The Life of a Convert in Nigeria : Fleeing Murder Threats
JOS, Nigeria – Idris Aliyu received Christs salvation in March after reading the Gospel of Lukes account of the resurrection. Mohammed Sarajo became a Christian after miraculous healing saved him from death. The disparate paths of the two former Muslims in Nigeria , however, have put them on the same road fleeing from those who want to kill them.
Aliyu, 24, is from Kominjak village near Namu town in Plateau state. If they kill me, they are the losers, while my gain is eternal life, he says of the uncle and other Muslims in the neighborhood who threatened to kill him earlier this year.
Growing up in an Islamic educational system, he had attended Quranic school. At the time of his converson, Aliyu was living in Jos with his uncle, Abdullahi Danbaba, after leaving his fathers cattle business last year to work with a transport company; he then had found himself jobless when the firms sole truck broke down.
His uncle and other neighborhood Muslims warned him to either recant or be prepared to die as an infidel.
I could not take their threats lightly, as I know of a Muslim in the city of Katsina who was killed sometime ago when he became a Christian, Aliyu said. I decided that instead of renouncing Jesus, it was better I escape from home.
Nor did Aliyu find sympathy from his parents when he fled back to Kominjak village; he said of the persecution there only that it was intense. His fugitive life took him to Lafia in Nasarawa state, and then to Akwanga town. There he found refuge with the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC) and the Rev. Dio Adamu.
On March 10, Aliyu chose Jesuss salvation after years of reflecting on the Quranic teachings about Christ. He had found a Muslim cleric reading a book in his own language, Fulfulde (Fulani), and he listened to him read the book. The Muslim cleric, Malam Musa, was reading The Coming of Jesus Christ and His Returning: The Book of Luke, Acts, & Revelation, in Fulani.
The portion from the book that convicted him, he said, was a passage from Luke on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
I was heavy in heart when I heard this portion of the Scripture read, he said. I knew that this Muslim cleric was interested in what he was reading, but I hid my anxiety over what was happening.
But then I had to make a decision. I read in the Quran that salvation and heaven is for only those who are lucky. But I have also learned that in Christianity, salvation and heaven is for any person who believes in Jesus Christ.
A Christian message on tape in Fulani reinforced the need for him to give his life to Christ. He was fully aware that persecution had kept many Muslims from becoming Christians.
I was aware of this before I made the decision to follow Jesus, he said. I am therefore not surprised that they now want to kill me.
No threats, he said, can stop him from following Christ. I have decided to become a Christian, Aliyu said, because I have discovered the truth of Jesus Christ, which is not found in Islam.
While Aliyu is newly converted, Mohammed Sarajo has matured into an evangelizing church planter after becoming a Christian 12 years ago at age 16.
Sarajo, a native of Wamba town in Nasarawa state in central Nigeria , was afflicted with a mysterious illness in July 1993 that produced painful sores all over his body. He was hospitalized without improvement, and his parents took him to Muslim clerics for healing prayers. The clerics wrote Quranic inscriptions on a slate and washed the writings for him to drink, also to no avail.
Sarajo remained at home, where he was expected to die. After languishing for five months, in December 1993 he gingerly moved from his room to the house of a Christian neighbor, Dominic Chaga, to visit his children. While there, Sarajo spotted a Good News Bible and picked it up.
He found himself reading Matt. 7:7-9 about the rewards that Jesus promises for those who ask, knock and seek.
As I sat there, I realized that it was Jesus, about whom I had heard so much from my friends, who was speaking. I then spoke out to Jesus. I told him, If you heal me in two days, then I will believe in you and follow you.
Sarajo was healed in two days; he pledged his life to Christ. Returning to high school, he joined Christian students for daily fellowship.
A Fathers Opposition
The news of Sarajos conversion reached his father, who sent for him.
He confronted me on the issue, and when I confirmed that I was now a Christian, he took me to the imam of the Wamba town mosque, Sarajo said. While at the mosque, it was already time for the evening prayers I was asked to join them in the mosque for prayers, but I refused.
