A Climbing For Christ member who lives in northern Nigeria, on what some would call the wrong side of the so-called “geographic boundary” between Muslims and Christians, says: “There is this misconception by many that everybody from northern Nigeria is a Muslim.”
There is no mistaken notion about persecution in Nigeria. “I am from the northern part of Nigeria,” our member said, “and being a Christian from (that) region is accompanied by intense persecution and, most times, death.”
Christians and Muslims have been at war in Nigeria for many years. Reportedly, at least 10,000 Nigerians died during Christian-Muslim riots and ethnic violence during the first decade of this century.
“Nigeria has become a battleground state for Christians and Muslims around the world who see themselves involved in a numbers game,” author Eliza Griswold told CNN after a Nigerian with alleged al Qaeda connections was arrested on Christmas day 2009 for trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner. Griswold spent five years in Nigeria researching her book The Tenth Parallel, which explores tensions between Christians and Muslims just north of the equator in Africa and Asia.
As CNN's John Blake said, in reporting the story of would-be jet bomber Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, AbdulMutallab “wouldn't have to go to an al Qaeda training camp in Yemen to learn how to hate. He had plenty of examples in his own country.”
Nigeria is ranked among the 50 most persecuted countries on the planet on the “World Watch List” by Open Doors, which monitors global persecution against Christians.
“Twelve northern states have imposed Islamic law in the past eight years, and there have been repeated outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence claiming many lives,” Open Doors reported in November 2009. “More than 100 Christians were killed during 2008 and the destruction of many churches and kidnapping of believers continued throughout the year.”
Human Rights Watch claimed at least 700 Nigerians died in Christian-Muslim riots that followed a disputed local election in November 2008. There has been political tension between Christians and Muslims since British colonial rule, according to some observers. The British were known to have awarded political leadership to members of the Muslim majority in the North, giving followers of Islam a sense of entitlement to rule Nigeria after the country gained independence in 1960.
Nigeria is an oil rich nation that finds itself among the 50 biggest economies in the world (second only to South Africa on the African continent). Yet widespread poverty plagues Nigeria. As does corruption.
But it is religious hatred that really divides the country. “Although I am not a Muslim convert,” said our Climbing For Christ member from the North, “I come from a home where I suffered serious persecution for being a Born Again.”
Location: Western Africa. Leader: President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has been both the chief of state and the head of the government since Oct. 24, 2007. Population: 149,229,090 (the eighth-largest country in the world and most populous nation in Africa) live in a country that is roughly twice the size of California. Primary Religion: Divided between Christianity (about 52 percent) and Islam (41 percent), according to Operation World figures. Others put the numbers closer to 50-50.
Where in the world?
Western Africa borders the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon.
(The World Factbook)