BosNewsLife – Christians in rural areas of Nigeria’s tense northern Kano state are afraid to send their children to public schools for fear that they will be forced to convert to Islam, a Christian news agency reported Thursday, October 20.
Students are allegedly forced to study Arabic, Islam, and say Islamic prayers. In addition, Christian leaders say, the government “refuses to grant churches permission” to establish schools in rural areas, reported Compass Direct, which investigates the plight of persecuted Christians.
“The strategy is to force Christians to send their children to public schools so that they can be forced to become Muslims,” Rev. Murtala Marti Dangora, secretary of the Kano district of the Evangelical Church of West Africa, was quoted as saying.
Since sharia law went into effect in Kano state in 2001, Christian students in all public primary and secondary schools are reportedly forced to observe the Muslim season of Ramadan. Public schools, according to Christian leaders, have become centers where Muslims target Christian youths for conversion to Islam, Compass Direct said.
Dangora said Christian children in schools have no rights, especially during the Ramadan fast. “These children are not given food, as they are being forced to observe the Ramadan fast,” he reportedly said.
A former Muslim, Dangora said there are still numerous cases of persecution in the state; in one case, 15 Christians were forced to flee Banda village because of Muslim antagonism. Another Christian leader noted that Christians in Kano state have lost religious liberty and are seen as second-class citizens, Compass Direct reported.
It comes days after news that a Christian couple was beaten for preaching against idol worship in Lagos , Nigeria ‘s largest city, and news that a church in Kano was forced to destroy its building by Islam enforcers.
The situation has increased concern among Nigerian Christians of renewed bloodshed in parts of Nigeria , church officials and human rights groups claim.
Bishop Foster Ekeleme, Methodist Bishop of Kano , and the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), estimates that in recent years at least 1,750 Christians were killed in the region, including 10 pastors, and that 30 churches were burned while 30,000 Christians were displaced.
It has lead to a massive exodus of Christians, church leaders claim. The Kano diocese of the Methodist Church of Nigeria has reported a drop in attendance from 3,500 to 2,000 people since 2001, when violence against Christians first erupted.
“These attacks on us by Muslims have affected us greatly, as many of our members have been displaced or killed,” Bishop Ekeleme was quoted as saying by Compass Direct. “Some who have escaped death by whiskers have relocated out of Kano .”
The state government has recruited 9,000 Muslims, known as Hisba, who have been trained as enforcers of sharia in a state where a sizeable minority of the population of 5.3 million persons are Christians, Compass Direct reported.
Christian leaders say the militants have become “a state terror machine on Christians” in Kano . “Sharia here is aimed at victimizing the church,” Dangora reportedly said.