West & Central Africa

Christian leaders meet Nigeria Senate to demand an end to persecution

Senator Bukola Saraki

Christians leaders have condemned repression, discrimination and persecution of Christians by Nigerian institutions in the Islamist states of northern Nigeria.

In a meeting with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki on 12 July Professor Charles Adeyinka Adisa represented the  Christian Association of Nigeria and read out a list of discriminatory practices, ‘obnoxious’ policies and deliberate targeting and killing of Christians in northern Nigeria.

In Abuja, CAN objected to “obnoxious laws that infringe on freedom of worship, like the one recently promulgated by the Kaduna state government.” CAN listed breaches of human rights including “kidnapping of under aged Christian girls and forceful marriage of such in the Northern part of Nigeria.”

The organisation said that rape of Christian girls by Muslim men was widespread and unpunished.

The Christian leaders decried the refusal of the police to prosecute Islamists who were inciting hatred and violence against Christians. They cited the example of Mrs Eunice Olawale, a member of the Redeemed Christian church of God who was killed in Kubwa, Abuja last year. They also pointed to the case of a 74-year-old woman, Bridget Agbaime of Imo State, who was killed in cold blood in Kano last year.” The Christian body said that those accused of the crime were released unpunished “for no genuine reasons at all”.

CAN told Senator Saraki that dangerous Jihadi teachings were published in secondary school text books and approved by government bodies which were deliberately designed to “denigrate the person of the founder of the Christian faith.” Charles Adeyinka, speaking on behalf of the Christian leaders, said that in the Civic studies made compulsory for students, “the Islamic religious studies section of the same curriculum document impudently denied the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ -the cardinal truth of the Christian faith.”
This, Charles said, is “offensive and provocative. If this was limited to a private religious belief, it is understandable, but making such statements in a national document for all faiths is indeed obnoxious.” He added.

Explaining the persecution Christians suffer in northern Nigeria, the Christian body said, “The northern part of the country deliberately refused to employ Christian religious teachers, thereby denying the Christian students the right to choose Christian religious studies and indirectly forcing them to do Islamic religious studies, not minding whether it conflicts with his or her faith.”

The Church leaders said that several states in the North since the 1980s had stopped employing Christian Religious Knowledge teachers in their public schools and had coerced and beaten Christian children who refused to do Islamic studies.

The curriculum imposed on students, the church leaders said, “encourages the child to disobey the parents if they oppose his or her recitation of the Koran. When an educational program encourages rebellion in the house, what will be the implication on the society?” Prof Charles said, this is simply “a deliberate act of indoctrination of Nigeria children through the curriculum towards Islam.”
The Christian leaders requested the Nigerian Senate to demand the controversial Religion and National Values subject “be scrapped” and “In its place there should be three distinctive subjects each standing on its own; Christian religious studies, Islamic religious studies and social studies.”

The body further asked that “Federal Ministry of Education and State ministries of education must be made to employ religious studies teachers so that pupils and students will have the opportunity to study any religion of their choice in all public schools in Nigeria.” Because “all teachers in public schools are being paid with tax payers money majority of which come from the Federal Allocation, there should be no discrimination on which religious teacher to employ and which not to,” said Charles Adeyinka.