KALGO, Nigeria, June 29 (Compass Direct News) — For Kebbi state pastor Nuhu
Mamman, to become a Christian was to have a death sentence passed on the life he knew: converting killed his past, and his future appeared moribund as family, friends and fiancÃ©e abandoned him.
“My Muslim blood relations don’t like me — they dislike and keep away from my family as if we are a plague to be avoided,” Rev. Mamman said. “They hate us because we have abandoned Islam. Our predicament has even been made worse as even Christians from other non-Muslim communities still don’t trust us. They believe that we are still Muslims despite our conversion to Christianity. This is very tough on us.”
Rev. Mamman, from the Hausa ethnic group of Kebbi state, says persecution of
Christians is widespread in the state.
“In the northern part of Kebbi state, Christians face serious difficulties,” he told Compass. “We are always being forced to transfer former Muslims who have become Christians to other parts of this country in order to shield them from persecution.”
The church works hard to protect converts to Christianity from Muslim extremist
attacks. After Adamu Muhammed, a Muslim from the town of Birnin Kebbi, became a Christian
in 1997, Muslim radicals sought to kill him. As they hunted for him, Rev. Mamman said, the
church moved him to Jos in central Nigeria, where he became a Bible student.
In 2003, Rev. Mamman added, a Muslim named Ibrahim Jega from Jega town
converted to Christianity.
“His family members and other Muslims threatened to kill him,” Rev. Mamman
said. “We were forced to take him to Zuru town for safety. Another convert from Islam to Christianity, Mohammed Abara from Sabon Birni town, also had to be taken to Pisabu by us in
order to save his life.”
Of course, such actions follow the orders of Muhammad himself: baddala deenahu faqtuhu — “If anyone changes his religion, kill him” (Sahih Bukhari 9.84.57).
Equally difficult is obtaining places for converts from Islam to worship.
“Even if we succeed in getting land to provide such converts with places of worship, Muslims who are in government will not allow us build such churches,” said Rev. Mamman, who was ordained an ECWA minister in 1994.
“Whenever we go to renew our land documents or even pay land rent for our church lands, Muslim government officials usually refuse to accept such payments,” he said.
“But then, this is deliberate, as after a period of time they usually declare our church buildings as illegal structures, just to find reasons to demolish our places of worship.”
As one example of arbitrary demolitions of places of Christian worship in the
state, Rev. Mamman cited the destruction of a church in Danbargo village by government agents.
“In Danbargo village of Shanga Local Government Area, almost all the villagers last year decided to become Christians after listening to the gospel preached to them,” he said. “We built a place of worship for these Christians, but the local government council authority of Shanga demolished this church building.”
Rev. Mamman said the local council also told the Christian villagers that if they refused to recant their belief in Christ and return to Islam, the government would seize their farms.
“Without any visible means of surviving this attack,” he said, “these Christians in Danbargo village went back to Islam.”
The Rev. Adamu Sunday Peni, vice chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Kebbi state chapter, told Compass that lack of land for building places of worship
— along with forceful conversion of Christians to Islam and discrimination against Christian public workers — is among the most pressing problems Christians face.