The imam, Malam Hassan Lamu, asked Sarajo whether it was true that he was now a Christian. He answered that he was. Imam Lamu asked him why he suddenly decided to become a Christian, and Sarajo spoke of his encounter with Christ.
But then the Imam said Satan could give a false revelation just to take me away from Islam, he said. I told him if the revelation given to me was from Satan, what about the healing granted me? The imam and almost all the Muslims in Wamba town knew about my sickness, so they were baffled about my being healed suddenly.
Imam Lamu told him that if God were calling Sarajo out of Islam, then he would remain Christian; if not, then he would return to the Muslim religion. When Sarajo got home, his father told him that because he had renounced Islam he could not live with the family in the same house.
He said I was now an infidel, Sarajo said. So, on the last Saturday of the month of February in 1994, my father sent me out of our family home. I was dispossessed of all my clothes.
He went to Chagas house, where he had read the Bible. The following day, his father came to the house and struck him with a Coca-Cola bottle. He hit me with the bottle on my head, and I fainted before I was revived, Sarajo said. I was to suffer with the wound on my head for two years before it healed.
Wamba town, which is predominantly Muslim, was engulfed in tension over Sarajos conversion. He had been one of the best Quranic students in town. His zeal for Islam was widely known, his sudden conversion shocking. Frightened, Chaga asked Sarajo to leave immediately. Persecution forced Sarajo to drop out of high school.
On the Run
Sarajo went from one house to another in search of a Christian family that would take him in. He first stayed with the pastor of a Pentecostal church in Wamba, Pastor Ayuba Maigagnga of the Deeper Life Bible Church . While staying with this pastor, he decided to worship with a congregation of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) in Wamba, then led by Pastor Alade Tunga.
The two pastors became a source of encouragement to Sarajo as they taught him the Bible and discipled him. Sarajos father reported this development to the Muslim community leader of Wamba, Alhaji Musa Nagogo. He instructed Sarajos father to report the case to police.
The police mounted a search, placing announcements on the radio declaring him wanted. They arrested him in Wamba after he had returned from a Christian outreach effort to Andaha town.
I was accused of causing confusion in the town because I became a Christian, he said. The two pastors who were encouraging me in the faith were accused by my parents and the police of deceiving me into becoming a Christian. I then shared my testimony with the police, now telling them why I became a Christian.
After questioning, police released Sarajo but asked him to report back the following day, as they planned to refer the case to higher police authorities. Meantime, Muslim leaders in town made desperate efforts to persuade Sarajo to return to Islam. Police eventually told Sarajos parents that there was nothing they could do because the Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom to choose ones religion.
Sarajo was set free. On March 14, 1994, he was forced to flee Muslims threatening his life in Wamba town. He arrived in Jos with no money, no clothes, and no family.
Sarajo roamed the streets of Jos until he was taken in by the Rev. Samuel Anthony of Life Gate International Church .
Evangelist and Church Planter
In September 1997, Sarajo said, the Lord told him that he was to lead Muslims into the saving grace of God.
The Lord told me in that year that He called me out of Islam for a purpose, to lead my people out of bondage Now is the time for you to go.
Nakere village, near Wamba, was the first port for Sarajos evangelistic ministry. On September 7, 1997, he went to Nakere village for an outreach, where he preached, did one-on-one evangelism, and prayed for the sick.
That day, about 20 persons gave their lives to Christ. I was touched by the plight of the people of Nakere as everywhere I went, they followed me, he said.
A week later, Sarajo moved from Jos to Nakere village and planted his first church there. Both Muslims and idol worshipers received Christ through the evangelistic efforts. The result was Christ Discipleship Chapel, a church of about 80 members of whom 16 are former Muslims. In addition, he has trained church members who now serve as pastors in Damaturu town in Yobe state, in Abuja , and in Assakio town in Nasarawa state.
His evangelistic outreaches have spread to the villages of Raga, Abu, Angwan Maiganga, Tofa and Abu Barki, where churches are now being established.