Christian Peer And US Bishop Narrowly Escape Ambush By Islamist Gunmen In Nigeria
A US bishop and prominent Christian peer have narrowly escaped an ambush by Muslim militants in Nigeria.
Baroness Cox, a lifelong campaigner for religious freedom and member of the House of Lords, was visiting an area of Jos in Nigeria where Islamist Fulani herdsmen have wreaked death and destruction on thousands of Christians and dozens of villages in recent years.
The Fulani are regarded as even more of a danger in the plateau state than Boko Haram.
Baroness Cox was visiting a vulnerable village with Bishop Stewart Ruch III, of the Upper Midwest Diocese. Just 30 minutes after they left, armed men descended and began shooting randomly, including at a wedding party.
It is believed they were deliberately targeting Baroness Cox and Bishop Rich, and might even have mistaken the wedding party for their delegation.
Evangelist Hassan John, West Africa editor of Global Christian News, who witnessed the incident, said afterwards: "God protected our team and we had escaped the ambush set for us. No one was hurt. Just for those that came after us on the same village road. Am still in touch with the pastors in the village but so far there are no fatalities."
Speaking to Nancy Gifford of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, which has been supporting John in studies at Oxford, he added: "Thanks for all your prayers."
According to John, shortly after Baroness Cox and her team had left Lo-Birin village they received a phone call from the Christian minister, Gyang Boyi, who told them: "Barely thirty minutes after your team left, armed men came into the valley, the only way out of the village, and started shooting at people driving through. Many shot at were youths driving back from a wedding. They must have though it was your team."
Just months ago, the Fulani murdered the traditional ruler in the same village, as well as a Christian pastor, the Rev Chollom Sale.
During their time in the village, Baroness Cox and Bishop Ruch were told stories of the previous attack, when hundreds of armed militants chanting "Allahu Akbar" attacked.
Boyi described what happened.
"They were shooting with guns and then they followed people fleeing and killed mostly the elderly who could not run and women and children. Over 20 people were killed in the attack."
Four villages were targeted in total in the same area. In one village, houses were torched and buildings deliberately pulled down to make it impossible for their Christian owners to rebuild.
Baroness Cox told survivors: "We count it a privilege to visit with Christians who are on the frontline facing all kinds of challenges everyday. Many in the West have no idea what kind of persecution many Christians go through. You are an example of living faith. We thank you for holding the frontline of faith and freedom for the rest of the world."