Nigeria Hit by Anti Christian Violence

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Churches burned down, Christian shops looted, reports

By Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

KAZAURE, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Nigerian Christians were considering their options Tuesday, Nov 25, after local authorities in Kano reportedly banned Sunday services following Islamic attacks in which churches and dozens of Christian shops were destroyed.

Last week Islamic militants burned down at least 12 churches and over 50 shops as well as several homes in a remote town of Kazaure, just 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Kano, a northern provincial capital, ASSIST News Service (ANS) monitored.

"There were 12 churches here. None was spared," Pentecostal pastor Uche Ugiri, surveying the charred remains of his Deeper Life Ministry, told the Reuters news agency.

Scrores of Christians are said to have fled the area since the latest rampage which apparently began after a student was accused of blasphemy.


A policeman monitoring the protest at the local secondary school shot and wounded the 13-year old boy after which a crowd, numbering in the thousands, went on a spree of looting and destruction in the minority Christian enclave, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month three students were killed and more than 30 were injured in fighting between Muslims and Christians at a university in the city of Maiduguri, earlier this month, several news reports said.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in religious violence in northern Nigeria in the last four years since the introduction of Islamic Shariah law in 12 states, according to Christian sources.


The latest violence prompted local Kano authorities to ban worship services by churches, a move that was expected to has heighten tensions between Muslims and Christians in the area, Compass Direct reported.

"This directive for Christians not to conduct Sunday worship services has raised a lot of concern," the Rev. A.U. Uba of the Christian Association of Nigeria was quoted as saying. He added the government seized lands belonging to Christian schools and used the sites to construct businesses.

Kano Gov. Malam Ibrahim Shekarau reportedly wants to implement Shariah law, including plans to ban women from commuting in the same vehicle with men, said Charisma News Service, an evangelical news service.


In "another controversial move", Kano officials have appointed a Muslim to lead a Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem, said Charisma, quoting Compass.

The violence has increased fears of a repeat of widespread religious conflict in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country of roughly 120 million people, which has been split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

The emir of Kazaure played down the religious significance of the attack. "During Ramadan people tend to be more devoted to God, more sensitive," he told Reuters at what the reporter described as a "mud brick palace typical of the semi-desert region."