A situation in desperate need of hard reporting
According to police in Kano, Nigeria, 30 people died this week as Muslims sought revenge for the murder of hundreds of their fellow believers last week.
Andrew Ubah, general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kano, has a different number. "Almost 600 people have been killed and 12 churches burned," he told Reuters, saying the numbers were based on direct reports from priests across the city.
The news service agrees that the official death count is a gross underestimation, explaining that "Nigerian authorities routinely underestimate death tolls from religious violence in the belief the true figures could spark reprisal attacks."
But do they think they're fooling local Nigerians? David Emmanuel told the news service that "he saw two truck loads of bodies being driven along Kano streets on Wednesday night and counted at least 30 corpses in the street."
Christian leader Mark Amani reports that "some corpses were burned in wells. Even little children were killed. The bodies of pregnant women were ripped open and their bodies burned."
Kano's chief of police told a reporter, "We still stick to our figure of 30 killed and 40 hospitalized … [CAN's] figures are baseless."
When such people who have seen such atrocities with their own eyes hear their government say that less than three dozen were killed, does that really reduce their anxiety and anger? Or does it simply mean that they'll be unable to trust the government?
Likely the latter. The Vanguard newspaper reports that "angry residents alleged that the true reason the bodies were being concealed was to hide evidence that many of the dead had been shot by police, not killed by sectarian mobs."
At a meeting of political and religious leaders yesterday in Jos, Nigeria, CAN state chairman Yakubu Pam suggested that President Olusegun Obasanjo was too late in trying to ease tensions in Plateau State. Why, Pam asked, did Obasanjo remain silent when 40 Christians were killed by Muslims in February? While Pam was still asking the question, the president interrupted:
Mr. Chairman of CAN, you are talking absolute nonsense and don't provoke me. When I did invite people to Abuja in April, do you think I invited them for a picnic? You are talking rubbish and I will not accept that. I invited all people that are stakeholders including the governor and I was saying that I would set up a committee to look at every aspect under the Emir of Zaria as Chairman. Then what I read in the papers was that some of you CAN said you didn't accept the Emir as the chairman. You have the audacity (to say) that you didn't hear anything from me; did I hear anything from you? What meaningful thing have you contributed to make peace in this state other than that you are chairman of CAN? CAN my foot! As a Christian, what did Christianity teach you? Revenge? Is that what the Bible teaches you? What type of leader are you? And you are asking me this type of rubbish question. You are an idiot. A total idiot. And I have no apologies for that.
Assuming you said I didn't do anything, what did you do? What did the leaders in this state do, the Christian leaders? Don't tell me that. And if you think that you are a Christian, I can claim to be a better Christian than you are. Let us tell ourselves the home truth. If you are a Christian, what do you do in a situation of conflict? So what you are saying is that people die and I don't care because I am a Christian? You are an idiot to say that. I have always been fair. I don't care whether you are a Christian or a Muslim. If you do what is wrong, I will condemn you, if you do what is actionable, action will be taken.
Pam later told Vanguard that the president's outburst didn't do much to boost confidence in government-sponsored peace efforts. "The same people who cooked up the crises in Plateau State have been going to him and deceiving him by telling him all kinds of lies," he said. "This is the first time I am seeing a leader abusing a pastor, an ordained man of God."
Vanguard reports that an Islamic leader "had his own share of the president's temperament" when he expressed his concerns that the government wasn't doing enough.
Meanwhile, the Kano morgue is overflowing with bodies. "The violence subsided in many districts on Thursday although police barred access to suburbs where fighting was still raging," Reuters reports. There's no doubt, however, that peace is far from returning to the area.
More on the Kano riots:
- Security forces deploy across Nigeria | Security forces deployed in cities across Nigeria on Thursday to prevent the latest outbreak of sectarian violence from spreading through Africa's most-populous nation (Associated Press)
- Nigerian Muslims recount horror of attack | Hafsat Garba wept as she recounted how heavily armed Christian militiamen, stripped to the waist and wearing charms on their arms, invaded her home town (Reuters)
- In pictures: Kano riots (BBC)
- Thousands seek Nigeria sanctuary | Some 22,000 people have sought shelter in police stations in the northern Nigerian city of Kano (BBC)
Regular Weblog readers will notice that something's been missing this week—all those neatly categorized links of religion stories from English-speaking media around the world. Unfortunately, time pressures mean we've had to wait until today to compile these links. Check here for our massive collection of links galore later today. In the meantime, here's a few stories to get you started.
