Two churches destroyed in Bauchi State, Nigeria  20/11/2008

Tension is rising in the northern Nigerian town of Yelwa, Bauchi State after two churches were attacked and destroyed within a three day period.

Reports indicate that local Muslims dismantled the foundation stones of a new church belonging to the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Sabon Kaura on Sunday, 16 November. Bauchi's Military Commandant, Commissioner of Police and Deputy Governor visited the area on Monday, 17 November to investigate further and a guard was placed around the facility. However, despite the presence of these troops, an Anglican church two kilometres away was then burnt down on Tuesday evening, 18 November. 

Although there are currently less direct attacks on church buildings than in the past, churches in northern Nigeria and in central states continue to face regular harassment. They often have difficulties obtaining land or getting permission for construction. Churches there are commonly dismantled without adequate compensation, on the orders of local authorities.

In the northern town of Gwoza, a 50-year-old Catholic Church was obliged to construct an alternative gate to its' premises after a newly constructed Islamic school blocked access to the original gate.

In the Sabon Ungwa area of Katsina Town in Katsina State, a Pentecostal pastor and his congregation are frequently attacked; stones are hurled at the building during the Sunday service, cars are scratched and tyres flattened.  On one occasion the pastor sustained a leg injury after being attacked by local youths.  A Catholic congregation in the Kankara area of Katsina has also been prevented from completing its church building since 1986, while another church was destroyed there earlier this year without compensation.  A charismatic church in Mani, Katsina State, was ordered to cease construction of their new facility, which was then completed by local authorities and turned into a library.  In addition, sources report the Kano State House of Assembly has allegedly billed a legal provision forbidding the use of land for the construction of churches, even if the land in question belongs to a Christian.

A local source told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW): "This illustrates the unpredictability of events in northern states.  Although the authorities appear ready to enforce peace, this has yet to penetrate to the intolerant section of society that continues to foment religious tension without provocation whenever they feel like doing so."

CSW's Advocacy Director Tina Lambert, said: "It is worrying that the presence of troops in Yelwa did not deter a further attack on a church nearby. CSW calls on the Bauchi State authorities to further increase security forces in the area in order to ensure the protection of the Christian community and their assets. We ask for a definitive end to the violence and the timely payment of adequate compensation to the damaged churches.  CSW also calls on the authorities in other northern and central states, in the interests of justice and reconciliation, to ensure the Christian community is equally allowed to enjoy the right to freedom of worship and assembly, as provided for under the Nigerian Constitution.  Finally, we call on the federal attorney general to urgently review and challenge any legislation enacted by Nigeria's individual states that discriminates against any section of society, thereby violating the Federal Constitution. "

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Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

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