Tuesday, July 04, 2006
By Wendy Ryan & Sue Sprenkle
ABEOKUTA, Nigeria (BP)--With the new president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, a declared Baptist, and the overall Baptist community numbering more than 3.5 million, the Nigerian Baptist Convention had much cause for rejoicing during its 150th anniversary celebration April 16-20.
Even heavy rains couldn't dampen spirits as thousands of Nigerians descended on M.K.O. Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, where Baptist work started. The convention now encompasses 7,000-plus churches with 880,000 baptized members.
Among those attending the celebration were Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, and Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, which started work in Nigeria on Aug. 5, 1850, with the arrival of the first missionary, Thomas Jefferson Bowen....
During his visit in Nigeria Lotz had an opportunity to talk with B. Uche Enyioha, president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Kaduna which was destroyed in the Muslim riots last in February. During the riots five students were killed, and 16 Baptist churches were destroyed among 100 Baptist churches in the area.
Enyioha said the death of only five was "a miracle" because there were 600 students and family members on the seminary campus when it was attacked.
Enyioha reported he was in a meeting Feb. 21 when an agitated student ran into his office to warn him that someone was coming and he soon learned that Muslim militants were gathering at the gate...
He said there were about 300 to 400 demonstrators outside the seminary gate with guns, clubs and machetes. That day the students defended the gate with whatever they could find and the demonstrators departed. Thousands of them returned on Feb. 22 and threw petrol firebombs in several buildings and began to tear down the walls with axes.
Students and professors ran to the western wall of the seminary and began to climb over a ladder not knowing what would happen to them. Much to their surprise, on the other side there were blocks that provided a stairwell down from the wall.
"This was a real miracle for us," Enyioha said. When the ladder they used to climb over the wall from the inside broke, students on the other side of the wall began to pull the others over and all of the students were able to make it over the wall and to the nearby air force base for safety. Finally at 12 noon the military was given orders to protect the buildings.
The hatred and bitterness dates back to 1987, Enyioha said, and the seminary had been attacked before in 1992. The seminary is in a predominantly Muslim stronghold, the Kawo area, but the latest cause for the loss of life and destruction was the imposition last October of the Sharia law by the state of Zanfara passed. Each of the Muslim states subsequently passed Sharia law, including Kaduna.
The Christian leadership protested and a rally of Christians in the morning of the Feb. 21 was what Enyioha said ignited the Muslim attack. All of the Christians of the city of Kaduna had a prayer rally in the morning to oppose the enforcing of the Muslim law, and apparently the great masses who attended the prayer rally frightened the Muslims. Enyioha said they were probably astounded there were so many Christians in the city.
Fadeji led a delegation of Baptist leaders to Kaduna on Sunday March 12. Just one year ago the seminary celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was a happy reunion to find that the president had survived and other faculty members had taken refuge with their wives and children at the air force base.
The Nigerian Baptist Convention has called on the government to investigate the roles of two former heads of state believed to be involved in much of the Muslim unrest in Kaduna. Convention President Bolarinwa, at a press briefing, said the government "should not only condemn the utterance of the former heads of state but should also investigate their roles in the Kaduna mayhem."
As the Nigerian leaders toured the seminary, they saw several dangerous instruments which were left behind by the rioters including objects such as knives with bloodstains. They also saw empty shells from gunshots that were fired.
Already Baptists in Nigeria have collected funds to help their brothers and sisters in Kaduna and especially to help in the seminary relief. The Nigerian Woman's Mission Union has also sent funds to help rebuild the seminary.
Because there is a sense that this may not be the last attack to which the seminary might be subjected, discussions are under way as to its future location. The northern part of Nigeria is not predominantly Muslim and it is important for people around the world to know this, Fadeji said.
International Mission Board
KADUNA, Nigeria (BP)--Baptists in Nigeria are sifting through the ashes and counting the cost after the Baptist seminary in Kaduna was attacked in late February.
Eleven people--including two students and a retired maintenance man--were killed when a mob overran the campus. Another student was killed in town.
The cost of replacing buildings burned during the assault may run as high as $5.3 million, reported Uche Enyioha, president of the seminary. And that doesn't include the cost of replacing school furnishings, personal belongings and library books, which had just reached the level required for accreditation.
But the destruction of buildings and even the loss of life will not stop the growth of God's kingdom in Nigeria, Baptist workers say...
Rioters killed 21 members of one Baptist church and burned 17 Baptist church buildings and 13 pastors' homes, reported Southern Baptist missionary Don Copeland. Another six church buildings only were looted, apparently because they were located too close to Muslim homes to be burned.
Four days of clashes between Muslims and Christians in the northern Nigeria city broke out Feb. 20 as Christians protested Muslim activist appeals to institute Islamic criminal law in Kaduna state. Hundreds of people were killed. Mosques, churches and businesses were burned. Hundreds of vehicles were destroyed or damaged.
Nigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo, a southern Christian, condemned the violence, which quickly spread to the southeastern town of Aba, where Muslim traders were killed by Christians in revenge.
Within days, leaders of Muslim northern states agreed not to pursue strict "Sharia" law in order to preserve peace. Newspapers in the country speculated the violence actually was inspired by northern politicians ousted in the elections that brought Obasanjo to power.
Emeritus Nigeria missionary Payton Myers had traveled to Nigeria to help repair a men's dormitory on the Kaduna seminary campus. At first, he was unable to reach the campus because of the rioting.
After the violence subsided, Myers bought corn, cassava and other foodstuffs and took them to the Kaduna air force base, where both Muslims and Christians had taken refuge.
