Location: Jos | Nigeria
Duration: 0 months
The city of Jos, in the north-central part of Nigeria, is where the Muslim North meets the Christian South. Since September 2001, Jos has experienced three major ethnic-religious crises in which thousands of people have died and hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, all within 25 miles of where I live. There are many causes behind these things including ethnicity, poverty, unemployment, politics and religion. Unfortunately, churches and mosques and religious leaders have been targeted during these crises so the longer they have continued the more these crises have taken upon themselves a religious flavor. For example, in the 2008 crisis, seven churches within two kilometers of my house were destroyed.
In the 2001 and 2008 crisis, people fled into the university community where I live to get away from the fighting. The church and parsonage of one of my students, about a mile from where we live, was burned. Therefore, I invited the pastor’s family to come to my house until the fighting calmed down. Within hours, we had dozens of people in and around my house. For the next week, we fed between 150 – 200 people and the only night I counted, there were 70 people sleeping in my house plus my family and two other expatriate families connected to the university. Unfortunately, another crisis sparked of again in November 2008. There were many more refugees during the second crises but fortunately, many of my neighbors in the university absorbed most of them and we personally had about the same number as the first crisis. Our earlier experiences had prepared us a bit better and the city itself was better prepared so we were able to link up with the state government and several relief organizations to provide assistance to the hundreds of people who had lost their homes and businesses and, in too many cases, their family members.
To our great dismay, the crises exploded again in January 2010. The fighting was not quite as close to our home during this crisis so we did not have any refugees this time. However, a few days after this crises started, I got very involved in peace efforts. I teach in a university Department of Religious Studies that includes Christians and Muslims. In addition, I have done joint Christian-Muslim HIV/AIDS workshops for the past ten years all over Nigeria. Therefore, we attempted to use those experiences to start re-building bridges and encouraging reconciliation between the Christian and Muslim communities. To this point, I have participated in the following types of peace activities, some of which are still in the planning stage:
I have no formal training in peace activities. The organization I work for is an academic organization so working with refugees and peace making is not really a part of our official focus. However, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers . . .” I am grateful that God has given my colleagues, my family and me the privilege of living in Jos during these troubled times so that we can received Jesus’ blessing of being a peace maker.
Here’s what I could offer someone serving in the same capacity or location: