GOMBE, Nigeria, March 29 (Compass Direct News) — Two days after the killing of a Christian teacher in this town in northern Nigeria, Muslim extremists set fire to a church building of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) in the Chanchanya
The Rev. Rukun Gaius, 50, chairman of the Gombe district of the ECWA, told Compass that a large number of Muslim extremists went to the church on Friday night (March 23) and set it on fire, gutting the sanctuary.
“The Muslims came to the church premises at about 11 p.m. to set the church on fire,” Rev. Gaius said. “People around the area and some of our members who saw the church burning rushed there put it out, but by then much damage had already been done to the building.”
The 500 members of the church must now “worship and conduct their church programs in the open,” Rev. Gaius said.
Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a teacher at Government Secondary School of Gandu in Gombe, was clubbed to death by Muslim students and outside extremists on March 21 after a student accused her of desecrating the Quran by touching a copy.
Rev. Gaius, who is also vice chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Gombe state chapter, said security reports to CAN show that Muslim extremists have marked out 15 more churches to be burned down.
“We have received security reports that 15 more churches have been earmarked to be burned, and that’s why you met us holding the emergency meeting at the Bishop’s Court [residence of the Anglican bishop of Gombe diocese],” he said.
The Gombe district of the ECWA has about 15,000 members and 57 local congregations.
The burning of the sanctuary of the ECWA church in Chanchanya, Rev. Gaius said, is not the first in the state. Arson and other attacks on Christians have characterized their lives for years, he said.
“Our religious rights are being violated daily,” Gaius said, and the government “has not made effort to protect us.” Rather, the Islamic government of the state encourages discrimination and crimes against Christians, he said.
The problems confronting Christians, he said, are related to the state having adopted sharia (Islamic law), which “encourages persecution of Christians.”