Mass. gay marriage:
- Federal bid to overturn SJC fails | A federal judge yesterday rejected a bid to halt gay marriages in Massachusetts, ruling that the state's highest court didn't exceed its authority last November when it ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry (The Boston Globe)
- Judge denies bid to stop gay marriages | A federal judge Thursday rejected a last-minute bid by conservative groups to block the nation's first state-sanctioned gay marriages from taking place in Massachusetts next week (Associated Press)
- Gay marriage appeal moves through federal courts | Since the state's highest court legalized gay marriage nearly six months ago, every legal maneuver to clarify, delay or block same-sex weddings has been rejected (Associated Press)
- Gay marriage opponents see fight getting tougher | Setback likened to Roe v. Wade (The Boston Globe)
- Survey: Gay marriages to be sought in 133 communities | Bay State gay and lesbian couples will seek marriage licenses in at least 133 Massachusetts cities and towns in the weeks and months after same-gender matrimony becomes legal on Monday, according to an informal survey released yesterday by two gay rights groups (The Boston Globe)
- Boston adopts stricter stand on gay outsiders | The city will accept a couple's word, and not require proof of residency, officials said (The Boston Globe)
- Also: Boston bars out-of-state same-sex marriages | The City of Boston will not issue marriage licenses to out-of-state same-sex couples when gay marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts next week (The New York Times)
- Also: Boston blocks marriage of nonresident gays | City follows governor's edict. Officials in other Massachusetts towns plan to issue licenses without proof of residency (Los Angeles Times)
- Provincetown abuzz with wedding plans | Gay marriages, celebrations set (The Boston Globe)
- Union denies benefits to gay couples | A Boston labor union representing some 6,000 members has amended its benefit plans to exclude gay married couples from receiving health and pension benefits, evoking fear in some labor unions in Massachusetts that the move will set a dangerous precedent for other unions and employers throughout the state (The Boston Globe)
- Toward a more perfect union | The way a lawyer named Mary Bonauto made — and won — the case for gay marriage in Massachusetts (David J. Garrow, The New York Times)
- Town set to defy governor on same-sex marriage issue | One week before same-sex marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts, the Cape Cod town of Provincetown voted Monday to issue marriage licenses to out-of-state same-sex couples even if they have no intention of moving to Massachusetts (The New York Times)
Gay marriage elsewhere:
- Using the courts to wage a war on gay marriage | From an unmarked beige tin warehouse near a railway line at an address they insist on keeping secret, Liberty Counsel has employed a range of legal tactics to fight same-sex marriage across the country (The New York Times)
- Ohio gay marriage initiative roils skeptics | Some see conservatives pushing bans in close states to spur turnout for Bush (The Washington Post)
- Backers of amendment forbidding gay marriages to collect signatures | A coalition called the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage faces an Aug. 4 deadline to collect at least 322,899 signatures of registered voters (The Toledo Blade)
- Under recall fire, official apologizes | Multnomah County board Chairwoman Diane Linn, who is facing a recall from opponents of gay marriage, has apologized for "mistakes" she's made during her tenure (Associated Press)
- Uncivil disunion | In the gathering debate over gay marriage, some state legislatures have moved to ban it, others to create civil unions or domestic partnerships. Then there's the Virginia General Assembly, which last passed with veto-proof majorities a jaw-dropping bill that bans not only civil unions but any "partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage." (Editorial, Washington Post)
- How Oregon eloped | Gay couples in Massachusetts can legally marry next week. But they won't be the first. Here's how one county secretly changed the definition of marriage (Time)
- Gay-marriage foes win ruling | Petitioners are poised to seek signatures after Oregon justices approve the ballot title for a bid to ban same-sex marriage (The Oregonian)
- Being gay is not a debate issue | The City Council candidates have argued about plenty of subjects, but their sexual orientation is not among them (The Oregonian)
- On gay unions, D.C. warily holds its peace | in all the furor over cities and counties approving gay marriage, the District has remained oddly out of the fray (Marc Fisher, The Washington Post)
- Four couples file suit challenging federal gay marriage ban | Two sign-language interpreters, the entertainer "Fluffy," two women with medical backgrounds and a gay couple together for 12 years gathered on the courthouse steps Wednesday to be the first to challenge an 8-year-old federal law banning gay marriage (The Miami Herald)
- Musgrave hit at home | Morgan GOP won't back marriage amendment (The Denver Post)
- No hatred in keeping marriage laws sacred | Defending marriage is now vilification. At least it will be if a gay lobby group has its way (Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian)
- Gays elsewhere eye marriage Massachusetts style | When Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriages on Monday, many out-of-state couples plan to head there (The New York Times)
- Marriage tax tango | A strange thing happened in the U.S. House of Representatives recently. Republicans and Democrats came together to pass an important piece of legislation by an overwhelming majority — even though it is an election year (Matt Daniels, The Washington Times)
- Gay-marriage ban 1 vote shy in state Senate | But Hainkel says he has support for approval later in session (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)
Homosexuality & religion:
- Unitarians prepare to marry gays | Denomination set to 'make history' (The Boston Globe)
- Calif. Episcopal bishop explains sanction | California's Episcopal bishop said on Monday that he sanctioned a retired bishop who married his same sex partner because the couple's ceremony became "an altogether more public event than I had wanted" (Associated Press)
