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[COMMENT: So, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, you think Sharia law is innocuous? E. Fox]
Nigerian Christians have asked the world to pray for them on Good Friday as they face the growing threat of Muslim violence.
The world’s attention is usually focused on Israel during the Easter holiday, when thousands of holiday pilgrims visit the tomb where Jesus rose from the dead in Jerusalem. But in Nigeria, where the spreading of the gospel has alarmed Muslims, Christians are asking the world to pray with them as they seek justice for a senseless murder that occurred one year ago this Friday.
On March 21, 2007, in the Nigerian state of Gombe, a 32-year-old schoolteacher named Christiana Oluwasesin collected books and school bags from her high school class and placed them in the front of the room so she could administer a test. A Muslim girl accused the teacher of desecrating her copy of the Quran, and all the students began to shout “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great!”). They soon started a riot.
Some teachers came to Christiana’s aid and rushed her to the principal’s office for safety, but by that time more students had joined the ruckus. The mob demanded that Christiana be released to them. When she was, the teenagers hit her with an iron club, stripped her naked and beat her until a 12-year-old boy slit her throat with a knife. The students then soaked her body with gasoline and set her on fire.
Christiana was a Spirit-filled Christian who had been outspoken about her faith in Jesus. Her two young children—a 3-year-old girl and a 10-month-old boy—are now left in the care of her husband, Michael. His last memory of his wife was of her burnt remains, which had been taken to a morgue in Gombe.
Eyewitnesses of the incident said the Muslim students actually tried to kill Christiana’s baby as well, but an unidentified woman smuggled the child off school property by concealing him under her clothes.
No one ever found the copy of the Quran that was supposedly desecrated by Christiana.
The incident sparked outrage in Nigeria, at least among believers in the southern region of the country where Christianity is dominant. People were appalled that 12- and 13-year-olds could commit such a heinous act of violence against their own teacher. It soon became obvious, after independent investigations, that Christiana’s murder was totally motivated by religious prejudice. She joined the growing list of Nigerian Christians who have been martyred in the last several years by radical Muslims.
Leading the outcry against Christiana’s death is Ladi Thompson, a pastor in Lagos who says the Muslim-dominated government of Nigeria has not handled the incident with fairness. He says the police offered halfhearted protection to the teacher, the judge handling the case has not sought justice, and government officials have not stepped in to arrest the perpetrators.
Says Thompson: “We will give ourselves no rest until justice is done. We will fan the flames of conscience back to life at all levels of governance in this country.”
Thompson, also a Pentecostal, directs The Macedonian Initiative, an organization that offers legal support and other types of aid to Christian victims of religious violence in northern Nigeria—where hundreds of churches have been burned by Muslim mobs. Many pastors and church members also have been killed or maimed by Muslim fanatics in the region.
Four years ago, when I traveled with Thompson to the northern city of Kaduna, I interviewed many Christian victims of religious violence. When I saw Thompson this week in Lagos, he explained that he has issued an urgent appeal to Christians all over the world to pray for Nigeria on Good Friday, March 21. He’s asking that we all stand in solidarity with the Nigerian church, praying that God will defend believers from terror and that the Nigerian government will pursue justice.
“The Gombe case should be considered the bullet head that will open the way for a revaluation of human worth in Nigeria,” the pastor said.
I am linking arms with my Nigerian brothers, and I ask you to do the same this Friday. When one part of Christ’s body is suffering, we all suffer. If the radical Islamic agenda succeeds in Nigeria—where African Christianity is most vibrant—Islam could swallow a continent. We desperately need intervention from God.
I am also asking that you contact Nigeria’s acting ambassador to the United States, Usman A. Baraya. One of our own African sisters has been martyred, yet the Nigerian government is ignoring the tragedy, hoping that the international community will eventually forget it. We cannot ignore Christiana’s senseless death. Please cry out for justice.
J. Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma. He returns this week from Nigeria after hosting the African Woman Arising conference in Lagos. You can send a letter to the Nigerian Embassy (nigeriaembassyusa.org) at 3519 International Court, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. For more information about The Macedonian Initiative, go to lifevalue.org or seesin.org.
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