Seminary student killed,
campus attacked by mob in Nigeria riots

By Mark Kelly

KADUNA, Nigeria (BP) -- Dozens of people -- including a Baptist seminary
student -- were killed when riots between Christians and Muslims broke out
Feb. 21 in Kaduna, Nigeria.

The next morning, a mob breached the wall of the Baptist seminary compound
there and set all the buildings ablaze.

The student died when violence broke out between Muslim youth and thousands
of Christians peacefully protesting calls for strict Islamic law to be
implemented in the northern Nigerian state. Neighboring Zamfara state
implemented "Sharia" law in January, and other northern states are
considering similar moves.

"When, where and how the violence broke out is uncertain," reported
Southern Baptist missionary Ray Davidson, who is stationed in Abuja,
federal capital of the massive country in West Africa. "Mosques, churches
and businesses have been burned. Hundreds of vehicles have been destroyed
or damaged."

The seminary campus was attacked the morning of Feb. 22. A gang began
throwing firebombs into the seminary compound about 9 a.m. Within an hour,
all classrooms, the administration building and the chapel were burning,
said Southern Baptist missionary Don Copeland.

The mob soon breached the wall, and 500 men, women and children of the
seminary community fled the campus. Dale and Brenda Gray, the only Southern
Baptist missionaries on campus at the time, were reported safe at a nearby
air force base.

Eleven church buildings in Kaduna -- including four Baptist buildings --
reportedly were burned during the Feb. 21 riots. Two other seminary
students also were injured.

Bodies spilled from smashed cars and buses in the city center, where
rioting mobs had caught people trying to escape the violence, according to
news reports. Dozens of corpses littered the streets. Nigeria's federal
government ordered troops to join local police in efforts to stop the
rioting.

The violence reveals enormous tensions -- religious, ethnic, political and
economic -- between Nigeria's largely Muslim northern region and the
largely Christian and animist southern states. After years of domination by
military leaders controlled by northern influences, the more populous south
prevailed in polls last year and elected President Olusegun Obasanjo, a
southern Christian with Baptist roots.

Tensions already were running high among northerners who felt excluded from
high government posts when Zamfara state announced it was instituting
strict Islamic law. The action contradicted the federal constitution, which
guarantees religious freedom. Muslim activists in Kaduna, which has a large
Christian population, called for their state to follow suit. While a
commission had been set up to study the idea, the state government had not
promised to adopt Sharia law.

"So far, the disturbance is limited to Kaduna and its environs," Davidson
reported. "Unfortunately, with so many northern state governments
instituting Sharia, the whole situation was a powder keg waiting for a
spark."

"Pray that lives will be spared and that God's will will be done," added
Copeland. "Pray that He will get glory for Himself in all this trouble and
suffering."

**WEF Religious-Liberty e-mail Conference**


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