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Nigeria: Persecution, Elections and Looming Strife

April 11, 2007


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 424 | Wed 11 Apr 2007


Christians have been appallingly persecuted in northern Nigeria
recently with churches burned, Christian children kidnapped by
Islamists and Christians killed. Compass Direct reports one such
incident on 21 March when Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a
teacher at the Government Secondary School of Gandu in the northern
state of Gombe, was preparing to supervise an exam. In line with
standard anti-cheating procedures, she collected all the students\'
bags before the exam started and put them at the front of the
classroom. One girl then cried out that because a Christian had
handled her bag the Quran in it had been desecrated. With the
Muslim majority of students shouting \'Allahu Akbar [God is great]\'
another teacher managed to rescue Christianah Oluwasesin and get
her into the principal\'s office. Then Muslims who rushed into the
school, stoning the building and the staff, dragged Christianah
Oluwasesin out and clubbed her to death. Evangel Chapel, where
Christianah Oluwasesin (married and mother of two) taught Sunday
school and participated in prayer ministry, is in shock and grief.
Two days later a nearby 500-member church belonging to the
Evangelical Church of West Africa was torched.

On 14 April Nigerians will elect state governors and on 21 April
will return to the polling booths for the presidential election.
This will be the first time power will have passed from one elected
president to another, but the situation looks ominous. President
Obasanjo\'s PDP party has put forward Obasanjo\'s favoured candidate,
the sickly and reluctant Umaru Musa Yar\'Adua, who wanted Obasanjo
to stand for an unconstitutional third term. Because he is so
quiet, many believe Yar\'Adua, governor of Katsina State which
implemented Sharia in 2000, is little more than a puppet.

There are two other main contenders: the pro-Sharia Islamic
hardliner, retired general and former military dictator Muhamadu
Buhari who lost to Obasanjo in 2003; and Obasanjo\'s Vice President
Atiku Abubakar, also a Muslim. Buhari has strong support in the
Muslim north but little elsewhere. As Vice President, Abubakar was
assumed to be the natural successor, but a major spat between
Obasanjo and Abubakar has left him fighting for his political life
in the courts. If Abubakar is banned from running, the great threat
is he might throw his considerable weight behind Buhari in exchange
for immunity from prosecution. To compensate, the PDP could offer
other candidates immunity from corruption charges in exchange for
their support for Yar\'Adua. One non-Muslim candidate of high
intellect and integrity is the widely respected Dr Patrick Utomi
< http://www.patutomi2007.com/ >, but he is considered an outside
runner as his African Democratic Congress is a fringe party.

Meanwhile, the most volatile region, the Niger Delta, is set to
explode. A group calling itself the \'Coalition of Niger Delta
Forces\' has issued an ultimatum to the Nigerian government to
withdraw its security forces from the Niger Delta or face war.
Nigeria\'s largest armed militant group is the Niger Delta People\'s
Volunteer Force (NDPVF). It is noteworthy that the leader of the
NDPVF, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari (imprisoned in 2005 for treason), is a
devout Muslim and vocal supporter of Osama bin Laden, with whom he
reportedly has both financial and personal ties. Asari, born into a
Christian family as Dokubo Melford Goodhead Junior, changed his
name after he converted to Islam. His father is a High Court judge.
The Niger Delta situation is yet another example of the union
between separatism and Islamic imperialism.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* God to comfort Christianah Oluwasesin\'s family and her fellow
believers in Evangel Chapel.

* comfort and peace for all the persecuted and fearful Christians
in northern Nigeria where persecution is systematic and brutal.

* God to encompass his people amidst trials and terror, protecting
them from hostile forces.

* the forthcoming elections, that God will raise up before the
people his candidate, a \'Cyrus\' whom God will use to lead this
nation of some 130 million, half of whom are not Muslim, and
most of whom just want peace, justice, equity, liberty and
progress.

\'I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his
ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free. . .\'
(Isaiah 45:1-13 NIV)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PERSECUTION; ELECTIONS THREATEN STRIFE IN NIGERIA

Muslim violence against churches and Christian men, women and
children is a continuing reality in Muslim-dominated, Sharia-ruled
northern Nigeria. On 21 March a Christian teacher in the northern
state of Gombe was clubbed to death by a riotous mob after a
schoolgirl accused the teacher of desecrating her Quran by handling
the bag it was in. Several northern churches have been torched in
recent months as Nigeria heads towards electing state governors and
then a president. The presidential election on 21 April is
threatening to be a seriously destabilising event and various
separatist and Islamic groups will doubtless seek to exploit the
situation. Please pray that God will raise up a candidate before
the people whom he will use to lead and heal this nation of some
130 million.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.