By Mark Ellis —
A full-fledged war between two majority Christian tribal groups has led to the death of a pastor and his wife while they worked their farm in Taraba state, Nigeria.
Pastor Emmanuel Bileya and his wife, Juliana, were killed by militiamen, leaving behind eight children and the congregants of their Christian Reformed Church, according to a report by ChurchLeaders.com.
Bileya had previously studied in the U.S. at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan and The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Jacksonville, Florida.
The pastor recently wrote to friends in the U.S. asking for prayers because the tribal conflict between the Tiv and the Jukun had reached his town. He belonged to the Jukun tribe.
“Sometimes I feel like leaving Nigeria to work somewhere else that is more peaceful. I am tired of the insurgencies, communal clashes, armed robbery, kidnappings, poor economy that renders us to live hand to mouth, and other serious vices. GOD THE SOVEREIGN IS OUR ONLY HOPE,” he wrote.
He noted the dangers superseded the health crisis sweeping the world. “It is a very very serious matter beyond Corona Virus pandemic: It is war!”
“So far more than 10 of our villages have been completely destroyed and people killed. The Jukun tribe has retaliated by destroying Tiv tribe’s villages and killing their people as well.”
He said the conflict started in April, 2020, due to a farming dispute.
“The Tivs have destroyed our churches and rumored that they plan to come to destroy the church where I am working at. For some time now, many people have fled the town for safety including my family but I have remained in Mararraba praying and hoping for God’s restoration of peace and protection of the town and church.”
Sadly, Pastor Bileya’s concerns were well-placed and his children have been orphaned.
Both the Tiv and Jukun people are predominantly Christians and their churches were planted in Nigeria by the same missionaries affiliated with the Reformed faith (Calvinists).
“The Tivs have succeeded in destroying more than 10 villages of the Jukuns and the Jukuns have also burnt down more than five of the Tiv villages. Many lives and properties have been lost.”
Bileya stated they lacked security personnel in the area to stop the fighting due to the coronavirus lockdown, the fight against Boko Haram, and “other serious insurgencies” taking place currently in Nigeria.