Choosing to forgive

Water and sanitationRefugeesEthnic ConflictNigeria

This story contains details of violence that some readers may find upsetting.

It was late evening when Joel saw lights in the neighbouring village. It was on fire. His community in Plateau State, Nigeria, had previously been threatened by armed herdsmen in a dispute over land. They believed the attackers were heading their way.

Joel*, aged 21, was the eldest child – with two younger brothers still at home. Along with their mother, they decided to flee for their lives when they heard gunshots. But they had to leave behind their father, who only had one leg.

The herdsmen attacked, and in the ensuing chaos the rest of the family ran in different directions. Joel was shot at but survived – as did his two younger brothers.

Joel’s parents were both killed. His mother was shot while sheltering in a neighbour’s house. His father was also shot and the family home burnt down. Nine people in the village were killed that night – in total an estimated 86 people were killed across the neighbouring communities.

Alone together
The brothers fled to a makeshift camp in the nearby city of Jos to join with 6,000 displaced people. With no sanitation, disease spread in the camp and Joel’s youngest brother caught typhoid.

But thanks to water and sanitation workshops from Tearfund’s partner, RURCON, the spread of typhoid and cholera was halted, and people – including Joel and his brothers – learnt to keep safe and healthy. After treatment, Joel’s brother recovered.

RURCON supported Joel’s family with soap, water purification tablets, a mattress and financial help – a vital lifeline to the family who fled with nothing.

‘Our parents, they were our pillar,’ says Joel who is now taking care of his brothers. ‘But now they have gone. We have nobody to look up to. They were so important to us, as teachers, as moral guides. They cared for us. Now they are no more.’

‘But I am a Christian. I pray that God will restore my mind so I can forget what happened. I want to move on with my life. I want to forgive. And to forget. But it is very painful.’

PLEASE PRAY

  • Pray for Joel and his two younger brothers, that they will find peace as they work through the trauma that they faced and seek to forgive their attackers.
  • Lift up the staff from Tearfund’s partner, RURCON, in Plateau State, Nigeria. Pray for safety as they seek to follow Jesus where the need is greatest in often dangerous circumstances.
  • Pray for the country of Nigeria, where violence and conflict between different groups often pushes already struggling families deeper into poverty.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Peter Shaw