Christians in Kaduna forced to renounce their faith or die

 KADUNA, Nigeria, 13 March 2000 (Newsroom) -- About 300
 Christians of the Kabe ethnic group in the city of Kaduna were abducted
 and forced to renounce their faith by their Muslim captors during
 religious clashes in the state last month, according to a human rights
 group.

 Human Rights Monitor, a Kaduna-based human rights group, issued a
 report recently that said those who refused to renounce Christianity were
 killed. It did not say how many died.

 The forced renunciation of Christianity came during a week of clashes
 between Christians and Muslims over the introduction of Sharia law. As
 many as 400 people died in Kaduna state and in some southern cities
 when fighting spread there as bodies of some of the dead were buried in
 their home states. 

 Nigeria*s constitution permits Sharia, or Islamic law, as it applies to
 personal relationships such as inheritance, marriage, and adoption. Eight
 northern states, led by Zamfara state, moved to implement Islamic law in
 the penal code as well. Sharia penal law permits flogging, stoning,
 amputation, and beheading for certain crimes.

 Fighting in Kaduna began February 21 when Christians demonstrating
 against Sharia were attacked. According to Human Rights Monitor, an
 initial understanding between Christian and Muslim youths in the Hunyin
 Banki area of the city was disregarded when Muslim youths attacked the
 Baptist Theological Seminary. Four student pastors at the 52-year-old
 seminary were killed by Muslim youths who stormed the school during
 the riots.

 The seminary students resisted one attack, but were overpowered later
 by a larger mob, the Rev. Uche Eyioha told Champion newspaper, a
 Nigerian national daily. The school*s library, four classrooms, and chapel
 also were destroyed. Many students, staff, and their families were
 injured; an unknown number remain hospitalized.

 The implementation of Sharia has since been suspended by the country*s
 National Council of States, which is composed of the president, vice
 president, all 36 state governors, and former heads of state. 

 ENDS

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