Nigeria Christian Woman Escaping Stoning, Still In Hiding

ran away from her nursing school where Muslims decided to stone her for "blasphemy."

Nigerian Christians said the decision came after students and teachers at the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the northern Nigerian city of Sokoto accussed Ladi Muhammed, 22, of blaspheming the prophet of Islam after a dispute with a Muslim friend.

The accusation led to the students, faculty and administrators condemning her to death by stoning. "Muslim students all over the school were shouting, 'Allah Akbar' or "God is great," Christian news agency Compass Direct quoted her as saying. "The girls surrounded me and began to drag me here and there," she added.

The ordeal began when Muhammed’s aunt, Hajiya Mary, phoned her on February 2 at the school. While she was still on the phone, a Muslim friend asked her who called her, and Muhammed apparently excitedly told her that she was her aunt.

PHONE CALL

"While responding to the phone call from my aunt, I addressed her as Hajiya, the name we know her by," Muhammed said. "My friend became curious and wanted to know what 'Hajiya' was to me. I told her she was my mother, because, being an elder sister to my mother, Hajiya was a mother to me," she reportedly said.

"I grew up under her care. And so my Muslim friend asked why was it that I was a Christian while my parents were Muslims." Muhammed told her that, though her dad, now living in the United Kingdom following a divorce, was Muslim, she had come to believe that Jesus Christ was God and the Saviour of mankind.

The friend became angry and allegedly began to insult her. "You are an infidel – if not, how can your parents be Muslims and you a Christian? How can your parents who are Muslims allow you become an infidel,?" she apparently asked.


Her friend insisted that she had to renounce Christ and become a Muslim or else God would hold her accountable for failing to do so. "She warned me to become a Muslim since my parents were Muslims, and in the same vein, said Christians who are followers of Jesus Christ will all go to hell because they are serving a mere man,” Muhammed said. “At this point, I sought to correct her by explaining to her that the Bible says it is only those who do not believe in Christ that will go to hell."

BLASPHEMY CHARGES

A week after the incident, the friend and two other female students allegedly came to her class and accused her of blasphemy against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. "I was surprised, because throughout my discussion with my friend I never mentioned the name of the prophet," Muhammed said.

"Yet they claimed that I said the prophet was in hell. I assume that because I tried to let her know that it is those who do not believe Jesus Christ that will go to hell that they are using this to accuse me of blasphemy."
 
She walked away, but the girls – whom she described as militant Muslims – followed her out of the classroom, and soon much of the student population went into a rampaging frenzy. "Muslim students all over the school were shouting, 'God is great'," she said.  "The girls surrounded me and began to drag me here and there."

Leaders of the school’s Muslim Students Society (MSS) came and took over the interrogation from the girls, she said. Eventually, the principal, faculty members and students then determined that she was guilty of blasphemy of the prophet of Islam and sentenced her to death by stoning.

DEATH SENTENCE

The students wanted the death sentence executed then at the school, but the principal and teachers argued to have it endorsed by an Islamic Sharia court. On the way to Muslim authorities, she reportedly managed to escape and hid in a house of a Christian friend.

Muslim students learning of her escape went on a rampage, burning down the house of the administration officer for allowing her to escape, and Christians living near the school were also attacked. The school was closed down.

That same day, Muhammed learned from her friend, posters with her picture were printed and pasted throughout Sokoto. Muslim militants were posted in strategic spots in the byways and exits of the city. The Islamists declared that she was “wanted.”

"When the situation became unsafe for me, Christians harbouring me in Sokoto dressed me like a Muslim woman, covered completely with clothing and a ‘hijab’, a head covering, and smuggled me out of the city," Muhammed was quoted as saying.

WIDESPREAD HUNT

As Muslims looked for her around the region, she had to be moved to her present refuge. School officials were unavailable for comment. Muhammed said life in seclusion has been devastating. "I have now been here for eight months. I cannot go out anywhere. I feel very lonely. I cannot even go back to my hometown again. It’s terrible."

She reportedly said she last saw her father, Muhammed Lawal, six years ago. Muhammed said that female Christian students are admitted into the school with the intent of encouraging them to marry Muslims. Of the 43 Christian students at the school, only three are male.  
"Muslim male students and teachers are always disturbing us," she apparently added. "They want to marry us, and when we turn down such marriage proposals, they harass and intimidate us. They believe that they are carrying out jihad, or ‘holy war’, once they are able to marry us and win us to Islam."

The latest reported incident was expected to underscore growing concern among church leaders about rising tensions between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. (With reports from Nigeria).

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