Church looted and demolished in Nigerias Kano State
“For several years the Kano State government has regularly ordered the demolition of churches. A team from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is visiting the area and has been informed that following the destruction of the ECWA church, churches in the Badawa area of Kano have been served with notice to vacate their premises. ‘We are experiencing Christianity with bitterness’ commented one of the ECWA church’s pastors.”
By Michael Ireland
Tuesday, March 4, 2008 Nigeria (ANS)–A mob armed with machetes set fire to church buildings belonging to the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) in Giginyu, Kano State , before looting and dismantling the property on Wednesday, February 27.
Between 11.30am and 12.30pm, the mob set the church office ablaze before dismantling the churchs zinc roof tiles, entering the building, and looting or destroying its contents, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
CSW says the church bus was destroyed; chairs, musical instruments, ceiling fans, building blocks and two generators were removed and sold on the streets at minimum prices; and choir gowns were handed to street merchants who wore them in mockery, claiming to be bishops. One Christian woman was assaulted and her mobile phone was taken when she attempted to call for help. Others who sought to intervene were chased away by the machete-wielding assailants.
The CSW report states: “The building, which was based in police barracks, had been earmarked for demolition, supposedly to make way for a new hospital. However the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had received assurances from Kano state officials that there would be no demolition until an alternative site and compensation had been provided for the church.”
CSW said that as tensions rose in the area following the demolition announcement, the state government initially provided police protection for the church buildings. However, this was withdrawn immediately prior to the attack, despite a promise by the Kano State Governor that the premises would receive 24-hour protection.
The day after the attack, the Kano State Commissioner for Information, Barrister Haruna Isa Denden, informed the press that the government had averted a religious crisis, and on behalf of the government took responsibility for the demolition. He also falsely claimed that the church had declined an offer of a new site and compensation, and later alleged that compensation had already been paid, CSW reported.
Following strong protestations by CAN Kano, the state government agreed to meet CAN representatives on March 3 or 4 in order to compensate the church for its losses, CSW says. However, in an atmosphere strained by rumors and tensions, on Sunday 2 March angry youths from ECWA severely assaulted CAN Kano s chairman, Anglican Bishop Zakka L Nyam, as he attended an open air service in Giginyu. The attack resulted from false rumours that the Bishop had taken no action to prevent the demolition of the church.
The CSW report stated: “For several years the Kano State government has regularly ordered the demolition of churches. A team from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is visiting the area and has been informed that following the destruction of the ECWA church, churches in the Badawa area of Kano have been served with notice to vacate their premises. ‘We are experiencing Christianity with bitterness’ commented one of the ECWA church’s pastors.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwides Advocacy Director, Alexa Papadouris, said: It is unacceptable that a church which has sought to cooperate with the local authorities on this forced relocation has been treated in such an appalling manner. We urge the Kano State government to fulfill its undertaking to provide adequate compensation for every loss sustained by this church and to urgently find the church a suitable alternative site. Our prayers are also with Bishop Zakka, and we hope that the poisonous atmosphere created by rumours and tensions which now divide the Christian community will soon dissipate.
CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.