Nigeria Churches Destroyed, One Killed, After Muslim Marriage Row

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

By BosNewsLife News Center

ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- A Muslim man's failed attempt to marry a young Christian woman resulted in him accusing her of "blasphemy", triggering violence in the Nigerian town of Yana that left at least one person dead, seven Christians hospitalized and five churches destroyed, a Christian news agency reported Tuesday, February 11.

Compass Direct News, which investigates reports of Christian persecution, said tensions began when Paitence Yusuf was approached at home at the night of February 1 by a young Muslim men. The young man, whose name was not disclosed, asked her to meet him outside and told her he wanted to marry her, the agency said, citing an evangelical pastor. "I beg you in the name of God and his apostle, Muhammad, to please accept me as your boyfriend,” he was overheard saying.

"You are pleading in the name of a person I do not know. Jesus I know, but Muhammad I do not know,” she reportedly answered, rejecting his marriage proposal. Reverend Garba Gaius, pastor of the Evangelical Church of West Africa congregation to which the young woman belongs, said in published remarks that the man left, only to gather friends and neighbors, to tell them that Yusuf "had blasphemed" Muhammad.

The following morning, the Muslim man allegedly took a group of other Muslims to the house of Yusuf, where they confronted her on the allegation of blasphemy against Muhammad. Sensing that the Muslims intended to kill her, Yufus escaped to the town’s police station, where she was kept in protective custody, Gaius added.


The group went after Yusuf to the police station and demanded that she be released to them to be killed in accordance with sharia [Islamic law] for blasphemy, Gaius claimed. “The police declined to release her, and there and then they attacked the police men on duty and burnt down the police station."

Police defending the station fired into the crowd, killing one man in his 20s. Shortly after, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets armed with guns, machetes, cudgels and clubs, attacking Christians and injuring many of them, the news agency quoted Reverend Gaius as saying.

Five churches, including Gaius’ own church, a Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), an Apostolic Church, a Roman Catholic Church, and a Church of Christ in Nigeria – were destroyed, along with homes belonging to Christians, he added. The number of people reportedly displaced by the violence reached 1,000.

Christian leaders say such problems have become common, with area Muslims allegedly using young Christian women as pretexts for attacking Christians. At the same time, he Gaius said, Muslim officials are increasingly making it difficult for area churches to obtain land.


News of the attack came just days after a former Muslim in nearby Chad revealed that his child was killed and that he lost his wife because of his faith in Christ. Jeje Nehamiah Baki said he was forced to leave the town of Ngudungudu in December 1995 to meet up with his nomadic family in the wilderness.

His wife had already returned to her parents and their nomadic lifestyle. She was seized by his father-in-law who was upset about him converting from Islam to Christianity, Compass Direct News reported. He allegedly would allow her to go back with him only if Baki renounced his Christian faith. He refused and was forced to leave without his family.

A few years later, he returned to try to convince his father-in-law to allow him to retrieve his wife and children. In the course of this confrontation, his father-in-law killed Bali’s young son on August 18, 2002. “At the end of it all, he murdered my first son, Joshua, by poisoning him," Baki was quoted as saying.

Christians helped him, and last year he enrolled in a four-year diploma program at the Alana Bible College, a theological institution of the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Nigeria's Bache state. Though he has been a fugitive from family threats for more than 11 years for becoming a Christian, Bake said he looks back with joy that he opted to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. "Trials and sufferings should not discourage anyone from following Jesus Christ," Baki told Compass Direct News. "But then, Muslims who have made the decision to follow the true path, Jesus Christ, must remain steadfast." (With reporting from Nigeria).

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