How Jos Christians, Muslims battled to save each other from violent mobs after attack on travelers

4 min read
Rev. Prof. Pandam Yamsat and Alh. Mohammed Sambo, co-chairmen of Plateau State Interreligious Council

Jos, Nigeria, 18 Aug. 2021: Christians and Muslims in Nigeria’s Plateau State battled to help each other on Saturday and Sunday, during mob violence that claimed 29, the latest sectarian crisis in Jos, the State Capital.

Clashes broke out when 22 Muslim faithful were bludgeoned to death, Saturday in the northwest of the city, while heading west during a solemn march for the funeral of six out of 68 Christians killed in Bassa Local Government Area on 31 Jul.

The attacks lasted three days, claiming over 70 in Bassa and neighboring Riyom Local Government Areas with no known intervention by securities. The assailants were believed to be Muslim Fulani militias who razed villages, displacing over 30,000 people.

Six of 68 Christians killed in Bassa buried Saturday in Meyango, the direction of travelers

In apparent reprisal, a convoy of five buses carrying 60 Fulani Muslims was attacked by a crowd, after being bogged down in gridlock during the funeral march, said Suleiman Hassan, a broadcast journalist, who interviewed survivors. The convoy was moving in same direction as the funeral procession, returning to Ondo from a religious event in Northeast Bauchi State, according to Police.

“The crowd got suspicious and barricaded the road,” said Hassan. “They ordered them to step out of the vans and started questioning them. Some [mourners] started beating them, and when some of them [victims] started running out of fear, the crowd started to attack with anything they could find,” Hassan told The Epoch Times.

22 Muslim travelers killed were buried in Jos

Most of the victims died from blunt-trauma injuries inflicted with stones and sticks, with a few suffering knife cuts, Hassan said. On other hand, more than 10 of them were saved by Christian residents, said Hassan, who is himself Muslim.

“Most of them ran into the houses of Christian residents in the neighborhood and were shielded. One of the Christian residents who smuggled some of the survivors in his [motorized] tricycle was attacked by the mob and the tricycle was shattered but he still escaped with them. They were all accompanied out to safety yesterday [15 Aug.],” Hassan said.

The sacrifice recalled a risky rescue of 13 Muslims in October last year by a Christian community leader in Jos – Mr. Gyang Jatau Doji, during bloody religious clashes that followed a nationwide youth protest against Police brutality.

A similar rescue of over 400 Christians by an aged Islamic cleric – Abdullahi Abubakar in June 2018 when over 200 were massacred in the State’s Northwest was globally rewarded.

The shielding of the Muslim travelers by Christians was rewarded with a similar gesture by Muslims after reprisal violence broke out in the city on Saturday night, killing seven according to Police.

A Church belonging to the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) was prevented from being razed in a Muslim dominated suburb near the University of Jos, Officials say.

“It happened at Zanariya Hill Layout behind University of Jos, where some wayward youths tried burning down the Church,” Journalist Hassan, a resident of the area told The Light Bearer. “People of the area who are Muslims stopped them, and organized locals to guard the Church,” Hassan said by phone.

Chairman of Jos North Local Government, Shehu Bala told Governor Simon Lalong during a visit to the community on Monday, that the Muslim locals barricaded the Church, while resisting the “hoodlums” who nearly overpowered them, partially torching the building, said a statement from Mr. Makut Macham, the Director of Press and Public Affairs to Governor Lalong.

In October 2019, a similar attempt to burn the same Church during sectarian violence was resisted by local Muslims, said a former Pastor of the Church, Yemi Matthew. “It was a Muslim that called me to say the Church was about to be razed but that I should not worry that they were in control of it,” Matthew told The Light Bearer by phone.

Muslim youth leaders in the area on Sunday issued a press statement appealing for restraint in the face of growing tensions following Saturday’s mob attack.

“We must remain resolute to peaceful co-existence for our collective interest,” said Concerned Jos Youths Association (COJOYA), a local association.

“As a youth group, we call on our members and other youths across religious and ethnic divides not to allow themselves to be used as tools of destruction,” said the group’s statement issued by its leader, Buhari Ibrahim.

Govetnor visits victims of mob attack in

Muslim leaders made a similar appeal on Saturday night, as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) condemned the attack on Muslim worshippers. On Tuesday when an unsigned announcement circulated on social media for a planned protest by Muslim youths, Jama”atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the association of Muslims in Plateau State distanced itself from it.

“JNI is firmly committed to ensuring that lasting peace is restored to Jos and environs,” said a statement from Lawal Ishaq, spokesperson of the association. Leader of the Association – Muhammad Sambo Abdullahi, a monarch is co-chairman of the Plateau State Interreligious Council.

The Council was working with the a local Peace building agency to trace and solve the remote causes of violent conflicts in the State, said Governor Simon Lalong on Tuesday.

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