Nigeria: Evangelical Church Denies Forcefully Converting Abducted Almajirai

Evangelical Church Denies Forcefully Converting Abducted Almajirai (News Central TV)

The President of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Rev. Stephen Panya has denied allegations that the Department of State Services (DSS) stormed the church’s facility in Jos, North central Nigeria where 21 Muslims were held hostage and forced to become Christians.

Panya explained that the report was false, misleading and a deliberate effort to discredit the church and cause religious crisis.

He added: “Among numerous ECWA units is the ECWA Discipleship Unit established under the ECWA Church-Related Ministries Department of the headquarters. The unit, among other activities, trains the less-privileged in the society on skills, Christian ethics and leadership, with the sole purpose of making them relevant to the society.

“It equips the trainees, upon completion of their one year training, with tools that will help them in establishing themselves.”

According to him, due to lack of space at the ECWA headquarters, the office acquired a private property within Tudun Wada residential area in Jos as a temporary site for the training and housing of all trainees.

“The trainees at the property, before being enrolled, are expected to provide the name of their sponsors and pay a mandatory sum of N75,000 to cover feeding and training fees. As a practice, the unit maintains a file for each student containing his or her personal data.”

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“Trainees at the facility, as a matter of policy, are all adults with none falling below of 18 years of age. They are free to withdraw from the training once they are dissatisfied with either the policies or the condition of the facility. Management also has the right to withdraw a trainee on grounds of infringement of the rules and regulations of the facility,” he explained.

The unit, from inception, has graduated over 86 trainees from across the country. The president noted: “The ECWA Church-Related Ministries Department was shocked over the false allegations said to have emanated from the ‘escapee’ Abdulrahman Hussaini that the trainees at the property were forcefully brought to it for the purpose of forcefully converting them to Christianity. These allegations are complete falsehood because the trainees, being persons of age, are available at any time for government officials to interact with, to hear their respective stories, just as was done by the DSS recently.

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“Following a report by Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) in Jos, as we later understood, the DSS visited our facility and accordingly interviewed the occupants, who freely disclosed to the security agents that they enrolled on the programme at their own volition and were not forced, except Hussaini’s brother, who opted to leave with his brother and were released to the DSS without any excitation.”

The DSS had raided a house at JMDB quarters, in the Tudun Wada community of Jos North LGA of Plateau State, where the operatives rescued 21 young people, including Almajirai.

The JNI said the rescued victims informed them during interrogation that they were forcefully brought to the house and converted to Christianity.

The General Secretary of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Rev. Yunusa Nmadu, said the house which was raided by the DSS was under the custody of the church but denied that it was used to convert people to Christianity, adding the claim should be discarded.

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Two of the victims, Abdulrahman Usaini and Nura Usama were reportedly camped in the house for eight months without the knowledge of their guardian or parents.

During interrogations, Usama confirmed that were forcefully taken by some individuals in a Camry Toyota Car from Gombe State, North East Nigeria, to ECWA headquarters, Jos, North Central Nigeria and after being documented, they were later taken to a house at Tudun Wada. Usaini escaped leaving his brother, Nura at the house.

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