The attack on the building of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) began February 27 in the town of Giginyu amid attempts by authorities in this predominantly Muslim state to demolish churches, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has investigators in the region.
"The mob set the church office ablaze before dismantling the church’s zinc roof tiles, entering the building, and looting or destroying its contents," CSW added.
In addition, the church bus was destroyed while chairs, musical instruments, ceiling fans, building blocks and two generators were removed and sold on the streets "at minimum prices," the group added. The choir gowns were handed to street merchants who wore them in mockery, claiming to be bishops, CSW said, citing sources in the area.
One Christian woman was allegedly assaulted and her mobile phone taken away when she attempted to call for help. Others who sought to intervene were apparently chased away by the machete-wielding assailants.
EARMARKED FOR DEMOLTION
The ECWA building, which was based in police barracks, had been earmarked for demolition, apparently to make way for a new hospital, CSW said. However the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a church umbrella group, had reportedly received assurances from Kano state officials that there would be no demolition until an alternative site and compensation had been provided for the church.
Kano State Commissioner for Information, Barrister Haruna Isa Denden, reportedly said however that the demolition "had averted a religious crisis" and "falsely" stated that compensation had already been paid, CSW said.
Following protests, government officials agreed to meet met CAN representatives to discuss compensation, but the talks were overshadowed by news of clashes Sunday, March 2, when angry youths from ECWA assaulted CAN Kano ’s chairman, Anglican Bishop Zakka L Nyam, as he attended an open air service in Giginyu. Local media reported the bishop escaped death when worshippers stopped the angry mob from trying to kill the chairman.
The attack apparently resulted from "false rumors" that the Bishop had taken no action to prevent the demolition of the church, CSW said. "For several years the Kano State government has regularly ordered the demolition of churches," said CSW, adding that its is visiting the area. The attack was apparently no isolated incident.
CHRISTIANS VACATE PREMISES
"Following the destruction of the ECWA church, churches in the Badawa area of Kano have been served with notice to vacate their premises," CSW said.
CSW Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris said his group has urged the Kano government to provide adequate compensation for every loss sustained by this church and to urgently find an alternative site. "Our prayers are also with Bishop Zakka, and we hope that the poisonous atmosphere created by rumors and tensions which now divide the Christian community will soon dissipate."
News of the violence added to concerns of at least one pastor, Jacob Bako of the local Evangelical Church of Christ in the town of Dawakin Kudun. He said in published remarks that his church has not received permission from the Kano state government to operate for nearly 30 years.
Since Christmas 2006, he said, local Muslims set three times fire to the congregation’s makeshift worship place.