Nigeria Archbishop Renounces Execution Order and Calls for more Aggressive Response

Nov 30, 2002 03:24 PM EST

ABUJA, Nigeria – An archbishop of Nigeria announced Wednesday that the nation’s Christians have had enough turning the other cheek to Muslim persecutions and blamed the government for inciting riots after announcing Miss World Pageant.

"No group of people should be allowed to invade the city of Abuja and molest law-abiding citizens," said the Rev. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. Onaiyekan spoke at a news conference called by the Council of Nigerian Churches and accused President Olusegun Obasanjo's government of failing to protect Christians during the riots.

"We blame the government because we rely on the government to protect us," he said.

The archbishop said Christians shouldn't hesitate to defend themselves from further attacks.

"It is a Christian duty to protect yourselves," he said.

Senior clergy from the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran and other churches also renounced the government, stating that Christians had taken the brunt of the violence.

More than 200 people were killed last week by Muslims and Christians in the northern city of Kaduna. The riot was provoked by an article in the local newspaper, ThisDay, which stated that the Muslim prophet, Mohammed would have approved Miss World Pageant and even choose a bride from one of the contestants.

The Miss World pageant pulled its contestants out of Nigeria on Sunday, rescheduling the contest finale to London on Dec. 7.

"The Miss World contest is not being organized by Christians, so why should Christians suffer? Before we knew it, churches were being burned down and Christians were being slaughtered. And nobody has apologized to Christians. We are disturbed," said Zakka Bonnet, leader of the Solid Foundation, a Nigerian evangelical denomination.

The pageant's president, Julia Morley, the Miss World would be sent back to Nigeria for an ethnic African fashion show. The specific date is tentative.

Mahamoud Shinkafi, the deputy governor of Zamfara, a predominantly Muslim state in northern Nigeria on Monday called on Muslims to kill Isioma Daniel, the woman who wrote the newspaper article.

Nigerian information minister, Jerry Gana announced Wednesday that the federal government would overrule the order for execution, claiming it, “unconstitutional.”

"Zamfara state is just a state in Nigeria and they cannot make laws binding on Nigerians. They cannot make laws binding on the federal government. The federal governments rejects the declaration in its entirety," Gana said.

He abstained from commenting whether the federal government would offer protection for the reporter. According to reporters she has hid herself after police interrogations.

Onaiyekan, the Catholic archbishop, demanded to arrest and to punish all participators of the death order if Daniel was killed.

"That is a criminal act," he said. "When somebody has sentenced a fellow Nigerian to be killed by any other Muslim anywhere in the world ... that person should be held responsible," he said.

By Albert H. Lee
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