Christians shelter and baptize refugees of post-election violence in Nigeria
In the midst of the killing, a few souls found new life.
Students at the School of Biblical Studies in Jos, a ministry training program with more than 60 students, were beginning end-of-semester exams as Nigerians went to the polls to elect local council members.
Jos, a city of more than 800,000 people, is between Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and predominantly Christian and animist south. The region has been a flash point of sectarian violence.
Members of one ethnic group, which claims Islam as its faith, disputed the outcome of the election and began attacking churches and individual Christians, said Solomon Aguh, the school’s director. The school took in more than 500 refugees on its 70-acre campus at the peak of the violence, Aguh said.
Among the refugees were Deborah, a church member, and her husband, an animist who had attended church
but refused to embrace his wife’s faith.
Deborah “often complained to the ladies at church that her husband would beat her when she refused to prepare the food he wanted to present to his household gods as a sacrifice,” said Steve Worley, a missionary who works with the school.
But when the mob forced the couple from their home, Deborah’s husband watched as the house — and his idols — burned.
“(It) became very clear to him that his gods did not listen to him,” Aguh said.
While staying at the school, the man “was very happy to be baptized, wash away his sins and start all over again with the Lord Jesus,” Aguh said.
James Ikwulono housed nine people in his 12-by-12-foot room on the school’s campus during the riots. From the campus, they could see burning houses and hear gunshots, he said.
“It was just God that protected us,” Ikwulono said.
As the riots ended, two of his guests were baptized.
Initial news reports said that at least 200 people died in the riots, though Aguh suspects the number is much higher. Four church families lost homes and businesses.
“Fifteen people are still taking refuge here at the school,” Aguh said. “They have no place to go.”
School officials have delayed classes until mid-January. Worley and his wife, Delores, who were on furlough in Tennessee when the violence erupted, plan to return to Jos this month.
The city is now calm, Aguh said, “but tension is still high.”
“Pray for us that Christ may be seen in us in this hard time, when it is easy to hate,” he said.