Churches in Niger and Other Former French Colonies Torched over Charlie Hebdo Cartoons

Cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are proving costly for Christians in majority-Muslim countries in Africa.
 
At least 45 churches were torched over the weekend in Niger, in two days of protests that left about 10 people dead. The targeted churches were mainly of the evangelical denominations built on the left bank of Niamey, the capital city.
 
Three other churches were ransacked on Friday (Jan. 16) and three people were killed in Zinder, Niger’s second-biggest city. A French cultural center burned down in the city as other marches unfolded in Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and Algeria — all former French colonies.
 
Christians’ homes and businesses have also been attacked as enraged mobs clash with police in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris on Jan. 7, in which gunmen killed 12 people working for the satirical weekly. The subsequent publication of more Muhammad cartoons in Charlie Hebdo’s latest edition prompted renewed violence.
 
Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, coordinator of the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa, said he strongly condemned the attacks on churches in Niger, but cartoons of such a revered figure were an act of provocation that could not be justified by freedom of expression.
 
“Muslim demonstrations to express their anger are legitimate,” said Mbacke, a Muslim leader from the Muridiya Sufi Community of Senegal. “I join all Muslims in the world to also express my anger for the cartooning of Prophet Muhammad.”
 
In Sudan, hundreds of people staged demonstrations in Khartoum but were blocked by police from reaching the French Embassy and French cultural center in the city.
 
Students in Somalia took to the streets on Saturday (Jan. 17) with placards saying “Je Suis Muslim, et j’aime mon Prophete,” or “I am Muslim and I love my prophet.”

London: Christian Nurse Fired for Praying with Muslim Colleague

A Christian nurse says the NHS made her look like a “religious nutcase” after she prayed with a Muslim co-worker.
 
Victoria Wasteney, 37, was suspended for alleged bullying and harassment after the co-worker, Enya Nawaz, told administration that Wasteney had tried to convert her to Christianity.
 
The Daily Mail reports Wasteney will launch an employment tribunal this week against the NHS trust she works for, arguing that she was suspended based on her religion.
 
The East London NHS Foundation Trust said it could not comment on the case ahead of the tribunal.
 
Wasteney was working at the John Howard Centre in Homerton, East London. Nawaz joined the hospital in 2012. The two had conversations about Islam and Christianity prior to the suspension. Wasteney said Nawaz was the one to initiate those conversations.
 
Nawaz approached Wasteney crying over health problems. Wasteney then asked if she could pray for her. Nawaz said yes and then Wasteney prayed and gave her a book about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity.
 
Nawaz filed a formal complaint, and Wasteney was suspended for nine months during an investigation. She was given a written warning and moved to work in another area.
 
“I’m not anti-Muslim and I’m always very mindful to be sensitive to other people’s beliefs,” she said. “We discussed our beliefs but I certainly didn’t tell her that my way was the only way. I don’t even believe it’s possible to force someone to convert.
 
“But the way it was all handled left me looking like a religious nutcase and I would like an acknowledgement that there is a negative attitude towards Christianity in some areas of the public sector.”