Refugees in a camp in Kaduna state
“Church spokesmen warn that the country is becoming a ‘theater for religious war.'” From Compass Direct:
April 5 (Compass) “” Christian leaders have condemned Muslim fundamentalists for killing Christians and destroying churches in northern Nigeria, warning that the national government’s inability to address the violence against Christians could turn the country into a theater for religious war.
The warning comes after a recent outbreak of religious violence that has set Muslims against Christians in different parts of the country. Ongoing conflict has been reported in the states of Plateau, Jigawa, Nasarawa and Bauchi.
Just as Christian leaders were emphasizing that the patience of Christians is wearing thin due to the violence perpetrated against them, Muslim fundamentalists unleashed more attacks in the northern state of Jigawa, burning down three churches in the town of Dutse.
Lamenting the reprehensible acts of violence in the country, Archbishop Peter Akinola issued the warning in the capital of Abuja on March 29. He said there is no justification for the incessant aggression against Christians. Dr. Akinola is primate of the Anglican Church and the national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella body uniting Christians in the country.
CAN issued a prepared statement to the press that read, “How can anyone explain the reason for invading a church where women, children and men were worshipping, asking them to surrender and lie face down and then proceed to machete and axe them to death in their house of worship?”
The statement, signed on behalf of Nigeria’s churches by CAN leadership, asserted that Christians in Nigeria have never initiated any such act of violence against Muslims and wondered why killing Christians and destroying churches has become a Muslim pastime. The statement also claimed that the Nigerian government and its security agencies demonstrate lukewarm attitudes toward the plight of Christians, particularly in northern Nigeria. It also expressed CAN leaders” sadness that none of the perpetrators of the violence has been arrested.
“Even the police and other security outfits who are being paid from taxes paid by Christians for protection are not doing anything,” the Christian leaders wrote.
They warned that the Christian population is nearing its limit of endurance and explained that CAN leadership has been restraining restive Christians from retaliating on the Muslims. They said Muslims must stop further provocation, “if we are all truly interested in peaceful co-existence.”
Meanwhile, Muslim fundamentalists in the state of Jigawa burned down three churches in the town of Dutse on March 31. The sanctuaries of Redeemed Christian Church, Calvary Church, and the Living Faith Church were reportedly valued at several million dollars.
Prior to the destruction of the churches, a local Muslim fundamentalist leader, Alhaji Ibrahim Adamu, had taken the leadership of the Living Faith Church to court. Adamu demanded that the church move away from the town because, as a Muslim, the presence of the church affected his sensibilities.
The case was still being tried when the Muslim cleric led a band of extremists on a raid against the church and carted away church goods. Arrested and charged with theft, Adamu was subsequently remanded to prison. The court action angered his Muslim followers, who burned down the churches and attacked Christians.
Deputy state police commissioner Haz Iwendi confirmed the destruction of the churches. “Yes, three churches, the Redeemed Christian Church, Living Faith and Calvary Church, were burnt down, but no one was killed in the attacks,” Iwendi told Compass in Dutse.
State police commissioner Alhaji Sale Abubakar issued a directive that journalists be barred from the arson sites “because we fear that reports of the attacks could spark off more violence in the country.”
Jigawa deputy governor Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan described the burning of the churches and the violence against Christians in the town as “unfortunate and shameful.”
Hassan, a Muslim, told Compass, “It is a mob action by miscreants to destabilize the state. Government is mindful of its responsibilities toward protecting life and property.”