Southern Baptist missionary physician Dale Gray helped care for the wounded at the air force base, and chaplains there ministered to people's needs as well, Copeland said. Nigerian Baptist churches and their national convention have provided disaster relief assistance to victims of the rioting.
Despite the physical damage to buildings and the loss of life and personal possessions, the attacks in Kaduna are no setback for churches there, Myers said.
"The church, the kingdom of God, is not in buildings made with human hands, but in the hearts of those who have been touched by God," Myers said. "The burning of buildings will never stop the movement of the church in Nigeria or anywhere else."
KADUNA, Nigeria (BP)--The building's walls crumble when you touch them. Chipped and broken cinder blocks litter the floor, along with charred scraps of wood and broken glass.
During the night, attackers threw Molotov cocktails inside the Baptist church in Kaduna, Nigeria. The attackers ripped down the large cross hanging behind the pulpit and burned it outside for all to see. The final touch of vandalism involved spray painting "Shari'a or War" on the wall in bright red letters.
Despite the terror of that night in late February, church members walked fearlessly onto the grounds the next day. They came in pairs, as families or even alone. Each carried a cinder block, a small wooden stool or a woven mat. It was time to worship and everyone needed a place to sit. "Nothing can ever stop us from worshiping our God," said Bidam Mallam, a member of the church. "We will come back and keep living the way we have always lived. We will live for our God."
Riots between Christians and Muslims began Feb. 21 over a proposal to institute Islamic criminal law in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state. An estimated 1,000 people died in the violence. Tension between the two sides still runs high, but most people are simply trying to pick up the pieces.
Uche Enyioha, president of Kaduna Baptist Seminary, said that, for many people, moving past the riots involved taking a stronger stand for Christ... . I saw courage in the local Christians after the major bombings. People still assembled on Sunday in the bombed auditoriums all over town," Enyioha said. "They told me that they must worship the way God has called them to worship. They have decided not to run, but to stand strong in their faith."
The perseverance in continuing worship services has been a powerful witness. The very first Sunday after the riots, 30 people attended the service at First Baptist Church of Kaduna. Since then, attendance at services has almost doubled each Sunday. Enyioha attributes the surge in attendance to curiosity. He said people want to know how Christians can be persecuted and still worship openly. Enyioha prays that the seminary will serve as an example for local Christians in persevering and reaching the lost.
As the riots reached a pinnacle Feb. 21 and 22, the seminary bore the brunt of the destruction. Thousands of attackers rushed the walls of the compound. More than 800 students, faculty and staff members held off the attackers for a day before escaping over the back wall and taking refuge at the air force base. The seminary campus was totally destroyed as the attackers beat down the walls, bombed the chapel, library and classrooms and looted student housing. Enyioha estimates it will take millions of dollars to rebuild.
Despite the loss of buildings and textbooks, classes for seniors resumed May 2 in a makeshift classroom. Graduation is slated for July 2. Plans are to start rebuilding after graduation and reopen for the rest of the student body in January 2001. "Jesus Christ suffered 2,000 years ago, but today he is reigning supreme. This is just a temporary setback," Enyioha said. "God doesn't want destruction; instead, he loves to build. And when he is part of the rebuilding, it is stronger than ever."
Historically, the process of rebuilding riot-damaged churches in northern Nigeria always has resulted in more people coming to Christ. In 1987, attackers burned churches and killed Christians. The church buildings not only were replaced, but more congregations were planted in the process. In 1992, church buildings once again were burned to the ground and the number of congregations more than doubled.
This time, local ministers are more determined than ever to carry the gospel message to the community. The fires ignited the Christian community, said Isaac Gbadero, president of the seminary student body. Standing over a mass grave containing the bodies of Christians killed during the riots, he said, "Our brothers and sisters died for Christ. We must be willing to do the same."
As Gbadero spoke, his eyes moved from the grave to a stone wall not far away -- a wall that separates the Christian cemetery from the Muslim cemetery. On the other side stood an identical mass grave of Muslims killed in the riots. "I pray that God will break down the walls that separate us," Gbadero said. "Many families are split because of that wall. "Pray not only that hearts will be open to the Holy Spirit but that someone else will step forward and risk their life for the spread of the gospel.
"That is the only way the wall will ever come down."
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Sunday, January 01, 2006
BTSK Insight: The Faculty Journal of BTS Kaduna
This journal focuses on the needs of pastors, church leaders, religious educators, theological students, and other interested persons.
Articles and reviews are welcomed from BTSK faculty members, faculty membes of other seminaries, church leaders and other Christian academicians.
All correspondences should be directed to:
P. O. Box 94
Current Needs of the Seminary
2) Rebuilding of the four remaining staff houses, the main administrative building, and the Pre-school Religious Education centre, burnt down during the religious riots that engulfed the city of Kaduna in the year 2000
3) Scholarship funds for indigent or needy students
4) Computers for Seminary offices and for the training of the students
5) Photocopiers and other equipment for office use
6) A generator for the school to improve the power supply situation
7) Funds for the development of the Seminary's new site at Kamazou, Kaduna
8) Funds for the general running of the school
9) Lawn mowers
10) A bus/van for the movement of students
11) Books for the library and the faculty
Baptist Theological Seminary
P. O. Box 94
You may also contact the Seminary President, Dr. B. U. Enyioha, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further inquiries regarding your role as a friend of the Seminary and your commitment to supporting her can also be made from the officers and addresses listed above.
Any investment in the training of ministers and preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ is an investment in eternity. Please be a part of it. Nigeria is a nation of over 130 million people, with less than half of the population knowing Christ. Kaduna is located at the center of this yet to be reached population.
May God bless you abundantly as yo play your own role and send your donation as a Friend of the Baptist Seminary, Kaduna.