They Cry in Silence Sep/Oct 2006

Two years ago, attending high school in Zaria city, Kaduna, Nigeria, went from tension to tragedy when Muslims attacked their Christian classmates. This was not a scuffle. The assault was brutal, and its effects are still felt today.

Compass Direct reported that Muslims warned Christians at the school to stop worshiping in the school chapel or face the consequences. Anticipating an attack, the Christians gathered in the chapel to pray. Initially, they were assaulted by a hail of stones. When they came under attack, many sought to flee, only to be run down and beaten. Francis Yohanna Anche, 15, was struck in the head by a machete and sustained a brain injury that put him in a coma for two weeks, necessitated surgery, and permanently paralyzed his right hand and leg. After finishing with the students, the mob burned down the chapel.

The Zaria school is a microcosm of what is taking place in the strife-torn country of Nigeria. Nigeria is the most densely populated country in Africa and also bears the distinction of being the most influential. While English is the official language, there are some 470 dialects spoken throughout the country.

Religiously, Nigeria is dominated by Muslims (50 percent) and Christians (40 percent). And although the constitution guarantees religious freedom, the precipitous rise of radical Islamist fundamentalism has thrown the country, particularly in the north, into a serious situation that endangers Christians, their churches and institutions.

Over the past 160 years, evangelical ministries have flourished in many parts of Nigeria. But with the onset of the global terror-network’s campaign against believers, the climate is beginning to change.

On July 6 Compass Direct reported the murder of a Christian woman in Niger state. Her crime was doing street evangelism and sharing the gospel with a group of Muslim youths. When Muslim elders heard about the incident, they accused her of insulting the prophet Muhammad and demanded she be killed. When local police attempted to protect her from a Muslim mob that poured into the streets, they were overwhelmed; and the woman was beaten, clubbed, and stabbed to death.

This death reportedly marked the first such fatality under Niger state’s Islamic legal system that was introduced in 2000. Niger is one of 12 states in northern Nigeria to adopt Sharia (Islamic) law.

Kaduna, where Anche was macheted and the Christian students attacked, has been described as the nerve center of Islamic extremism. Many religious conflicts in northern Nigeria originate there and spread to other parts of the country. A Baptist pastor claims to have verified more than 20 religious conflicts in Kaduna from 1987 to 2006 that took the lives of more than 25,000 Christians and destroyed 500 churches.

Christian leaders further assert that Muslim-controlled authorities have banned Christian religious teaching in their schools and forbidden the airing of Christian radio programming. Compass Direct reported that churches have also endured discrimination from town planners who refuse to allow churches to improve or expand their properties and who demolish churches at will, claiming they are illegal structures. Muslims, on the other hand, construct mosques wherever they wish, without the need for approval.

Pray for the believers of Nigeria.

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