By Our Nigeria Correspondent -
Authorities later discovered a second bomb on the church premises and disposed of it, said the Rev. Ezekiel Omidiji, senior pastor of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Gospel 1 in the Tudun Wada area of Jos, Plateau state.
“It was around quarter to nine when we heard this bomb blast,” Pastor Omidiji told Morning Star News. “Members were scared, but we were able to control them not to rush out into danger again.”
In some attacks on churches in Nigeria, assailants have sprayed Christians with bullets as they rushed out of worship buildings that had been bombed.
The church’s chief security officer said he had gone to the restroom and heard a mechanical apparatus vibrating.
“When he looked at it, he opened it and saw it was still vibrating,” Pastor Omidiji said. “So he summoned the courage and took it, went out of the bathroom and threw it over the fence of the church to a soccer field. It was at that point that the bomb exploded.”
The pastor immediately called military and police agencies, which rushed to the site and found another bomb “waiting to explode,” he said.
“After we calmed the members of our church, we sent for the STF [Special Task Force],” he said. “They were prompt in response, including policemen, the Anti-bomb Squad. They went around with their gadgets and discovered another bomb in a nearby kiosk by the field, and they immediately detonated it.”
He credited the security chief for risking his life to grab the bomb and dispose of it, and he thanked God for intervening and averting what would have been a deadly attack on his church.
“The church service went on in spite of the incident, as we did not allow the explosion to disrupt the church service,” Pastor Omidiji said. “The worship service ended well, without any other incident. We give thanks to God for His mercy and his protection.”
Jos, in north-central Nigeria’s Plateau state, is part of the country’s “Middle Belt” where Muslim/Christian conflict has accelerated in recent years. Some analysts believe primarily Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been influenced in both tactics and ideology by rebels from the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria. Fulani weapons have become more sophisticated, and at times the herdsmen have been reported to be working in concert with Islamic extremist mercenaries from neighboring countries.
Insurgents from Boko Haram, based in Borno state, have reportedly joined ethnic Fulani herdsmen in attacks on Christians in Taraba and other states. While ethnic Fulanis have had longstanding property disputes with Christian farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.
Boko Haram was suspected of planting the two bombs at the ECWA site, though the church has been targeted by other Islamic extremists since its inception 30 years ago. During the period since Pastor Omidiji began pastoring in Tudun Wada three years ago, the congregation has had cordial relations with neighboring Muslims, he said, especially as the church has helped alleviate acute water shortages for the community during dry seasons.
“As part of our good relationship with the Muslims around the church, we drilled a borehole here, and the Muslim community has been benefiting from it,” he said. “I believe that on our own side as a church, we have been relating well with the Muslim community here, and not only the Muslims but also other communities around here. In fact we had to lay water pipes from the borehole to supply water to these other communities around here, too.”
Pastor Omidiji said the bomb attempt will not deter the church and its members from showing love to area Muslims, as Christians must show love to those who hate them.
“When I came on board, I heard from members that this church has been a target to be burned down by wicked people,” he said. “But we strongly believe that the Lord has been our strength, shield and rock.”