They Cry in Silence Sep/Oct 2003
Christians in Nigeria, Africa, breathed a deep sigh of relief when the vote tallies from the April presidential elections were announced. A large majority of Nigerians reelected President OlusegunObasanjo, a born-again Christian, over his Muslim challenger, MuhammuduBuhari. Buhari’s party protested the results of the election and promised that the struggle to control the country will continue. As is true in other African countries, the wave of Muslim militancy has been devastating to Christians in Nigeria.
Despite the fact that the country is officially forbidden from adopting a national religion and endorses freedom of religious belief, Nigeria recently joined the Organization of Islamic Countries, thus claiming status as a Muslim-oriented state. Under Obasanjo’s presidency, however, enforcement of the declaration has been greatly diminished.
In spite of the president’s position, twelve northern states have adopted Muslim Sharia law and are attempting to enforce it on all citizens. As a result, Christians, particularly pastors and leaders of the Christian community, are experiencing severe persecution. In Kaduna State alone it is estimated that it will take billions of Nigerian dollars to rebuild the 260 churches damaged and destroyed. Since the election of President Obasanjo, there have been at least ten thousand deaths due to civil, ethnic, and religious violence. The stated aim of the Muslim political and religious opposition is to impose Sharia law nationwide. Already some Muslim-dominated states have closed Christian schools and churches and imposed Islamic dress codes on Christians.
Sharia law, where instituted as a part of the penal system, allows flogging, amputations, and beheadings for certain crimes. Though Muslim leaders claim these laws do not apply to Christians, there is evidence that Christians have already been affected.
On April 22, several days after the elections, a pastor and his family were killed in Kano in a house fire believed to have been set by Muslim militants. The pastor was known as a powerful preacher who had seen many Muslims convert to Christianity. This fact apparently made him a prime candidate for assassination.
A few days earlier a group of armed Muslims attacked the village of Fobur in Langtang. One woman was killed and several homes set on fire. The same group is believed to have burned down thirty homes in the village of Zambwar.
In November 2002 angry Muslims went on a rampage in Kaduna after an article in This Day, a leading independent daily newspaper published in Lagos, Nigeria, suggested the prophet Muhammad probably would have married a contestant in the Miss World pageant, then scheduled to be held in Abuja, the country’s capital. After wrecking the newspaper’s office, the mob began to attack Christians, damaging some twenty churches. More than two hundred people were killed and twelve hundred injured. Non-Muslims were reportedly singled out and stabbed, bludgeoned, or burned to death.
These are only a few isolated examples of the horrific conditions Christians are being subjected to in parts of Nigeria. Many of these Christians are devout evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ.
A few years ago a missionary who had worked for years in Nigeria brought several Nigerian-Christian families to study in the United States. Their presence was a blessing to everyone they touched with their openhearted, fully committed love for Christ and fellow Christians. These dedicated believers returned to Nigeria to minister the Word and bring hope to their fellow countrymen. Today these families are in the middle of this awful situation.
Nigeria may well be turned into another Sudan, where radical Islamists have hunted and slaughtered Christians by the thousands.
Are we willing to stand idly by and allow these tragedies to occur? Or will we become involved as activists by praying, supporting agencies working in the country, and approaching public officials about their plight? We have an obligation. We must not fail.