by Obed Minchakpu
DAMBOA, Nigeria (Compass) -- A Christian-Muslim conflict in Damboa in northeastern Nigeria's Borno state resulted in the deaths of 15 Christians, and four churches were burned.
The attack on Christians by Muslims broke out on March 27 and lasted through the next day. Eight Christian-owned houses and several shops were looted.
Thousands of Christians, mostly women and children, have fled the area and are presently taking refuge at the orientation camp of Nigeria's National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Damboa and at the headquarters of the Borno State Police Command in Maiduguri.
The disagreement between Christians and Muslims in the town has lasted for more than a year. Christians in the area told Compass that Muslims have been putting pressure on the government to relocate all churches to the outskirts, because the Muslims say Christian worship services are a disturbance to them.
Chairman of Damboa Local Government Council, Alhaji Lawal Kabu, a Muslim, accused Pastor Olusesan Caleb of Living Faith Church, one of the four burned churches, of instigating the crisis because of his refusal to move the church. Compass could not reach Caleb for comment because police were holding him on orders of the Borno state government.
But the associate pastor of Living Faith Church in Damboa, Pastor Kayode Ezekiel, denied that they were responsible for the crisis. He said following the incessant demands by Muslims in the town that their church be relocated, the church leadership was summoned to a security meeting of the Council.
While there, he said, they were told that the Muslims do not want the Christian church at its present site and that a new site would be provided so that they can relocate. The new site was not given to them as promised.
The Borno state acting police commissioner, Mr. Hazrus Mude, told Compass in Maiduguri that the crisis resulted from the attack on churches by Muslim fanatics armed with axes, knives and daggers.
Borno Governor Alhaji Malla Kachallah, a Muslim, described the crisis as a "dastardly act perpetrated by group of hoodlums and hooligans who must have motives other than religion."
Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.