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ANS – A family in northern Nigeria is getting increasingly desperate after learning that Islamic imam has been given custody of their teenage daughter. According to human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Rejoice Gwammikat Daniel Chirdap, 16, disappeared during a visit to her father’s house in Kagadama, Yelwa on Sept.12. Failing to locate her, Chirdap’s family reported her disappearance to the Yelwa Divisional Police Office on Sept.14.

The next day, CSW reported, the teenager’s family received a letter from the Bauchi State Shari’ah Commission informing them it had given custody of their daughter to Imam Yakubu of Kagadama, Yelwa. According to CSW, there has been no explanation why Chirdap was in the Commission’s hands. In addition, since Chirdap is a minor, there should have been parental consent given for any such move.

The family reported, CSW wrote in a news release, that on Sept. 22 police informed them that the imam had been asked to hand over the child but had failed to respond. The family alleged, CSW reported, that the imam has taken their daughter to the Asere area, located on the border between Bauchi and Kano . He is also reportedly claiming ignorance of her whereabouts.

The family is very worried about Chirdap, CSW reported. They are particularly concerned that in their opinion law enforcement has not taken more vigorous action to recover their daughter. CSW reported that Ponfa Maikano, Rejoice’s stepfather, wrote to the Christian Association of Nigeria, saying his stepdaughter had been “stolen from her father’s house,” and added, “Please come to our assistance to retrieve our daughter for us.”

Religious violence has increased in Nigeria since 1999, CSW reported, when several northern states began to lobby for the institution of the Shari’ah Penal Code (http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR440172004?open&of=ENG-NGA). According to official sources, CSW said, since 2001 over 50,000 people have died in religious violence in Plateau State alone.

Yelwa has been the scene of ongoing tension between Christians and Muslims. In Feb. 2004, CSW reported, 41 people were killed and burnt in a church and 38 murdered outside it by armed Islamic extremists. The attackers then drove non-Muslims from Yelwa, declared it a part of Zamfara State, and began to use the town as a base from which to launch attacks into neighboring areas that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,000 people.

Subsequently, in May 2004, CSW reported, non-Muslims launched a retaliatory attack on Yelwa that resulted in the deaths of several hundred Muslims. That also set in motion events culminating in the institution of emergency rule in Plateau State .

Since the ending of emergency rule, stories of abductions have increased on both sides of “the religious divide,” CSW reported.

However, CSW said that its sources report that the abducted teenager’s plight is the latest in several cases of Christian disappearances. CSW’s sources added that given the present tensions in Yelwa, this incident could potentially spark a larger conflict. Sources on the ground also informed CSW of an increase in the disappearances of Christian children in Katsina State …[Go To Full Story]