Christian Persecution Sep/Oct 2016
NIGERIA—The Muslim governor of the Muslim-dominated Kaduna state in Nigeria recently proposed a law that would stifle Christian freedoms and criminalize street preaching. “Street evangelists would be fined, and ‘offensive’ preaching at church services would send pastors to jail for up to two years,” reported MorningStarNews.org.
The bill Gov. Nasir El-Rufai has sent to the state assembly would also require clergy to obtain an annual preaching permit. Church leaders believe the bill is a ploy to persecute Christians under the guise of quelling extremists and charlatans, Morning Star News said.
“Under consideration by the Muslim-dominated Kaduna State House of Assembly, the bill stipulates that clergy would lose preaching rights if the state government or its agencies consider any of their words to be offensive,” the news agency reported. In addition to “criminalizing street evangelism and confining all preaching” to within churches, it “forbids the playing of evangelistic tapes and CDs in public places. Violators would be subject to a fine of up to 200,000 naira [approximately $1,000].” Christian leaders say the bill is unconstitutional.
The Rev. George Dodo, chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, told Morning Star News, “The proposed law is in contravention of the Nigerian Constitution and shall inhibit the preaching of the gospel when it becomes operational. We have reservations over the bill and believe that it will curtail religious freedom of the people, particularly, Christians in Kaduna state.”
The legislation raises questions concerning Nigeria’s newest president’s ability to keep his campaign promise to fight Christian persecution. Muhammadu Buhari took office in March 2015, beating the incumbent, born-again Christian, Goodluck Jonathan. The election marked the first time an incumbent lost to the opposition.
A year ago, Nigerian Christian leaders said they viewed Buhari as “a man of integrity and decency who can fight corruption and Boko Haram,” according to Morgan Lee of Christianity Today.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, said Buhari, whose vice president is a former attorney general turned church pastor from southern Nigeria, could help end religious violence in Nigeria, according to Lee. Open Doors works with a large network of Nigerian Christians.
Curry said Buhari’s election would “shape whether Nigeria will continue to exist in its current state or whether it will be bifurcated by a caliphate set up by Boko Haram,” Lee reported.
Sadly, since Buhari has taken office, things have not gotten better, despite the president’s promises. Christian persecution in northern Nigeria is growing, especially in Kaduna state. The Rev. Evaristus Bassey, director of Caritas International, explained, “The fear is that . . . the proposed restrictions would play into the hands of officials of state who have a hegemonic mentality and would allow them the freedom to persecute one religion in favor of another,” Morning Star News reported.
One Christian leader in Kaduna state, wrote Morning Star News, believes “the government needs to curtail incessant attacks on Christian communities by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen instead of further burdening them with an anti-Christian law.”