A total of 294 churches have been burned in Kaduna city of northern Nigeria during Muslim-Christian clashes since the Kaduna state government implemented the Islamic legal system last year.

The violence has also left thousands of Christians homeless and has dramatically increased the number of widows and orphans, according to the Macedonian Initiative (MI), a Christian nongovernmental organization.

Nigerian Christian ministers and denominational leaders established MI to provide relief and reconstruction to those who have suffered, both Christians and Muslims.

"The situation in Kaduna is pathetic," says Ladi Thompson, a pastor and MI spokeswoman. She says not even 10 percent of the devastation has been addressed. "Many children are now orphans, women are now widows, many children's education has been disrupted, their schools having been destroyed or their parents killed," Thompson says. "These people have no roof over their heads anymore, and they are roaming the streets."

Arrested for Prayer

Meanwhile, Ambrose Lar, a Christian worker with the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna state, was arrested and detained for seven days in June because of a prayer.

University workers were meeting under the auspices of their unions when Lar was asked to pray about the institution's problems, including corruption. He also prayed for God's wrath on those denying Christians their basic religious rights.

An angry Abdullahi Mahdi, a Muslim and vice chancellor of the university, ordered Lar's arrest. Lar was released only after university workers went on strike on his behalf.

On June 30, the university workers began a week of fasting and prayer aimed at seeking God's intervention in the university's problems, particularly on those related to Christian rights.

Detention is a price Lar had to pay "for being a Christian in Nigeria," he says.

"Professing our faith has now become a crime in Nigeria," he says. "But nothing can stop us from professing that we are Christians, and that we believe in Jesus Christ. No Muslim fanatic can stop us from serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Related Elsewhere

The Northern Christian Elders Forum has condemned the destruction of churches as barbaric. Meanwhile Christians are pleading with President Olusegun Obasanjo to step in.

For more on Nigeria and Shari'ah, see Yahoo's Full Coverage and AllAfrica.com

Previous Christianity Today coverage of religious tensions in Nigeria includes:

Christians and Muslims at Odds Over Nigerian Constitution | Calls made to limit Shari'ah law in Northern states. (July 12, 2001)

Nigeria Officials Press Northern Governors to Scale Back Islamic Law | Churches harassed by Islamic youths purporting to enforce the law. (June 14, 2001)

Five Anglicans in Court After Rescuing Teenagers From Arranged Marriages | Priests claim Christian sisters are being forced into Islam. (June 5, 2001)

The Shari'ah Threat | Muslim Fundamentalist law troubles Christians and some Muslims. (Feb. 2, 2001)

'Focused, Determined, Deliberate' Destruction | Ecumenical leader calls on Nigeria to deal with religious violence between Muslims and Christians. (Oct. 30, 2000)

Nigerian Muslims and Christians Form a Religious Council | Gombe, a north Nigerian state, creates a council of faiths to deal with fears over Islamic law. (Sept. 19, 2000)

Churches Challenge Islamic Law | Christians plan to take Shari'ah to court. (Aug. 15, 2000)

Is Nigeria Moving Toward War? | Deadly riots lead to suspension of Islamic law. (March 31, 2000)

Nigeria On the Brink of Religious War | Northern states adopt Islamic law, increasing Christian-Muslim tensions. (Dec. 16, 1999)

Nigeria's Churches Considering Legal Challenge to Islamic Laws | Third state moving toward implementing Koranic laws (Dec. 17, 1999)

Can Christianity and Islam Coexist and Prosper? | Is peace with Islam possible? (Oct. 25, 1999)

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