Religious freedom at risk as Nigerian elections draw near

By April 12, 2007

Nigeria (MNN) — Presidential elections in Nigeria next week
could be negative for Christians in that divided African nation.

President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says the
constitution is causing this major issue. "They've had a Christian
President (Olusegun) Obasanjo for the last eight years. Under their
constitutional limits he cannot run for president again. The democracy in
Nigeria is historically fragile."

Moeller describes that instability. "The country is
basically divided into a north and south–the north being primarily Muslim and
the south being predominately so-called Christian. This is a place hot for
religious conflict."

Moeller says while Nigeria's president is a Christian, the
northern part of the country have their own laws. "Twelve states are governed
by Islam Sharia law, and the Christians in those states, of course, have to
follow Islamic law; it is very harsh in its treatment of Christians.
Christians have died, and…churches have been
burned in the thousands."

Last month a school teacher in the Islamic north was beaten
to death when a student claimed she had desecrated the Koran when he was being

Christians are fearful. Moeller says, "If there's a
Muslim-elected president — and the two leading candidates are both Muslim — 
Christian rights in that country will continue to suffer. We know that Nigeria
is the home to some of the largest and fastest growing churches in Africa.
However, there's also a great deal of persecution going on in the northern

According to Moeller, Christians worldwide need to pray.
"[Pray] that the outcome of this democracy will be first of all to protect the
religious liberty rights of all people throughout Nigeria. [Pray] especially for those Christians in the north who face this very uncertain future."

While both candidates are Musilm, Umaru Yar'Adua is hand
picked by Obasanjo. The other candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, is a self-proclaimed
Islamic crusader.

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