More Than 200 Churches Destroyed in Kaduna, Nigeria

Friday, November 22, 2002

Christian University Worker Arrested for Controversial Prayer
by Obed Minchakpu

KADUNA, Nigeria (Compass) -- A total of 294 churches have been burned in Kaduna city of northern Nigeria during Muslim-Christian clashes since the Kaduna state government decided to adopt and implement the Islamic legal system last year.

The violence has also left thousands of Christians homeless and dramatically increased the number of widows and orphans, according to the Macedonian Initiative (MI), a Christian non-governmental organization, which released the figures in June.

Nigerian Christian ministers and denominational leaders established the Macedonian Initiative to provide aid to those who have suffered because of the ongoing conflict.

"The situation in Kaduna is pathetic," said Pastor Ladi Thompson, the MI spokesperson. "In spite of government and CAN's (Christian Association of Nigeria) effort so far, the devastation is so much that not up to 10 percent of it has been addressed. Many children are now orphans, women are now widows, many children's education has been disrupted, their schools having been destroyed or their parents killed. These people have no roof over their heads anymore, and they are roaming the streets."

Thompson told Compass in Lagos that the organization was prompted to come to the aid of the churches to restore life in Kaduna.

"To start with, we will be going to their aid as was done to Christian brethren in Judea when they were being persecuted. In Kaduna, the persecution was total. It was across the entire body of Christ. It has nothing to do with denomination, hence we are coming together as one body, not only to give hope to Christians in Kaduna, to rebuild the churches in that place, but to rehabilitate our Christian brethren in the place," Thompson said.

The rehabilitation program includes reconstructing destroyed churches and distributing relief materials to both Christian and Muslim victims affected by the crisis.

Thompson also said the MI would conduct research and develop a long-range strategy that he hopes will provide a solution to the conflict. The MI has already launched a $150 million fundraising campaign for reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.

Christian professionals are expected to volunteer their time and services toward the effort. Plans also call for churches in southern Nigeria to "adopt" a destroyed church in Kaduna state.

Meanwhile, Ambrose Lar, a Christian worker with the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna state, was arrested and detained for seven days in June because of a prayer.

University workers were meeting under the auspices of their unions -- the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Universities Non-Teaching Staff Union (UTSU), when Lar was asked to pray for the problems that have confronted the institution.

Lar reportedly prayed for the sanitizing of corruption that has "bedeviled" the institution and prayed against corruption's perpetrators. He also prayed for God's wrath on those who have conspired to deny Christians in the university their basic religious rights.

Angered by the Christian worker's prayer, the vice chancellor of the university, Professor Abdullahi Mahdi, a Muslim, ordered Lar's arrest. Lar was released only after university workers went on strike on his behalf.

On June 30, the university workers began a week of fasting and prayer that is aimed at seeking God's intervention in the university's problems, particularly on those related to Christian rights, said Mr. Samuel Joel, the chairperson of the workers' union.

Joel told Compass the university management is using religion as a tool to oppress the workers.

"We have asked Christians to involve their churches and families in these prayer sessions so that we can achieve maximum results," Joel said.

Lar said that he sees his detention as a price he had to "pay for being a Christian in Nigeria. Professing our faith has now become a crime in Nigeria. But nothing can stop us from professing that we are Christians, and that we believe in Jesus Christ. No Muslim fanatic can stop us from serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria was the first university established in northern Nigeria, in 1962. It is named after Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, a Muslim political leader who helped entrench Islam as part of the political process in northern Nigeria, including the Islamic legal code that has been adopted in Kaduna and other states in the north.

Copyright 2001, Compass News Direct. Used with Permission.