Open Doors Co-Worker Provides Dramatic Eyewitness Report On Religious Violence in Kaduna, Nigeria
By Dan Wooding
KADUNA, NIGERIA (March 8, 2000) (Assist Communications) -- An Open Doors co-worker has provided a harrowing eyewitness report from violence-torn Kaduna, Nigeria, following a recent clash between Christians and Muslims. The fierce fighting resulted in more than 300 deaths as Muslim youths attacked Christians protesting the adoption of Sharia (Islamic law) in the state.
Speaking after leaving the West African country, the co-worker said, "At the time of my visit, bodies were still lying in the streets because of the tense situation. The tremendous destruction and hundreds of people who died was a clear indication of the strong sentiment surrounding the Sharia issue in Nigeria.
"Driving through the streets, we saw groups of young men with big bundles on their heads. Locals from Kaduna with me in the vehicle told me, 'See those boys with the things they looted. You can tell by their clothes that they are not from here. The whole thing was well organized.' This was also the impression I got after speaking to women in different parts of the city who reported that, while attacking others, young Muslims were saying, 'remember we were told not to hurt the women.'"
During the visit, the co-worker spoke to several church leaders in the northern states of Nigeria. "The current spate of violence can only be understood in the light of the long and often violent relationship between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria," said the Open Doors worker. "Church leaders consistently reported that they are discriminated against in the North. They have become used to job reservation for Muslims in government institutions. Regardless of academic qualifications, promotion is more likely to be done in terms of religious sentiment than merit. They also do not expect a fair hearing if they land in the court.
"Their children do not have access to the compulsory Christian Religious Knowledge, but are subject to Islamic Religious Knowledge, because that is the way school authorities arrange things. Acquiring land for building a church is next to impossible.
"These are just some of the ways that things work without Sharia. Christians expect worse when they are under Sharia. It was for this reason that Christians in Kaduna City marched peacefully to the Kaduna State Government buildings on Monday, February 21 to protest against the proposed announcement of Sharia in their State.
"According to a local Christian this was only after young Muslims had been marching for the implementation of Sharia all of the preceding week. Ironically, the Kaduna State government blamed Christians for the religious riot after the Muslims attacked them during the march, and promised that their leaders would be dealt with, according to a local newspaper."
The Open Doors co-worker added, "To outsiders, the Sharia issue may be somewhat confusing. The federal law in Nigeria allows for Sharia. The implication of this, however, is that the Sharia courts need to deal with mostly Muslim family and religious matters and not Criminal Law. More correctly, according to a local Christian scholar, this should be called Islamic Common Law. In the minds of Muslims Sharia is the law that governs life and it cannot be subject even to the government. Christians fear the implications of this mindset. They probably have good reason to fear because in spite of many political leaders stating that Sharia will not affect Christians since 'it is a law for Muslims,' a prominent Muslim leader addressing Christians in Bauchi state said, 'I assure you it will affect you.'"
Open Doors, the international ministry that was started more than four decades ago by Brother Andrew, the Dutch-born author of "God's Smuggler," is involved in Northern Nigeria by presenting seminars for Christians on loving their Muslim neighbors. The motto for the seminars is 1 Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...."
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has now called for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in the wake of religious riots in some parts of the country that claimed so many lives.