Christians in Nigeria, who make up about half the population, are expressing fears Islamic law already being enforced in northern states will expand nationwide with the inauguration this month of a new “devout Muslim” president, according to a report from the Voice of the Martyrs.

Musa Yar’ Adua was governor of Katsina state in northern Nigeria, where he and nearly a dozen other governors over recent years have imposed Islamic religious law as the law of the government, officials said.

As a result, Christians have lost basic rights such as having a location to meet and meeting there, officials have confirmed.

“We have not been allowed to worship freely, as churches have been denied places of worship. In the Government Reservation Area, for example, it is not possible to get land for places of worship by Christians,” Rev. Canon Williams said in a Voice of the Martyrs report.

As WND has reported, Muslim rioters in Nigeria in 2006 were incensed over cartoons of Muhammad published in Denmark, and more than 130 Christians in the Nigerian cities of Maiduguri and Onitsha were slaughtered.

The reports documented six children burned to ashes in front of their father, VOM said.

WND also has reported nearly 1,000 homes of Christians and many churches have been destroyed in those regions, and documentation of Islamic law is everywhere.

“If you go around villages, you will see people missing one hand or one foot,” explained Rev. Obiora Ike. “Do you think that’s the result of an illness? That is the result of sharia law.”

More than 10,000 Christians have been martyred in the region since the Islamic law was imposed in the region in 1999, and Voice of the Martyrs has helped surviving family members through its Families of Martyrs Fund with Care Packs, Village Outreach packs and words of encouragement to believers who stand for their faith “amidst volatile, uncertain conditions.

“The election of Yar’ Adua will aggravate the problems of Christians in northern Nigeria. Our fear is that under a Muslim president, religious liberty will be eroded,” another pastor said in the VOM report.

Under Yar’ Adua’s supervision in Katsina, the government set up a system to deliberately deny permission for any Christian churches to acquire land or build. “Government agencies [also] arbitrarily closed some churches,” according to the report.

In just recent weeks and months, persecution of Christians has increased there. Alhassan Adamu, the secretary of the board of an evangelical Christian school, said persecution now is commonplace.

“There is persecution of converts from Islam to Christianity, destruction of churches, discrimination against Christians and denial of admission of Christian students in public schools, to name a few,” he said.

Yar’ Adua is a former chemistry teacher whose political pedigree dates to the 1960s when his father was minister in the post-independence administration. His late brother also was an army general under President Olusegun Obasanjo during the 1970s.

Political analysts in Nigeria confirm that he is not known for his tolerance of opposition, and his critics there describe him as totalitarian.

He has told reporters that the government must “earn” its “moral authority.”

Voice of the Martyrs
is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.

It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.

He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.

The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.

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