The International Christian Concern (ICC) recently reported (May 4), that the annual report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has designated Nigeria as a country of particular concern for "tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion."
The ICC noted that Nigeria has been plagued by religious violence since 1999 when Sharia law was introduced in the northern part of the country (precisely at the same time that a Christian unexpectedly took over the mantle of leadership after perennial Moslem rule). The ICC further observed that since this time, “the Christian minority in northern Nigeria has been more severely persecuted by Islamic extremists. Muslim radicals have been killing Christians, burning down churches, and forcing Christians to flee their homes. Authorities in Nigeria have failed to stem this recurring violence.
The report by the Commission expressed concern that "years of inaction by Nigeria's federal, state and local governments has created a climate of impunity, resulting in thousands of deaths." It further indicates the role of countries such as Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan in fueling the violence by building mosques and Islamic religious schools in which an extreme version of Islam is preached. The report noted, "An increasing number of Nigerian Islamic scholars and clerics are being trained in Saudi Arabia and return with a politico-religious ideology that explicitly promotes hatred of, and violence against, non-Muslims."
Like we warned, nothing has been heard again concerning the horrible bloodshed in Jos, despite two Panels set up (one by state government and the other by the Federal); not to talk of the follow-up massacre in Bauchi (see Vol 12 No 2).
Easter Violence In Niger State
A fresh example of the impunity with which Christians are harassed and persecuted in Northern Nigeria was again demonstrated in Niger state over the Easter period. Reports from several national newspapers describe the unbelievable incidents in Gwada and Minna, the state capital : A company of Christians in high spirits were moving round in a procession, celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from death, when a horde of muslim fundamentalists suddenly arose from the ambush they had laid, and unleashed severe violence on people and properties. Just like that, without any provocation!
Church buildings, cars, and no fewer than 26 Christians (in Gwada) received various levels of damages and injuries. Reporting on the Minna incident, the Nigerian Tribune reported that “blood from the injured littered the ground”.
According to the PRO of the Nigeria Police, ASP Richard Oguche, it took three Assistant Commissioners of Police and a strong detachment of anti-riot policemen to put the situation in Gwada under control. As many as 88 muslim fanatics were arrested on the scene. Twenty others were arrested in Minna. Unfortunately, as has happened over and over again, the case (both the pawns arrested or their ‘untouchable’ masterminds behind the scenes) is all but forgotten just a few weeks now after the incidence!