” in Fulani, a language used mostly by Muslims, and killed those who did not answer back in Fulani, the Associated Press reported.

The Church of Christ in Nigeria declared April 26-27 to be a mourning period and the organization’s president, Pandang Yamsta, appealed for its members to not make reprisals.

“We call all our members to remain calm, although there are security lapses. They should not panic but trust God with their lives,” Yamsta said, according to International Christian Concern. “We must cry out to God and allow Him to take vengeance. The leadership will take the matter to appropriate quarters.”

An ICC spokesman said Christians abroad should contact Nigerian authorities to call for an end to the violence.

“We are deeply saddened by the continuous murder of Christians in Nigeria,” said Jonathan Racho. “The Nigerian government has failed to protect its citizens from killings. We urge the international community to put pressure on Nigeria to end the killings.”

A petition asking Nigerian officials to bring the attackers to justice and put an end to the violence is available online at http://www.persecution.org/suffering/petitions.php.

Tensions in the area are rooted in a complex set of ethnic, religious, political and economic factors.

Jos, a city of about 800,000 people, lies in a fertile “middle belt” of Nigeria where nomadic Fulani herdsmen vie for land against mostly Christian farmers. While northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim and the south is mostly Christian, “Jos is a mini-Nigeria. All segments of Nigeria are here,” Aduba told the Associated Press. Muslims are seen as “settlers” and are ineligible for political office, while the mostly Christian “indigenes” have more social and economic opportunity. The police and military, however, are dominated by Muslims. Christians mostly support the ruling party, while Muslims generally back the opposition party.

The recent violence in Jos dates back to September 2001 rioting in which mobs of Christian young men roved the streets, killing people who identified themselves as Muslim. More than 1,000 people died in that rampage, according to the Associated Press. In 2004, mob violence claimed 700 lives and more than 300 died during a riot in 2008.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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