Christians in Kaduna forced to renounce their faith or die

Monday, March 13, 2000

KADUNA, Nigeria, 13 March 2000 (Newsroom) -- About 300 Christians of the Kabe ethnic group in the city of Kaduna were abducted and forced to renounce their faith by their Muslim captors during religious clashes in the state last month, according to a human rights group.

Human Rights Monitor, a Kaduna-based human rights group, issued a report recently that said those who refused to renounce Christianity were killed. It did not say how many died.

The forced renunciation of Christianity came during a week of clashes between Christians and Muslims over the introduction of Sharia law. As many as 400 people died in Kaduna state and in some southern cities when fighting spread there as bodies of some of the dead were buried in their home states.

Nigeria’s constitution permits Sharia, or Islamic law, as it applies to personal relationships such as inheritance, marriage, and adoption. Eight northern states, led by Zamfara state, moved to implement Islamic law in the penal code as well. Sharia penal law permits flogging, stoning, amputation, and beheading for certain crimes.

Fighting in Kaduna began February 21 when Christians demonstrating against Sharia were attacked. According to Human Rights Monitor, an initial understanding between Christian and Muslim youths in the Hunyin Banki area of the city was disregarded when Muslim youths attacked the Baptist Theological Seminary. Four student pastors at the 52-year-old seminary were killed by Muslim youths who stormed the school during the riots.

The seminary students resisted one attack, but were overpowered later by a larger mob, the Rev. Uche Eyioha told Champion newspaper, a Nigerian national daily. The school’s library, four classrooms, and chapel also were destroyed. Many students, staff, and their families were injured; an unknown number remain hospitalized.

The implementation of Sharia has since been suspended by the country’s National Council of States, which is composed of the president, vice president, all 36 state governors, and former heads of state.

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