For Jummai Sunday, 63, Thursday (Dec. 11) began like that of any other for the Christian widow. After a morning devotional, she visited sick or bereaved families, and then returned home to gather items for sale at her market spot near the bus terminal area in Jos, Nigeria.
She survived the twin bomb blasts that the Boko Haram jihadist group is suspected of detonating that evening, but gunmen who swooped in on survivors killed her with shots to her head, leg and hand, relatives said. At least 31 other people in the predominantly Christian quarter were killed by the Islamic extremist group that has created violent chaos for five years in its bid to turn Nigeria into a sharia (Islamic law) state.
Her body was taken to a hospital in Yan Shanu, a Muslim quarter of the city where her son went to retrieve her corpse – taking with him a small contingent of police and soldiers, as he had learned that Muslims were shooting Christians in the area.
Another Christian woman selling her wares beside Sunday was shot but survived to tell relatives how the widow died.
“Her son and sister died during the attack, but she survived as she escaped while the shooting was going on,” Sunday’s 35-year-old daughter told Morning Star News. “What we found out was that soon after bombs exploded, the gunmen who planted the bombs began shooting at survivors.”
Muslims were likely among those killed or wounded in the bombing, but Boko Haram has frequently targeted Christians and Christian institutions along with government and security agency sites in its terrorist campaign; its attacks on moderate Muslims are usually aimed at particular individuals.
Boko Haram militants are suspected in bomb blasts that killed 118 people in the same area of Jos on May 20. With elections scheduled for February, Boko Haram’s efforts to destabilize the government of President Goodluck Jonathan are expected to increase. 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.
Sunday’s daughter, whose name is withheld for security reasons, said she had spoken by phone with her mother that afternoon; the conversation was cut short when her mother’s phone battery apparently lost power.
“Soon after my brother had left with others to visit hospitals in the city, I received a phone call from an unknown Muslim caller,” she said. “He told me that my mom was in a hospital near their house at Yan Shanu, a Muslim quarter. I asked to know how she got there, and the man said my mom was evacuated at the scene of the bomb blast and was taken to the hospital.”
He had found her number in her mother’s cell phone call log. The caller told her to come as soon as she could. It was close to midnight.
“I asked the caller to give the phone to my mom so that I can talk to her, but he declined and said my mother’s case is critical so she would not be able to talk to me,” she said. “However, after a while this Muslim called back to tell me that I should not go the hospital as Muslims in the area are attacking Christians and killing them.”
She phoned her brother. He called soldiers and policemen who accompanied him and others to Plateau Hospital in the Yan Shanu area of Jos.
“When they got home, they told us that mom was shot by gunmen who after the bombs exploded went around shooting survivors at the scene of the explosions,” Sunday’s daughter said. “She survived the explosion but was shot dead by the gunmen.”
She described her mother as someone loved and served others, sharing the household food even when there was little of it.
“Even when things were tough for us, my mom would take foodstuffs we have in the house and share this with other families who do not have anything to eat,” she said. “A visitor to our home will always have something to eat first before Mom would talk to such a person.”
She also visited others in their homes – praying for the sick, consoling those that mourned, and sharing Scripture with those she felt needed it, her daughter said.
“Sometimes she would abandon her wares in the market and go out to share the Word of God with others before returning to the market,” she said. “There were times I had to talk to her to minimize her zeal for outreach to others, but she would caution me and say she is into the business of winning souls for God and not looking for money.”
The Rev. Musa Ishe, pastor at an Evangelical Church Winning All in Jos, said Sunday was a committed member of his church, active in the women’s fellowship group.
“We are saddened that she has been killed and in such a brutal way,” he told Morning Star News. “God has called her to be with Him at this time, and we cannot therefore question God on this. It is our prayer that God, who is an all-powerful God, will bring an end to these endless killings of Christians in this country.”
Ishe said Christians in Jos have long lived alongside Muslims without having problems.
“So we are baffled that Islam has now become a religion whose proponents derive pleasure in killing Christians without provocation,” he said. “We therefore plead with the Nigerian government to step up on the fight against terrorism so that we can have some respite from the bloodshed. We will continue to pray that these Islamists will come to know Jesus Christ and become transformed persons that God has created them to be.”
Sunday’s daughter said her mother often told them that material possessions can never bring satisfaction, and that their desire should be to do things pleasing to God.
“Whenever she advised us not to do certain things and we disobeyed her, we ended up running into difficulties; in the end, we always ran back to her asking for forgiveness for disobeying her,” she said. “With her death, it has dawned on me that my mom has left a very big task for me. I pray that I am able to have the grace to take after her. I have no choice than to follow her exemplary lifestyle of being a disciple of Jesus. I have lost a dear friend and a mother.”