Evangelical Church Torched Days After Christian Teacher Killed

A Nigerian church was burned by Muslim extremists in the same town and only two days after the "gruesome" murder of a Christian teacher by her Muslim students.

The Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) in the northern town of Gombe in Nigeria was set on fire by a large number of Muslim extremists on Mar. 23, according to the persecution watch group Compass Direct.

Although the church was not completely burned down, enough damage was done that the 500 church members are forced to hold church worship and services in the open air, said the Rev. Rakun Gaius, chairman of the Gombe district of the ECWA, to Compass.

The ECWA claims some 15,000 members and 57 local congregations in the Gombe district.

According to Gaius, who is also the vice chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), reports reveal that the Muslim militants in the area plan to burn 15 more churches in the region.

Church leaders complain that the state government – the majority of which are Muslim – makes no effort to protect Christians even though they compose half the state's population. The government has also adopted and imposed Sharia, or Islamic laws, upon non-Muslims.

Only two days prior to the church burning, a Christian teacher administering an Islamic Religious Knowledge exam was beaten by Muslim students and others in the area for "desecrating the Koran." The mob also set the female teacher, along with three blocks of the school building, on fire.

Although attackers accuse the teacher of desecrating the Koran, her defendants say that she had no knowledge that there was a Koran in the pile of books she threw out of the classroom when she suspected a student carrying the books into the exam hall would use them to cheat.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is about evenly split between Muslim in the north and Christians in the south with minorities of both religions living where the other faith is dominant. Since democracy was restored in 1999, there have been at least 15,000 deaths due to religious, communal or political violence, according to BBC.