Tuesday, January 23, 2018

RLPB 439. Nigeria's Conversion Crisis: Echoes of Egypt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 439 | Wed 24 Jan 2018

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

-- plus Update on Syria 

by Elizabeth Kendal

Nigerians Miss Nabila Umar Sanda (19) and Engineer Simput Eagles Dafup (33) met and exchanged contact details in Dubai four years ago. A few years later, as Nabila (a Muslim) was studying at Bingham University -- a Church-owned university in Karu, in Nigeria's central Nasarawa State -- she decided that she wanted to become a follower of Jesus Christ too. When Nabila learned that Simput Dafup was going to be in Jos, Plateau State, over Christmas (2017), she re-connected with him and arranged to meet him there. When Nabila told Simput that she wanted to convert to Christianity, he asked about her family, in particular her father who is a powerful Muslim elder and a traditional title holder in Biu, Borno State. Nabila told Simput that as she was 19, she was entitled to choose her own religion and would do so regardless of obstacles. However, Simput remained concerned, so on Monday 8 January he and Nabila sought advice and assistance from local church leader, Pastor Jeremiah Datim. Cognisant of the delicacy of the situation, Pastor Datim decided it was best to follow protocol and contact the umbrella group for the Muslim community in Nigeria, Jama'atu Nasril lslam (JNI), to inform them of Nabila's decision to convert, in the hope they might smooth the way forward. When Nabila's parents were informed, her furious father vowed revenge and requested intervention by the Department of State Security Services (DSS).

Simput Dafup (l);  Nabila Sanda (c);  DSS (r).
Later that day, DSS officers stormed Pastor Jeremiah Datim's home, assaulted his wife and children and abducted Nabila. They also violently abducted Simput Dafup from his home and arrested Daniel Hassan, the taxi driver who had driven Nabila from Abuja to Jos. At a press conference in Jos on Saturday 13 January Pastor Jeremiah Datim clarified the constitutional issue at the heart of the crisis. 'I want to state,' he said, 'for the avoidance of doubt, that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the right to anyone to propagate his faith and the right also to practise any religion of one's choice.' Simput Dafup's widowed mother, Lydia then appealed for information on her son's whereabouts. 'My son,' she said, 'a quiet gentleman par excellence, was on Monday, January 8, 2018, brutalised, tortured and whisked away from his residence in Jos by men we suspect were from the DSS for allegedly converting one Miss Nabila Umar Sanda from Islam to Christianity.'

Though no charges had been laid and no arrest warrants issued, the DSS is alleging that Nabila was abducted in Abuja, held captive in Jos and forcibly converted to Christianity. This echoes the 'Camilia' myth promulgated by Islamists in Egypt [see: RLPB 082 (17 Nov 2010)]. The accusation comes as the Voice of Northern Christian Movement of Nigeria (VNCMN) is pressuring the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the abduction of some 100 Christian girls. VNCMN Executive Director, Pastor Kallamu Musa Ali Dikwa, explains: 'Muslims have abducted 100 Christian girls under the age of 18 and forcefully converted them to lslam and we have reported to security agencies severally but no arrest was made or return of Christian girls to their parents ... .' Thus the whole context mirrors that of Egypt [see: RLPB 398, 'Bring Back Our Coptic Girls' (15 March 2017)]. But Nigeria is not Egypt! Nigeria is a democracy with a secular Constitution where Christians comprise at least 51 percent. Tensions are soaring.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has slammed the DSS for 'acting as some kind of "Islamic religious police" ... We call on the National Assembly to call ... the [Director-General] of DSS to desist from using public offices to promote and canvass the interests of a particular religious group which are direct affronts to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which absolutely prohibits the elevation of one religion as state religion'.


[In a separate incident, on 15 January DSS officers similarly (i.e., violently and without a warrant) attempted to arrest Jos preacher Isa El-Buba after he criticised President Buhari in a nationally broadcast sermon. Church members resisted, forcing the DSS to withdraw. For details on this and the Islamisation of Nigeria, see Religious Liberty Monitoring, 24 Jan 2018.]



* intervene to secure the release and guarantee the security of faithful witness Simput Dafup.

* intervene to secure the liberty and guarantee the security of Christian convert Nabila Sanda.

* awaken Nigerian Christians to the threat creeping Islamisation poses to their liberty and security; may the Holy Spirit lead the Nigerian Church in prayer for the nation, prayer for the persecuted, political action to secure liberty, humanitarian action to aid the persecuted, and grace to take the Gospel of salvation to Muslims. May the Church have faith to 'turn back the battle at the gate'.

'In that day the Lord of hosts will be  ... strength to those who turn back  the battle at the gate.' (Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV).

* supply Nigeria's courageous Christian missionaries and witnesses with everything they need for the task.


Nigeria's Department of State Security Services (DSS) has arrested, without warrant, a Christian engineer Simput Dafup (33), alleging he abducted Nabila Sanda (19) and forcibly converted her from Islam to Christianity. The DSS also kidnapped Nabila, who had already decided to follow Jesus while studying at Bingham University -- a Church-owned university in Nasarawa State. Nabila had travelled to Jos to talk to Simput about her decision to convert. Concerned, Simput took Nabila to seek advice and assistance from a local pastor, Jeremiah Datim. Furious, Nabila's father -- a powerful Muslim elder in Biu, Borno State -- requested the DSS to intervene. However, as Pastor Datim reminded the media, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees religious freedom. Tensions are soaring. Please pray for Nigeria and its Christians.



As noted in last week's RLPB 438 (17 January), 'the Christian Crisis in the Middle East is anything but over. ... Now that the proxies have cleared the theatre, the regional powers will move in to consolidate their gains -- in particular Turkey in north-west Syria and Iran in south-west Syria and northern Iraq.'

World Watch Monitor reports (22 January) that the Church of the Good Shepherd in Afrin, north-western Syria, is gravely and imminently imperilled. Turkey has launched a military operation to seize control of Afrin and the church is at risk due to heavy aerial bombardment and shelling. Furthermore, Pastor Valentin Hanan warns that 'Islamic groups are threatening to enter the area'. These groups, which are backed by Turkey, are aligned with al-Qaeda. The church, which comprises some 200 Christian families, is appealing for international protection. Please pray!


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com