Nigeria to criminalize 'street evangelism'?

Monday, May 9, 2016

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) - Street evangelists could be fined and pastors sent to jail under new legislation proposed by the Muslim governor of Kaduna state, Nigeria.

According to Morning Star News, a bill sent by Gov. Nasir El-Rufai to the Nigerian state assembly last October would annually require clergy to obtain renewable preaching permits. But clerics claim El-Rufai's Religious Regulation Bill, which in theory would apply to all religions, will only muzzle Christianity under the guise of combating religious extremism.

"The proposed law is in contravention of the Nigerian Constitution and shall inhibit the preaching of the gospel when it becomes operational," the Rev. George Dodo, chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, told Morning Star News. "We have reservations over the bill and believe that it will curtail religious freedom of the people -- particularly Christians in Kaduna state."

Currently under consideration by the Muslim-dominated Kaduna State House of Assembly, the bill would strip clergy of their right to preach should the Nigerian government or its agencies find any of that preaching to be offensive. "Offensive" preachers could be imprisoned for up two years, fined 200,000 naira (approximately $1,000 US) -- or both.

In addition to criminalizing street evangelism by confining all preaching inside the churches of Nigeria's Muslim majority state, the bill will also forbid playing evangelical recordings in public. Again, violators could be fined up to 200,000 naira.

The Rev. Evaristus Bassey, director of Caritas International, said that Kaduna state should rely on existing laws to maintain religious harmony. But El-Rufai said the bill was needed not only in Kaduna state, but throughout Nigeria.

"I believe that before you start preaching in any religion, you should have gone through a system of education, training and some kinds of certification, because even doctors have to be certified ...."

However, Solomon Musa, a Christian community leader in Kaduna state, said that the Nigerian government needs to curb the incessant attacks on Christian communities by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen instead of further burdening them with biased regulations.