Nigeria: Christian Bails Muslims Out of Nigerian Jail

The city of Kaduna has been closely linked with lethal religious violence. Yet on Sunday a Christian cleric was given a Muslim award. He had bailed Muslims out of jail so they could spend Ramadan at home.

Father Yohanna Buro and a group of volunteers have secured the temporary release of 30 Muslim men and women from the jails of the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna so they can fast with their families during Ramadan.

The prisoners were serving jail terms because they had been unable to pay fines or bail. The Christian aid workers found the money and are also paying their travel expenses for the journey home.

Father Buro, who heads the Christ Evangelical and Intercessory Fellowship Ministeries, is convinced that praying and fasting can serve the cause of peace.

"I have sought the release of my Muslim brothers, so they can fast and pray to God that peace will prevail in our country," he said.

"Example to us all"

Father Buro and his fellow Christians want adherents of the two faiths to live together in harmony in Nigeria. In Africa's most populous country, Christians, Muslims and members of various ethnic groups are frequently in conflict with one another. There have been deaths on both sides, and churches and mosques have been destroyed. For this reason, Muslim clerics and other Kaduna residents were pleasantly surprised by the engagement shown by Father Buro and his supporters.

Sheikh Salihu Mai Barota, one of Kaduna's leading Muslim clerics, came to speak to the Muslims who had been released. He said that Father Buro's actions should be an example to all religious leaders, rulers, and those who preach on the radio and speak of peaceful co-existence. "They were all surprised that it was a Christian priest who secured the Muslims' release," he said.

On Sunday, the Muslim Media Organization arranged a meeting of representatives of all main Muslim organizations so that Father Buro could personally receive an award for what he had done.

Conditions in Nigerian prisons

Maryam Abubakar, who heads the Women's Organiation for Peace and Understanding between Muslims and Christians, also hopes that Father Buro will prove to be an inspiration to others. She also told Deutsche Welle she was concerned about the state of Nigeria's prisons.

"It makes me very sad to see the conditions under which the prisoners have to serve out their sentences. I would therefore like to call on everybody, Christians and Muslims alike, to help the prisoners, as far as this is possible," she said.

One of Muslim prisoners explained to Deutsche Welle how he had landed up in prison in the first place. He said he had been put in jail on account of 10,000 Naira (50 euros, $66). "I had knocked down a goat while driving. I was sentenced to a month in prison. But once inside, I was kept here for 240 days and the manner in which they treat us is anything but humane." he said.

Another Muslim released for Ramadan said "I wouldn't wish time in this prison on anybody, not even on my enemies. It is not good to be here."

Even the prison warders appear to agree that prison inmates are being badly treated. In the wake of Father Buro's campaign, they appealed to wealthy citizens, the government and NGOs to help alleviate the suffering of prisoners in Nigeria by donating food, clothing or soap.

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