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02/03/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Professor Tarfa and his wife, Mercy, founded Du Merci orphanage in Nigeria’s Kano State in 1996. For over two decades, the couple rescued abandoned children with the mission “to glorify God by ministering to orphans and vulnerable children by meeting their mental, physical, spiritual and social needs.”

On Christmas Day 2019, policemen raided the orphanage, arrested Professor Tarfa without bail, and transferred 27 children to government-run facilities. Despite Mercy providing all the necessary documentation, the government declared that the orphanage was unregistered and shut it down.

“The police kept me in their cell for 41 days and in prison for about one year without taking me to court,” Professor Tarfa told ICC, “I was locked up for no crime but for operating a Christian orphanage.”

Once situated in their new government-run facilities, the Du Merci children report that their hosts bathed them, changed their original names to Muslim Hausa names, and began taking them to daily Muslim prayers and Quranic teachings. “Emmanuel’s name was changed to Ismail, Destiny to Samaila, Mercy to Amina, Martha to Khadijat, Esther to Fatima,” a source close to the case told ICC.

The children were not allowed to leave the premises to attend school or church and complained of being mistreated for their religious beliefs. Several incidents of violence and neglect ensued, including one occasion when the government facility abandoned two Du Merci children suffering from chronic conditions at a private hospital.

How could such blatant injustice occur within a country professing religious tolerance?

Kano State is governed by Islamic Sharia law, despite the federal government claiming to be secular. When religion takes over the government, as it has in much of Nigeria’s north, it creates a social and judicial hierarchy along religious lines and makes religious minorities, in this case, Christians, suffer due to their lack of conformity.

ICC has been in contact with Professor Tarfa throughout his case. While he thanks God for the return of some of his children and the addition of new ones, the financial burden accumulated over the years has been a source of extreme anxiety. “We have been subjected to hardship for nearly two years,” he said, “depleting our resources and compounding the children’s sufferings.”

In response, ICC has partnered with Du Merci to implement a feeding program. Just two dollars a day provides three nutritious and well-balanced meals for each child.

“The kids were overwhelmed and full of joy. It’s something they never experienced. Previously we had to solicit to cater for a week. It’s awesome!!!” said Professor Solomon, the head of the orphanage.

Our hope is to show these children that while their government has thrust them into insecurity, they are secured in God’s love. Their Christian family cares about them, praying for them, and is united with them through love.

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