Nigeria's Zamfara State Accused of Aiding Church Demolitions

Thursday, April 19, 2001

by Obed Minchakpu
April 19, 2001

GUSSAU, Nigeria (Compass) -- Christian leaders in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state have accused the government of coercing Muslim converts to Christianity into attacking Christians and demolishing church buildings.

According to Christian leaders, the government usually threatens the Muslim converts with prosecution under Islamic law, or "sharia," forcing them to return to the Islamic faith. They are also told to demolish churches where they were members or be prepared to face the law of apostasy under sharia.

The Rev. Linus Awule, Zamfara state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Compass in Gussau, the state capital, that "there have been increases in the demolition of church buildings of recent in the state" because of this type of intimidation. He holds the Zamfara state government responsible for the "incessant attacks" on Christians and churches. The CAN leadership believes that such "barbaric laws" as sharia are making life increasing difficult for Christians in the state.

But the Zamfara state commissioner for information, Alhaji Tukur Dangaladima Birnin-Magaji, told Compass that the state government does not support the burning of church buildings or their demolition.

He acknowledged, however, that the government has been receiving Muslim converts who had left the Christian faith and returned to their former faith, Islam. He also said it is true that some of these returning converts have been involved in church burning and destruction. But Birnin-Magaji denied the attacks were encouraged by state officials.

"It was these people (converts) and others that decided on their own to demolish churches in order to have a break with the past," he said.

Copyright © 2001 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.