Christian groups in Nigeria launch program to aid victims of persecution
LAGOS, Nigeria, 5 August 2000 (Newsroom) — A Christian initiative aimed at rehabilitating individuals and churches traumatized during sectarian riots in Kaduna earlier this year was launched in Lagos by a Pentecostal assembly, the Living Waters Unlimited Church.
Macedonian, a foundation formed to support persecuted Christians in Muslim-dominated parts of Nigeria, was introduced on July 28. During the inaugural program, presided over by Sunday Mbang, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a few victims of the riots recounted their ordeal.
A total of 390 Christians were killed in the violence that erupted in February over the introduction of the Sharia (Islamic law), and 360 churches were damaged or destroyed, according to Archbishop B. A. Achigili, the Kaduna CAN chairman. Property loss by Christians was put at N230 million ($2.3 million). The federal government has so far released N23 million ($230,000) to rehabilitate displaced Christians and rebuild burned churches. Muslims received N6 million ($60,000) for vehicles that were destroyed.
One aim of the Macedonian organization is to raise funds and provide materials for persecuted Christians. The Kaduna victims will be the first beneficiaries, organizers said.
“Our brethren in the north are members of the same body; therefore when they suffered any hurt for the Gospelâ€™s sake, the whole body is affected also,” said Pastor Ladi Thompson of the Living Waters church. “We should hurt also and show care by reaching out in care towards them.”
The initiative is a network of churches and Christian organizations such as CAN and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN). A Web site to highlight persecution of Christians in Nigeria also has been launched as part of the initiative (www.churchtribulation.org).
“Our efforts will see to the building of the damaged structures and give a lifeline to the multitude of displaced victims of the riots through an organized structure,” Thompson said.
Posthumous awards for courage were given to the families of two southern Christians who were killed during the Kaduna riots: Ayodele Adewole, 21, and Justice Nduku, 41. The families each received $500 and a plaque.
Relatives of the victims recounted during the July 28 ceremony how the two and other Christians were killed for defending their faith.
Nduku was searching for his wife after the February 21 clash between Christians and Muslims when he ran into the Muslim extremists who killed him.
“He was well known by both Muslims and Christians in the city. They stopped him and asked if he was still for Christ or for Muhammad,” his 26-year-old pregnant widow, Vera, said she learned from eyewitness accounts. “He told them he would forever follow Christ. They beat him and gave him some stabs with their knives and asked him repeatedly if he was still for Christ. And repeatedly he told them he would not deny Jesus Christ.
“The Muslims were furious. They laid him down, mocked, and tortured him â€¦, telling him if he were for Christ that the Christ should come down and save him.”
Adewole, a recent graduate in mechanical engineering, suffered a similar fate, according to his elder sister, Eunice, who herself was macheted but escaped along with other members of the family.
“They stabled Ayo, pushed him outside and kept asking him whether he still believed in Christ,” she said. He apparently answered affirmatively, she said, because his attackers continued to stab him until he died.
The Oore-Ofe Baptist Church headed by Adewoleâ€™s father, Pastor Abraham Adewole, was burned during the riot. The family has since relocated to his home state of Ibadan in western Nigeria.
Nigeriaâ€™s population is evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. The Constitution forbids a state religion, but northern Muslim governors have introduced Islamic law in the states of Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa.
Sharia provides for amputation, public flogging, or beheading for certain crimes.
Kaduna has experienced about three major riots since the governor announced plans to implement Sharia there in February. Hundred of people have died in the fighting and millions of dollars in property destroyed. President Olusegun Obasanjo dispatched the Army to quell the violence in February.
Copyright Â© 2000 Newsroom.
Used with permission.