Nigeria: Open Doors Visits Jos Blast Victims Amid Tense Atmosphere
The atmosphere in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria remains tense following the twin bomb blasts at a busy market around 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The streets of Jos were free from its usual congestion today as people feared further attacks and reprisals.
Open Doors field workers expressed concern over the considerable risk of retaliation by Christian youths following the attack that left as many as 200 people dead. Plateau State Governor Dr. Jonah David Jang apparently called on people of the state to embrace peace and shun violence.
Victims of Tuesday’s blast were taken to various hospitals within the Jos city limits. Open Doors workers visited several of the hospitals to encourage the victims of the attack and gather information.
“At Plateau Specialist Hospital the gate was shut for individuals to make way for security and Red Cross vehicles to bring the victims more easily,” reports Open Doors field worker Issac. “Security was tight. People were screened before given access into the hospital. The wards are so full that the injured have to lie down on the floor because there are no more beds. The morgue is also so full that bodies are put down on the floor with no space for any more.”
The two blasts were the fourth such incident in Nigeria targeting Christian-dominated areas since the April 14 bomb blast in the Nyanya district of Abuja that killed more than 70 people. Another explosion in Abuja on May 1 left at least 12 dead. A blast at a busy intersection in the predominantly Christian Sabon Gari section of Kano on May 18 killed at least four people.
Christians told Open Doors that they do not doubt that they were again specifically targeted by the latest attack. They suspect that Muslims received prior warning since shops belonging to Muslims were shut on Monday and Tuesday. Christians carried on business despite the suspicious action.
Although it has not yet accepted responsibility for the Jos bomb blast, an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria is believed to be the orchestrators. The government of Nigeria has recently extended the state of emergency it declared in May 2013 for Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states to assist the battle against the insurgents. Under the state of emergency, an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria violence has continued and periodically intensified. Observers have been expressing doubt over the government’s ability to bring an end to the violence. The instability is causing Christians to fear for their safety during national elections set in February 2015.
“Open Doors USA is conducting a writing/prayer campaign on its website to encourage the families of nearly 300 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped April 14 by an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria. For more information, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Colombia: FARC Forcing Churches to Close before Sunday’s Elections
Colombian guerilla movement FARC has increased threats against Christians in a bid to consolidate their power for this Sunday’s presidential elections. This is shown by a number of incidents reported by Open Doors sources. On one occasion, 11 pastors were forbidden to preach in their region at the risk of being physically attacked. On other occasions, churches have been ordered to close down.
“Things like this happen all the time in Colombia,” says Dennis Pastoor, persecution analyst for Open Doors’ World Watch Research. “However, the intensity and frequency seem to have increased in the run-up to the elections and the consequences the outcome could have for peace negotiations. FARC wants to do anything to reinforce their power and influence and negate the idea that they have been weakened.
“Moreover, FARC wants to make sure the peace negotiations continue after the elections are over. For that, it needs the right candidate to win, and as a result it is intimidating people to follow FARC’s wishes. For that to happen, FARC is behind increased violence and also thought to be behind massive road blocks which greatly hamper the country.”
Pastoor adds: “The pastors are threatened because they do not adhere to FARC’s rules and orders. Secondly, many pastors openly preach against injustice and violence which antagonizes FARC. Thirdly, in the past many churches which were fed up with FARC’s threats received and supported the opposing paramilitaries. This has also caused FARC to think that Christians are enemies. The increased threats have a great impact on the persecuted Church in Colombia.
“Many Christians are surviving and are very pessimistic about the future. The pastors are intensely discouraged. All Christians want, basically, is to preach and live the gospel in freedom. It’s very hard to say what election outcome would be the best outcome for them, but it seems that FARC, no matter what, will continue their strategy of increased intimidation. This is bad news for the Church.”
Columbia is ranked No. 25 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.