Violent clash leaves United Methodists homeless in Nigeria

At least five people died and more than 2,000, mostly United Methodists, are homeless after violence broke out between the Shomo, Jole and Wurkun people here in a dispute over harvesting fish from a pond.

Two United Methodist brothers were shot, another man was strangled and two people who fled to the bush starved to death. Gunshots were heard around 4 a.m. on April 21.

The home of the Rev. Benjamin Isa Dammare, pastor of the Didango charge of The United Methodist Church was burned down on April 24.

Bishop calls for calm

Bishop John Wesley Yohanna of the Nigeria Episcopal Area, condemned the killing and donated relief materials to the victims.

The crisis was uncalled for, said the bishop, who called the act “ungodly” and encouraged people not to seek revenge, since vengeance is of the Lord.

He encouraged them to pray and have faith in God so as to overcome the trials they are facing.

The leader of the Didango vigilante group, a group of volunteers that watch over the village and assist policemen and other security agencies in combating crime, accepted and thanked the church for the kind gesture. He also asked for any help that could be provided.

Eunice Iliya, the regional executive for West Africa for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said the violence was not religious in nature, but instead was over ownership of a village fish pond. Iliya said the Shoma people attacked the Jole people and then the Wurkun joined in.

Salisu Babare said people started running for their lives when the gunfire erupted and the Shomo people went back for reinforcements, then burned houses and other properties in the village.

Yohanna George said the Shomo had modern weapons. Both Babare and George, who are members of the Didango, lost their homes and other belongings.

United Methodists among dead

A United Methodist youth minister, Gambo Babare, was shot to death along with his brother, Danjuma Babare, also a church member. Gambo Babare was checking on his relatives in Didango when the shooting occurred.

Housing, properties and grain worth millions of Naira, the Nigerian currency, has also been destroyed.

More than 2,000 people whose homes were destroyed have been scattered throughout neighboring villages, where they are living with help from churches and relatives. More than 250 houses and other properties were destroyed. Ninety percent of the people affected are members of The United Methodist Church.

Adamu Bambuka is communications director for the Southern Nigeria Annual Conference.

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