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Muslim mobs murder African Christians

02 November 2006

THE Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, has condemned "wanton destruction" of Christians and their places of worship by rioting Islamic radicals in the north of the country.

Riots in Borno state at the weekend left an estimated 25 people dead. A Roman Catholic priest, Fr Michael Gajere, died with all his staff when his home in Maiduguri was burned down. The RC Bishop's residence was also set alight.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that the riots began after a peaceful protest against the Danish Muhammad cartoons in Maiduguri, the state capital, turned into a rampage by an armed crowd. At least 30 churches and 250 shops and houses were destroyed.

In a statement on Tuesday, Archbishop Akinola, writing as president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said: "That an incident in faraway Denmark which does not claim to be representing Christianity could elicit such an unfortunate reaction here in Nigeria, leading to the destruction of Christian churches, is not only embarrassing, but also disturbing and unfortunate."

The Archbishop said that CAN urged the federal government and the states where Christian churches had been destroyed "to take urgent steps at rebuilding those structures and paying adequate compensation while assuring Christians of adequate protection in this country".

Further rioting in Nigeria broke out in the city of Bauchi on Monday night. Two churches were burnt down, and 13 people died. A curfew has been imposed there.

In Libya, ten people died after riot police clashed with more than 1000 protesters trying to storm the Italian embassy and consulate, the only Western diplomatic centre in the port of Benghazi.

The Italian Minister, Roberto Calderoli, who was seen wearing a T-shirt decorated with the cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad, and whose remarks apparently sparked the rally, has resigned.

Protesters in Pakistan set fire to St Saviour's, Sukkur, in Sindh province on Sunday after accusations that a local Christian had burnt pages of the Qur' an. Around 400 people were involved.

In Islamabad, police fought with rioters who had targeted American and Scandinavian firms and shops.

At a fringe meeting at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Brazil, Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, urged the Western media to show sensitivity: "Muslims are among the people on earth who are faithfully and deeply dedicated to their faith; so let us never insult their Prophet Muhammed, even in the name of freedom to write."

 Bishop's wife in hospital after attack
GLORIA KWASHI, the wife of the Bishop of Jos, in northern Nigeria, was rushed to an intensive-care unit after being attacked and tortured in her home at the weekend by a gang looking for her husband.

The attack is believed to be part of the persecution of Christians in Nigeria, which has been re-ignited in the wake of the publication in Europe of cartoons caricaturing Muhammad.

The Bishop, Dr Benjamin Kwashi, who was in the UK when the attack took place, returned home without delay, and called for immediate "intervention, assistance, and protection" from the Nigerian police.

In a letter to the Inspector General of Police in Abuja, Dr Kwashi wrote: " They got everybody under their control and any little move was met with severe and brutal beatings resulting in injuries. As a result, my first son, Rinji (aged 19 years), was beaten to the point of unconsciousness.

"Nanminen, our last son (seven years) was also severely injured on his face. Morris, our gateman, was injured in the face."

The attackers, who demanded to know the Bishop's whereabouts, then singled out Mrs Kwashi.

"She was taken to the bedroom, where she was undressed naked and severely beaten. They tortured her to produce me, and they made their demand very clear, asking where I, Bishop Kwashi, CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) chairman, was. She told them that I was not CAN chairman, and that I was not around," the Bishop said.

After the attack, she was marched naked three kilometres to the diocesan office, where she was forced to hand over money.

After attacking staff members at the diocesan headquarters, the assailants fled, and the alarm was raised. Mrs Kwashi was admitted to hospital with serious injuries to her back, hips, head, and other areas.

Dr Kwashi said he was appealing for help and protection for his family and staff after the "apparent and imminent threat to my life and to the lives of my family".

Baroness Cox, a close friend of the family, said on Tuesday that she was in no doubt that the attack was linked to anti-Christian protests in other parts of Nigeria.

She said that the family was recovering, but that Mrs Kwashi was still seriously ill, and there were "very serious concerns" about future safety and the targeting of Christians.

"I have written already to a government minister expressing my concern, as this is not the first attack on Bishop Kwashi and his home," Lady Cox said.

Dr Kwashi was in England at the time of the attack for a meeting of Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) International, of which he is chairman.

A statement from SOMA on Wednesday said that after two operations Mrs Kwashi had been moved out of intensive care, and that the surgery she had undergone had been successful.




On a happier occasion: the Bishop of Jos and Gloria Kwashi

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