Islamic Violence Paralyzes Teenager, Churches in Nigeria

Monday, July 10, 2006

Machete cuts down 15-year-old boy in Kaduna state, nerve center of extremism.
by Obed Minchakpu

KADUNA, Nigeria, July 10 (Compass Direct) -- For two years Francis Yohanna Anche, 15, has been suffering from a brain injury he sustained when Muslim students in his high school in Zaria city attacked Christian students. His right hand and leg are still paralyzed from a machete cut to his head.

Muslim students at the Government Science Secondary School-Kufena, Anche told Compass, had written a letter on June 24, 2004 warning Christian students that they should stop worshipping in the school’s chapel or else face their wrath.

“Our school fellowship leaders took the letter to Mallam Nuhu, our principal, but nothing was done to stop the plan to attack us,” Anche said. That night around 1 a.m., sensing the Muslim students were bent on attacking, the school’s Christians gathered in the chapel to pray, he said.

Soon Muslim students began stoning the Christians inside the chapel, he said.

“There was pandemonium. Some of us jumped out of the chapel through the windows while others rushed for the door,” Anche said. “When I sensed that there was danger for me to remain in the chapel, I ran out as fast as I could, but I became tired and they caught up with me. All I can remember is that I received a cut on my head.”

Anche was in coma for two weeks at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, where he underwent surgery on his brain. He still suffers severe headaches from the injury, besides the paralysis of the right hand and leg. He said his father, Sgt. Yohanna Anche of the Nigeria Police in Dankande, died on June 22 after his condition was weakened from bearing the burden of Francis’ pain and paralysis.

Anche has four siblings. He fears that his mother Grace, an elementary teacher in Dandimi village, may also become burdened by his incapacitation.

Seven other Christian students also sustained injuries in this attack. This was not the first such incident in the school, where Christians have endured periodic assaults.

Cradle of Militancy

The Rev. Joseph Hayap, secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna chapter, confirmed the attack on Christian students at the school, adding that the Muslim students burned down the chapel.

Hayap, who raised some 200,000 naira (US$1,558) for Anche’s hospital treatment, said such attacks are one of many problems facing Christians in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna. Christian leaders in the state describe it as the nerve center of Islamic extremism, where many religious conflicts in northern Nigeria originate and spread to other parts of Nigeria.

In some parts of the state, Christians are dragged before Islamic law (sharia) courts. The introduction of the Islamic legal system in 2000, they said, has contributed to the escalation of religious conflicts in some parts of the state.

Hayap, a Baptist pastor with the Nigerian Baptist Convention, has chronicled over 20 religious conflicts in Kaduna state from 1987 to 2006. These conflicts, he said, resulted in the killing of over 25,000 Christians and the destruction of about 500 churches in Makarfi, Kaduna, Kafanchan, Zangon Kataf, Kasuwa Magani, and Zaria.

“I was a witness to them, and I even participated in mass burials of the victims as the secretary of the Kaduna state chapter of CAN,” he said. “I know very well that these casualty figures of Christians that were killed are not fake, which is the impression that some people want to create. These Christians were indeed killed by Muslim fanatics.”

Hayap added that there have been unending religious conflicts in the state’s Ahmadu Bello University-Zaria, Kaduna Polytechnic, Federal College of Education-Zaria, and the Kaduna State Polytechnic-Zaria.

He noted that a pastor was recently set ablaze in his room by Muslims in Zaria city.

“All these attacks on Christians have made us realize that Christians are dealing with Muslims whose ways of promoting their religion is war,” he said. “Muslims like doing what they are doing, killing and burning churches.”

Above the Law

Hayap alludes to the constitutional crisis that has erupted over the imposition of sharia in 12 northern states when he locates the main cause of religious conflict in the Muslim desire to make the Quran supreme over the Nigerian constitution.

He believes that this attitude leads Muslims to believe they are above the law.

“The problem we have had in Nigeria is that there has been no rule of law,” he said. “They see Islam as a religion whose adherents cannot be subject to the rule of law.”

Kaduna state now operates with a dual legal system, sharia and the customary legal system. The Kaduna government claimed it was establishing the customary courts to serve Christians and animists.

Hayap, however, said the customary courts are run in accordance with traditional religious practices of animists and hence do not serve the interest of Christians. By allowing the dual system, the government was only trying to create the impression that it was addressing injustice done to Christians, he said.

“The truth is that the sharia law or the sharia courts in Kaduna state were given to the Muslims, but Christians were given none, because customary courts are not for Christians,” Hayap said.

Christians’ rejection of sharia has nothing to do with opposition to amputations or prohibition of prostitution and drunkenness, he said.

“Christians in Nigeria have rejected the sharia because it stops evangelism,” he said. “If sharia is in place, and if a Muslim after hearing the gospel makes a decision to receive Jesus, he is killed by Muslims for converting to Christianity.”

Diverted Social Funds

Another reason Christian leaders oppose sharia is that resources granted for social services can be diverted into propagating Islam.

In agreement on this point are Hayap; Anglican Bishop of Wusasa Diocese in Zaria Ali Buba Lamido; Secretary-General of the Northern Nigeria CAN chapter Deacon Saidu Dogo; and Dr. Bitrus Gani, chairman of the board of Governors of Hope for the Blind Centre in Zaria. These Christian leaders assert that resources meant for services such as hospitals, schools, roads, and utility services are now being diverted toward building Islamic institutions, payment of Muslim judges, and enticing poor Christian women and orphans into Islam.

They insist that innocent and largely illiterate Christians in the villages are dragged daily before Islamic courts. They cite numerous cases of Christians who have been tried in Islamic courts and are jailed, or are standing trial in these courts, while the Nigerian government seems helpless to intervene.

Dogo confirms the fact that innocent and the little educated rural Christians have become victims of Islamic law.

“On a general note, what we discovered is that the introduction of sharia was purely to hoodwink people who are not educated enough to understand the implication,” Dogo said. “Muslim leaders implementing the sharia use it unjustly in punishing the less privileged in northern Nigeria, particularly Christians.”

Muslim-controlled governments have banned the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge to Christian students in schools, and all media houses in these states have been banned from airing Christian programs, Dogo added.

He said town planning authorities have been denying churches approval to develop their properties, which has led to the demolition of church buildings.

“Churches have now become targets of town planning authorities,” he said. “These agencies of Islamic governments now boldly demolish churches at will, alleging that such churches are illegal structures.”

Furthermore, he said, whenever Christians build houses and convert them into churches because they have been denied approval for church buildings, these homes are then marked as illegal structures and demolished.

“Yet, Muslims everywhere build mosques and approvals for them are not required,” Dogo said. “That is what it means to be a Christian in Islamic states like Kaduna.”

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct