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Nigerian officials forbid rebuilding of churches that were torched by extremists a decade ago

(Wikimedia Commons/Joy-historian)St.Cletus Catholic Church in Otolo Nnewi, Nigeria

Christians in the predominantly Muslim town of Tudun Wada Dankadai in Kano State are currently worshipping under a tree because the authorities are forbidding them to rebuild the churches that were destroyed by extremists a decade ago.

According to Morning Star News, eight churches were destroyed when local Muslims attacked and displaced Christians in late September 2007. The attack reportedly began after Christian students were accused of drawing a picture of Muhammad on a mosque wall and of planning an assault on Muslim students.

Joseph Opeyemi Ibinkule, a 42-year-old a Christian resident of the town, recalled that nine Christians were killed in the attack. In addition to the eight churches that were destroyed, the houses and shops owned by Christians were looted and charred, Ibinkule said.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported in October 2007 that there were suspicions that the death toll was far higher than originally stated. Local authorities have reportedly removed all corpses from the area in a possible attempt to obscure the true death toll and one policeman was allegedly heard complaining of being "fed up of packing corpses."

Ibinkule, a son of an Apostolic Church pastor, said that he has been worshipping under a tree with members of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) a decade after the attack.

ECWA leaders are now suing the Kano state government for prohibiting them from rebuilding their churches.

"The Kano state government stopped us from rebuilding the destroyed ECWA church in Tudun Wada, so we have taken the matter to court, and we hope we shall get justice at the end of the case," the Rev. Murtala Marti Dangora, vice chairman of the Kano State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News.

The Rev. Ayuba Hassan, chairman of Tudun Wada chapter of CAN, said that ECWA is the only congregation that is trying to rebuild its church in Tudun Wada.

"We currently worship under a tree and have continued to insist that we be allowed to rebuild our place of worship. The government is not ready to allow us do so, as they claim that the Muslims in the town do not want to have any church there. We are waiting for the outcome of the case in court," he said.

Officers at the police station at Tudun Wada confirmed that ECWA members are currently worshipping under a tree.

Morning Star News noted that the only a wall remained near the tree where the church building once stood. The wall reportedly had an inscription by the Kano State and Land Survey agency warning against the redevelopment of the land.

When Morning Star News asked the officer about the church's pastor, he responded: "Sorry, the pastor does not stay in this town; he comes from Kano on Sundays. I also worship with them under a tree you see there. That's where we worship."

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