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Nigerian church leader decries Muslim attacks

KADUNA, Nigeria (BP)–Preaching from the ruins of the Ramhama English Baptist Church, J.J. Hayab noted what he called the difference between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims.

“Ours is a God of mercy,” he told The New York Times. “Theirs is a God of violence.”

Hayab, pastor of the church in Kaduna, Nigeria, and Kaduna State secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, tried to contain his rage at the individuals who attacked the church and its members during rioting that resulted in about 200 deaths. At least 58 churches in Kaduna suffered damage in the attacks.

“The Christian will seen [sic] the DEATH,” declared a crude message written inside of the church. The front wall of the building had collapsed and the roof is gone.

Tithe cards, hymnals and other charred materials littered the floor of the church, The Times reported.

Despite the damage, Hayab held services in the building. Only 18 worshippers attended. Normally, 110 people gather for morning services.

Hayab’s sermon urged parishioners to dismiss thoughts of revenge, however, his anger was still evident, The Times noted.

“The Muslims in Kaduna State have taken the patience of Christians for granted,” he told The Times.

The rioting stemmed from an article written by Isioma Daniel that was seen as insulting to the Prophet Muhammad, and the information minister in the Nigerian state of Zamfara, Umar Dangaladima, endorsed a “fatwa” or religious decree calling for the Christian woman’s death. The Nigerian government’s information minister, Jerry Gana, later termed the Zamfara official’s decree as “null and void.”

The article that led to the riots dismissed Muslims’ criticisms that the Miss World pageant, scheduled for Nigeria because it is the home of last year’s winner, is immoral.

“The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria to ask them to revel in vanity,” Daniel wrote. “What would Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from one of them.”

Agence France-Presse reported Zamfara’s deputy governor, Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi, said in a speech to religious leaders later broadcast on state radio, “Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed.”

Daniel resigned from the newspaper after fury erupted over the article, which appeared Nov. 16. She has since fled the country and is reportedly in hiding in the United States.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes