The Nigerian pastor who played a central role in the conversion of a young Muslim woman to Christianity has denounced the response of the country’s security services, from which he alleges he has received death threats.
The first response of the Nigerian Department of State Security Services (DSS), in January, had been to arrest the woman, 19-year-old Nabila Umar Sanda, and her friend, Simput Dafup, 33, who had introduced her to the pastor, Jeremiah Datim.
Speaking to World Watch Monitor in May, Datim said the pair were released after ten days, but only after they had been tortured. He said the young woman was then returned to her parents – who had reported her conversion to police – and kept under surveillance. After two months she escaped and went into hiding.
The woman later posted a message on Facebook, saying she’d converted to Christianity out of free choice after having “an encounter with Jesus Christ” and that “no-one forced me into Christianity”.
Following the pair’s release, the pastor alleged that he has received several threats to his life from the security services.
He told World Watch Monitor: “When the threat on my life and that of my family became too much to bear, I had to evacuate my family for safety… Now my house is empty while we take refuge with friends.”
He said Jama’atu Nasir Islam (JNI), the umbrella body of Muslims in Nigeria, had organised for him to meet the young woman’s parents, and that they had brought security agents with them, who threatened to kill him: “I went with my friend, also a pastor… The parents also came, with security agents, who threatened to kill me if Nabila was not found. But I sincerely told them that I am not in touch with Nabila.”
He said Nabila’s parents also asked him to withdraw the case taken against them by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which accused them of denying their daughter’s right to freedom of religion, as enshrined in the constitution:
“I told them that it was CAN that instituted the case in court, and it’s only CAN that can withdraw it.”
“They also tried to reach Simput, but he was also at large. He had left home, and his mother – a widow – could not reach him either.
“About a month later, Nabila’s mother, Hassana Sanda Galadima, called and told me that she saw that Nabila had a post on Facebook, affirming her faith in Christ and denouncing Islam, and that she was going to commit suicide if I don’t bring her daughter back. I assured her again that I didn’t know Nabila’s whereabouts.”
According to the pastor, Nabila was withdrawn from the university and kept under the close watch of her parents in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. But on 24 March she escaped and is still missing.
Datim said his ‘freedom’ has since then been denied, as he is not able to see his family, who now live in a different place from him.
He added: “In recent times, I no longer only receive calls from security agents; I also get threat calls from Islamic clerics, all threatening to kill me.
“I’ve reported this to the current Plateau state Commissioner of Police, Adie Undie, but I’ve not heard from them since, and have continued to receive threatening calls till today.”