JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – As Emmanuel Sunday rode his motorbike near Jos last Thursday evening (Aug. 29), gunmen stopped him and asked him his religion.
The 19-year-old technical school student saw a group of people the gunmen had ordered out of a mini-bus; the Christians had been told to lie on the ground.
“The gunmen asked me about my religion, and when I told them I was a Christian, they asked me to join a group of people already ordered to lie down by the side of the road,” Sunday told Morning Star News. “I did as I was ordered to do, and then one of the men came and searched me and took money from me, including my mobile phone.”
A final year student at the Government Science and Technical College in Bukuru, near Jos, Sunday said the gunmen had also taken the belongings of the others lying on the roadside near the Bisichi/Foron Junction, four kilometers off the Jos-Barkin Kadi Highway.
“It was when the gunmen started shooting and killing those of us that were Christians grouped together that I ran into a nearby maize farm, because it was already dark,” he said. “They shot wildly at me, but I escaped unhurt, except the injuries I sustained while running in the bush.”
Sunday ran for two hours before making his way back to his village. There he later learned that two of the five people slain, 33-year-old Pam Gyang and 32-year-old Felix John, were from his village. All five of those killed were from the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) congregation in Foron, whose pastor said the assailants were a combined band of ethnic Fulani herdsmen and Islamic extremist mercenaries.
The Rev. Pam Jang Pam said the Islamic extremists also killed Jimmy Tiger, 28, Ishaku Gyang, 40, and Dachung Monday, 20, and wounded 21-year-old Yohanna Gyang and 35-year-old Gyang Habila. Also wounded, he said, were two other as yet unidentified Christians, including a pregnant woman.
The pregnant widow of Pam Gyang, 28-year-old Grace Yop Gyang, told Morning Star News that her husband is also survived by their two daughters and a son.
“I don’t have much to say except to praise God for His sustaining grace in our lives,” Gyang said. “My husband is a friend, and I’m already missing him. But what can I do but thank God for his life. I pray that through his death those who killed him will get to know Jesus as their savior.”
Pastor Pam, secretary/security supervisor of the COCIN’s Foron Regional Church Council, said the incessant killing of area Christians has greatly affected the church.
Imploring security agencies to “discharge their duties with the fear of God,” the pastor appealed to the government to “please do something about these attacks on us. The church is tired of these attacks.”
Islamic extremist groups from outside Nigeria are suspected of aiding and inciting ethnic Fulani herdsmen who have had longstanding property disputes with Christian farmers in Plateau state, a volatile area between Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and Christian/animist south.
Christian leaders in the country assert that the vast majority of “sectarian violence” is Muslim aggression that Nigeria’s Islamist media portray as Muslim-Christian clashes. They say that in the rare instances of impoverished rural Christians coming into possession of weapons – in contrast with outside Islamic terrorist groups heavily arming Nigerian Muslim extremists – Christians use them only in self-defense.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
Sunday told Morning Star News that his escape was nothing short of a miracle.
“It was not my ability that made it possible for me to escape, but it was God that made me escape to be alive to tell the story of how the attack happened and to show his miracle in my life,” he said.
c. 2013 Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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Publication date: September 3, 2013