Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

"In Brief" Continued...

Issue: "False witnesses?," Oct. 5, 2002

The London-based Church Mission Society, an evangelical Anglican group that has been in the region for more than 125 years, is among the mission groups that work in Nyankunde. Mission leaders said they would return. | Edward E. Plowman

Driven away?

People in the African nation of Rwanda have been converting to Islam in large numbers since the state-sponsored genocide of 1994, The Washington Post reported. In that bloodbath, extremists among the ethnic Hutu majority killed an estimated 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Although Rwanda remains the most Roman Catholic nation in Africa, researchers say, Muslims now make up 14 percent of the population of 8.2 million-twice the pre-1994 percentage.

Citing a loss of confidence in the church and its leaders, the Muslim converts typically point to the documented complicity of some Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy in the killings. In contrast, they say, Muslim leaders and families protected and hid those who were fleeing. | Edward E. Plowman

Shariah showdowns

After 30-year-old Amina Lawal gave birth out of wedlock in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, police arrested her, and an Islamic court sentenced her to death for fornication.

Under Shariah law, which prevails unconstitutionally in 12 northern states, once her infant daughter is weaned Ms. Lawal is to be buried to her neck and then stoned to death. A higher court rejected her appeal in August, and last month the governor of her home state refused to intervene.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's jittery regime said that although it considers Shariah criminal law unconstitutional, it will not intervene, either. Ms. Lawal's volunteer legal team plans a second appeal. The high-profile Miss World beauty pageant is scheduled to be held in Nigeria on Nov. 30, but some beauty queens are threatening to pull out if Ms. Lawal's sentence stands.

Meanwhile, an Islamic court sentenced a Nigerian couple to death by stoning for having an affair. It was the first time in Nigeria that a man was sentenced to death for adultery. Ahmadu Ibrahim and Fatima Usman, both 30, originally had been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to adultery. Mrs. Usman had become pregnant with Mr. Ibrahim's child. They appealed to a higher court, but their appeal backfired. This court, in the central town of New Gawu, ruled their sentence had been too lenient, because Shariah prescribes death for adultery. | Edward E. Plowman

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