Muslim Militants in Nigeria Threaten to Kill Christian Nurses

Monday, October 18, 2004

Management bans Christian worship at a hospital.

by Obed Minchakpu

KEFFI, Nigeria, October 18, 2004 (Compass) -- Muslim militants have threatened to kill Christian nurses serving at the Federal Medical Center in the town of Keffi, in the central state of Nasarawa, Nigeria, unless they stop conducting Christian worship services.

An undated letter received by the hospital’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Nurses (FCN) -- also delivered to hospital management -- stated, “We are making it abundantly clear that our thirst for your heads/blood is mounting daily if you continue with your worship services in the hospital unabated.”

The letter carried no names and was simply endorsed by a group calling itself “Islamic fundamentalists.” The group said that it has a strong presence in the hospital and would do everything possible to deal with all Christian health workers there.

The letter has reportedly caused panic at the hospital and prompted institutional authorities to ban all Christian worship activities.

Christiana Shiaki, secretary of the local chapter of the FCN, told Compass that Dr. B.A. Abiminku, medical director and chief executive at Keffi Federal Medical Center, sent the nurses a letter on July 19, 2004, stating that Christian-related activities at the facility had been banned.

“Following the events of last week .... which occurred within the center, Management has decided that Christian religious activities at the center is [sic] suspended in the interim,” Abiminku wrote.

Shiaki said the letter also contained a summons for the nurses to meet with hospital management. “On arrival, we were informed that the management has reached a decision based on the threat letter to ban our fellowship in the center indefinitely,” she said. “No mention was made [at the meeting] to the threat to our lives as Christians.”

Shiaki told Compass that the ban on Christian activities at the hospital denies Christian nurses and other health workers the privilege to exercise their faith as guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria.

“We are being discriminated against because we are Christians,” she said. “We have not done anything wrong to deserve this. How can they ban us from praying or worshipping here when the Muslims have two mosques built with public funds for them here in the hospital?”

Shiaki also said that for the past five years, the Christian community at the hospital has been pleading for space to build a chapel to serve health workers and patients, but the request had been turned down.

Nigeria’s chapter of the FCN was established in 1960, the year the country attained independence from Britain. The fellowship is affiliated with the Nurses Christian Fellowship International, headquartered in Scotland.

According to a report released last week by the Associated Press, violence between Muslims and Christians in central Nigeria over the last three years has left more than 53,000 people dead. A government-appointed committee said 53,787 people had died in Plateau state alone between September 2001 and May 2004.

Most of the casualties have been Christians killed in riots and militia attacks carried out by radical Muslim groups. Evidence is emerging that shows the Muslim militias receive foreign funding to purchase weapons and material. The militias often mount attacks from neighboring countries, such as Niger and Chad, which have large Muslim populations.