- Most mainstream denominations ban same-sex marriage | Religious denominations are struggling with the issue of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, with the majority of mainstream congregations barring their clergy from performing gay or lesbian wedding ceremonies (Associated Press)
- Episcopal diocese sets same-sex wedding ban | The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, headed by three bishops who support gay marriage, is barring its priests from officiating at same-sex weddings, citing restrictive language in the canons and prayerbook of the church (The Boston Globe)
- Also: Diocese to bar same-sex 'marriage' | One of the largest and most liberal Episcopal dioceses in the country is banning its clergy from solemnizing same-sex "marriages" in anticipation of Monday, when the Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court has said homosexual couples will have the right to "marry" (The Washington Times)
- Archbishop warns against vilifying homosexuals | Finds 'sadness' in making gay marriage legal (The Boston Globe)
- Gay controversy: Anglican communion vows to resist lobby | Despite threat to the fabric of the Anglican Communion, the primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) has reiterated its resolve to uphold the traditional faith and practice of Anglicanism without compromising same under financial inducements from the West (Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria)
- Methodists lock door against gay pastors | What the General Conference demonstrated is what the General Conference refused to concede, even as a token gesture -- namely, that on the question of gay ordination there are two Methodist Churches rather than one (David C. Steinmetz, The Orlando Sentinel)
- Preachers stoke anti-gay sentiment | Eight preachers, spurred by anti-gay rights organizer the Rev. Frank Raddish of Washington, D.C., heaped fire and brimstone on ''homosexuals and sodomites'' during a five-hour preaching marathon yesterday beneath the century oaks of the historic Rhea County Courthouse (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Clergy still enthusiastic for pro-gay declaration | Neither Methodist policy nor Catholic defections are curbing clergy enthusiasm for the pro-gay Phoenix Declaration (The Arizona Republic)
14-year-old's abortion controversy in Britain:
- BMA explains criteria for giving consent | Doctors who performed the abortion were acting within the law provided the teenager was "competent" to give her consent, the British Medical Association said yesterday (The Telegraph, London)
- A girl's right to choose | A mother is furious because her 14-year-old daughter's school arranged an abortion without telling her. Were they right? (The Guardian, London)
- A daughter's dilemma | A young person must also be able to give consent for a medical procedure themselves, although they must, of course, be encouraged as far as possible to talk to their family (Editorial, The Guardian, London)
- Abortion girl: who will take the blame? | No one was willing to take responsibility yesterday over the 14-year-old girl sent for an abortion without the knowledge of her mother (The Telegraph, London)
- Mother may not know best, but she should always be told | The case of Michelle Smith, the 14-year-old whose school "outreach worker" arranged an abortion for her without informing her parents, is one of those moral nightmares in which it is horribly easy to see everybody's point of view (Tom Utley, The Telegraph, London)
Pregnancy & abstinence in Britain:
- Number of England and Wales babies born out of wedlock in rises to 41 percent | The rise in the number of babies born to unmarried parents has been dramatic in recent years, partly as a result of teenage pregnancies—which show no sign of decline—and partly because fewer people see the need to get married (The Telegraph, London)
- 'The libertarian experiment has failed; abstinence is the way forward' | The Silver Ring Thing is coming to Britain, doubtless to a chorus of mockery from our libertarian media and commentators who resolutely refuse to see that the do-anything-you-like experiment of the past few decades has been a disastrous failure, and at tremendous human cost (Ann Widdecombe, The Independent, London)
- Oral sex lessons to cut rates of teenage pregnancy | Encouraging schoolchildren to experiment with oral sex could prove the most effective way of curbing teenage pregnancy rates, a government study has found (The Observer, London)
- Joy of sex education | America's virgin soldiers are on their way - ignoring the dangers of abstinence for teenagers (George Monbiot, The Guardian, London)
- How to sort out our teenage-sex muddle | The Silver Ring Thing may sound like a programme on body-piercing for the under-fives, but it is actually a group of American virgins and evangelists who are visiting British cities, including Glasgow, urging teenagers to abstain from sex until they are married (Gillian Bowditch, The Scotsman)
- Teens told a silver ring and a vow of chastity are best way to combat sexual epidemic | Worried that their children are bombarded with words, clothes and pictures that "talk dirty", six mothers are plotting a revolution against a society seen to be saturated with sex (The Guardian, London)
- Over sex and over here: US virgins to preach restraint to British teens | Young Americans pledged to sexual purity are bringing their Silver Ring Thing road show to the UK (The Independent, London)
- For 'indecency' watchdogs, work is a day full of TV | The Parents Television Council monitors shows and uses its data to put pressure on the FCC (Los Angeles Times)
- Rival KOCE-TV bidder appeals | A religious network says it, not a foundation vowing to keep a PBS station public, was tops (Los Angeles Times)
- Family channel Pax trying out edgier lineup | "The definition of appropriate family viewing has really expanded to include shows like 'American Idol' and 'Fear Factor,"' NBC Entertainment senior vp Sheraton Kalouria said (Hollywood Reporter)
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to email@example.com
Check out Books & Culture's weekly weblog, Content & Context.
See our past Weblog updates:
and more, back to November 1999