Nigeria Riots: What the Press Didn't Report

Christians Murdered and Driven from their Homes in a Massacre Instigated by
Muslim 'Peacemakers.' Bishop Josiah Fearon, Anglican Bishop of Kaduna, 
speaks out about the firestorm of anti-Christian violence sweeping through 
his city.

25 November 2002

Scores of Christians have been slaughtered and hundreds injured by Muslim
youths in Kaduna, Nigeria. The riot was instigated by Muslim religious leaders
who only months ago committed themselves to peace and reconciliation between
Muslims and Christians according to Josiah Fearon, the Bishop of Kaduna.

Enraged Muslim demonstrators took to the streets of Kaduna on Wednesday 20
November after a Nigerian newspaper ran an article saying that the Islamic
prophet Muhammad would probably have married one of the contestants of the Miss
World contest which was due to be held in Abuja. After they had burnt down the
offices of This Day newspaper Muslim rioters chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is
Great) then barricaded the streets with burning tires, and began looting and
burning homes and businesses.

Next they turned on local Christians. "Our people had nothing whatsoever to do
with either the article or this contest but we have been victimised by Muslim
rioters for political ends," said Bishop Josiah speaking today from Kaduna.

Over 20 churches have been desecrated, looted, vandalised and burnt down.
Christian citizens have been stabbed, beaten to death and even burnt alive. An
eyewitness reports that one man was dragged from a car and bludgeoned to death
by a crowd. At the height of the riots Muslim youths are believed to have
operated roadblocks, checking the religious identity of motorists and viciously
attacking any Christians they found.

Responding with anger to the massacres Christian youths began to fight back
resulting in the deaths of Muslims and the destruction of some mosques. Over
200 people have been killed so far and more than 1,200 injured. Some 12,000
people have been driven from their homes. Over 100 have been arrested by the
police and army.

Muslims in Nigeria are fiercely opposed to the Miss World competition being
held in the country (the venue has now been moved to London) and were
infuriated by the article, which This Day has since withdrawn and apologised
for several times. However, Bishop Josiah believes the article merely provided
an excuse for the violence, which in reality was instigated and propagated for
far more sinister political reasons. "This violence has nothing to do with
religion. It is entirely political," he said.

Across North and Middle Belt Nigeria Muslim activists have successfully lobbied
for the expansion of Islamic law (Shari'ah) over the past three years. Eleven
states have now adopted full Shari'ah to the detriment of their non-Muslim
Christian minorities who have begun to see their freedoms eroded. However in
Kaduna state, where Muslims and Christians are roughly equal in numbers,
Governor Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi has resisted the demands for full
Shari'ah instead allowing for a more limited expansion applying it only in
Muslim-majority areas. This has infuriated Islamic religious leaders who are
trying to oust him from office.

The article in This Day has provided Muslim leaders with just the excuse they
needed. By unleashing terrible violence against Christians they hope to
instigate a crisis which will result in the governor's removal.

During the riots Muslim anger against Governor Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi
became apparent as abuse, slogans and songs were chanted and shouted against
him. Makarfi's election posters have been defaced, stripped from walls and
burnt on bonfires outside Government House.

"Religious leaders in the city, both Christian and Muslim, have appealed for
calm" says Bishop Josiah. However, "the same Islamic religious leaders have
been deeply implicated in instigating the violence in the first place." Earlier
this year Muslim and Christian leaders in Kaduna signed an agreement committing
themselves to work towards peace and reconciliation between Muslims and
Christians in Kaduna, a city which has been torn apart by Islamist violence
several times in recent years. However, only months later these same leaders
wilfully ignored their agreements in order to stir up this massacre for their
own political ends.

"Our people need your help. Christians have been left homeless. Churches need
rebuilding." Bishop Josiah is appealing for help for the Christian victims of
the latest violence through the Barnabas Fund. An emergency Kaduna Crisis
Appeal has been set up by Barnabas Fund to support the victims of the riots in
Kaduna. Please contact Barnabas Fund for details. Donations can be made through
the Fund's website http:\\ Please quote projectreference

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