October 30, 2001
“Home of Peace and Tourism” declares our Plateau State license plate. However, in a horrible twist of irony, the foundation of this motto was recently shattered. Our serene city of Jos was ripped apart by ethnic and religious clashes.
The crisis erupted on a Friday afternoon, Sept 7, when a mob of Moslem youths began to attack “Christians” on the streets and in their homes and businesses near the city center. Evidently, local opposition to the political appointment of a Moslem from a northern Nigerian state precipitated the attack.
As I was leaving the hospital late Friday afternoon to attend a house dedication of a fellow Nigerian staff couple, I heard of some “trouble” in town. But I wasn’t alarmed, because relatively minor student riots and ethnic clashes occur periodically. However, after I picked up the boys from school, we approached a mob of youths smashing car windows, while others were running. Because this took place far from where the disturbance had started, the unrest was apparently becoming widespread. Quickly turning the car around, I took an alternate route to get Rosie and warn others at the house dedication. Using a circuitous route, we were able to arrive home before dark. In spite of an order on the radio by the deputy governor to stop the violence and the imposition of a curfew, we heard distant gunfire throughout the night and awoke Saturday morning to a skyline filled with smoke.
Sporadic violence recurred throughout the city over the following week. Hundreds were killed, and many homes, churches, and mosques were burned. At the hospital, we cared for about 400 casualties - gunshot and machete wounds, fractures, burns, and head trauma. The morgue was unable to contain the 160 corpses, and many were left outside until they could be taken for mass burial. Because local police were unable to contain the unrest, the army moved in to restore stability. Tanks and military checkpoints peppered the city. With barely anyone venturing out, the city was paralyzed. Shops and businesses were closed, and many were hungry and homeless.
By Tuesday, Sept 11, Tom received word that our own night guard had been killed defending his home and family. That afternoon our distress was multiplied when news of the tragic terrorist attacks on the U.S. reached us. United with believers worldwide in the face of calamity, we found comfort, hope, and perspective in God’s Word and prayer.
Although disturbed by the response of Christians and Moslems alike, we were equally encouraged by those who provided refuge and care to others irrespective of their religious or tribal affiliation. Burdened by the desperate situation of our Moslem neighbors who had run out of food, even our son Jesse delighted in taking food over to meet their family’s need. We pray that as believers respond to crises like these, our actions would lead Moslems to Christ rather than hinder their response.
Tom & Rosie