A father and son were killed, and three women and a baby abducted, in an attack in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano, in the largely Muslim area of Tudun Wada.
At around 8pm on 15 August, armed men, believed to be local Muslims, attacked the house of Baba Kale Dankali, 62, a local Christian, and killed him. His son, Micah Kale, 20, heard the gunshot, went out to see what had happened and found his father dead. At his agonised cries, the attackers returned and shot him dead too.
Both victims’ widows fled with their children.
The armed men also targeted other Christian families, kidnapping three women and a baby.
Fear caused many Christians to flee; it brought back memories of previous attacks, including the September 2007 violence, which claimed nine lives among Christians, according to official figures. (However, other sources put the toll far higher than that – one policeman was overheard complaining he was “fed up of packing corpses”.)
Locals say the latest attack is part of ongoing persecution aimed at uprooting Christians from the region.
In April 2015, in Gidan Maso village, Rogo, local youths set fire to the home and Baptist church of Rev Habila Garba, after they failed to find a Christian man who had briefly converted to Islam before returning to Christianity.
Reverend Garba’s daughter died of suffocation in the fire.
This prompted a reaction from the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, one of the most prominent Muslim leaders in Nigeria. In a landmark decision, he expressed his dismay and ordered the rebuilding of the destroyed church and house. He also warned that such an incident should never be repeated in Rogo or anywhere else in Kano state.
In 2007, several churches had been burnt and businesses and homes of non-Muslims looted and destroyed during the violence, forcing owners to flee. Policemen were reported to have lost their homes and property.
That violence appears to have begun when a group of Muslim students invaded a room shared by two Christians at the Government Secondary School in Tudun Wada, and began to attack them. When the Christians asked what they had done wrong, their assailants told them to “mind their own business”. However, once the school Principal arrived, the Christians were accused of drawing a picture of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, on a mosque wall and of planning an assault on Muslim students.
Despite the Emir’s stance in 2015, violence still goes on, a local Christian leader – who prefers to remain anonymous – told World Watch Monitor. He said years of impunity make Christians an easy target, as armed Muslims can attack or kidnap Christians for ransom, with the complicity of some local authorities.
All attempts to bring cases to justice have failed, as no investigation is carried out. Even when the perpetrators were identified, they were not prosecuted. Moreover, the victims face lots of intimidation, with some often arrested or charged themselves by local authorities when they report the crime.
An aid worker from Open Doors (a charity which supports Christians under pressure for their faith), who visited recently, confirmed that Christians in Tudun Wada are in great difficulty.
Each time they tried to rebuild churches destroyed during the 2007 violence, local Muslims destroyed everything overnight, while the government is not doing anything to prevent the locals from this vandalism, he said. This has become so discouraging that some churches decided to sell their land to the government and rebuild their churches elsewhere. Others are forced to gather for worship in the ruins of their church.
He says Christians are also denied basic rights, and are not allowed to buy land or build churches. All mission schools and hospitals have been repossessed by the government, while Christian children are denied scholarships for study.
Christian girls are frequently abducted and forced to marry Muslim men. Christian youths have to be home-schooled, or assume Muslim names in order to be allowed entry to government schools – or have to relocate to schools in the predominantly Christian south or in the Middle Belt region.