Nigeria Muslim Mob Destroy Churches and Christian Homes; Several Injured

Monday, September 25, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

LAGOS, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife) -- Christians faced another tense night in Northern Nigeria late Friday, September 22, where authorities imposed a curfew after angry Muslim mobs burned 11 churches over what they called "blasphemy" against the Prophet Mohammad by a Christian woman, police and Christian investigators said.

The latest violence came as the Muslim world was already in uproar in response to a quotation about jihad cited by Pope Benedict XVI on September 12 in Germany. There have been attacks against Christians in the Palestinian territories, Somalia and Iraq.

Scores of houses and shops owned by Christians were also torched in the capital of remote Jigawa state during a riot on Wednesday, September 20, sparked by a disagreement between a Muslim man and a Christian woman, police spokesman Haz Iwendi told Reuters news agency.

Barnabas Fund, a human rights group investigating the plight of Christians in mainly Muslim countries or territories, told BosNewsLife that the initial violence began Tuesday, September 19, in the northern city of Dutse, in the Nigerian state of Jigawa.


"A mob of Muslim youths set upon the Christian minority in the city [where] St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral was burnt to the ground and the Bishop’s office destroyed. Initial reports speak of between 4 and 10 other churches as well as shops, vehicles and homes belonging to Christians having been set ablaze," the group added.

There are believed to be 15 churches locally, “so 10 would amount to two-thirds of all the churches in the area. Several people were injured,” Barnabas Fund said. Up to seven people were injured, Iwendi estimated..

"Eleven churches and so many houses and shops were burned. The house of the Anglican bishop was also ransacked," he told Reuters, adding that hundreds of Christians fled their homes to military and police barracks fearing further attacks.


"There is now a night curfew in the town and police units from (neighboring) Kano and Katsina states have been sent there to beef up security," Iwendi claimed.

Barnabas Fund said it has learned that the state governor was himself attacked when he tried to calm the mob and was hurriedly taken away from the area. "The mob was only quelled when hundreds of heavily armed police began belatedly began to patrol the city,” added Barnabas Fund which has close contacts with Christians claiming persecution.

The group said it had launched an appeal to help the Christian victims of the Dutse rioting. “Nigerian church leaders say the immediate needs are for food and clothing. Later it will be necessary to rebuild churches and homes which have been destroyed."


Religious violence has plagued Nigeria, whose 140 million people are thought to be evenly split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, for many years. However Barnabas Fund said that Christians seem to be the main targets of extremists.

"There have also been many verbal protests. The Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a so-called moderate who had justified violence in the past, called for September 22 to be a “day of rational anger" across the world," the group added.

He also "warned Muslims not to attack churches. Sadly his warning against violence does not seem to have been heeded." Barnabas Fund claimed the violence in Nigeria seemed part of an agenda of several Muslim leaders and groups around the world who have issued further statements "showing a violent intent."


It noted that “the Ansar al-Sunna group in Iraq called the Pope a “stupid pig” and a "blasphemer," and urged Muslims to do more than just protest,” following the pontiff’s remarks about Islam in Germany.

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq publicly threatened Christians saying, "We will destroy the cross … then all that will be accepted will be conversion or the sword (death). May God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen (those who engage in jihad)."

Barnabas Fund’s International Director, Patrick Sookhdeo, said that although Muslims are always saying that Islam is a religion of peace" many Christians in the Muslim world have come to know it as "a religion which metes out violence."

The group urged Muslims to have the, "courage now to address this part of their faith and stop these attacks on Christians." (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Nigeria).

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