Authorities of the Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, have described reports by Daily Trust Newspaper, linking the church with forced conversion of Almajiris to Christianity as deliberate falsehood.
ECWA, in a statement by its President, Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, said Daily Trust had alleged in a newspaper report that “the Department of State Security, (DSS) agents raided one of our facilities in Jos where 21 Muslims/almajiris are held hostage and being forcefully converted to Christianity.”
But Panya described the report as “not only false and misleading but a deliberate effort to discredit the church and cause religious crisis.”
While laying the facts against the allegations, the Clergyman noted that “Among numerous ECWA Units is the ECWA Discipleship Unit established under the ECWA Church-Related Ministries Department of the ECWA Headquarters.
“The Unit, among other activities, trains the less privileged in the society for capacity building, skill acquisition, Christian Ethics and leadership skills with the sole purpose of making them relevant to the society; equips the trainees, upon completion of their one-year training, with tools that will help them in establishing themselves.
“For 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 N75,000.00 to cover feeding and training fees.
“As a practice, the Unit maintains a file for each student containing his or her personal data.
“Trainees at the facility, as a matter of policy, are all adults with none falling below the age of Eighteen (18).
“Trainees 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.
“The Unit from its inception, has graduated over Eighty-six (86) trainees spread across different parts of Nigeria with various skills.
“Prior to June 14, 2022, the property accommodated twenty-four (24) trainees with a list of pending applicants waiting for space for enrolment.”
The ECWA leadership further stated that its “Church-Related Ministries Department was shocked over the false allegations said to have emanated from” a purported “escapee” Abdulrahman Hussaini, who alleged that the trainees at the property were forcefully brought to it for the purpose of forcefully converting them to Christianity.
The church restated that “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 Department of State Services (DSS) recently.
“Following a report by the 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 program at their own volition and were not forced, except Abdulrahman Hussaini’s brother who opted to leave with his brother Abdulrahaman and were released to the DSS without any excitation.
“What is clear in this drama, is that the Hussaini brothers were planted as moles for the purpose of discrediting the good works of the church unit where thousands of trainees have benefited and are now living as responsible members of the society.
“What is more, Trainees are given two weeks break six months after their stay in the facility to get back and prepare for the final lap of their training. It is of the moment to note that the Hussani brothers have gone on this break and returned on their own volition.
It further noted that “ECWA, as an organization, has a widespread nationally and internationally and believes in the Rule of Law and will not involve itself in the infringement of the Fundamental Rights of any Nigerian to his freedom of religion, movement, or association.”
“The above are the facts the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) has offered. Any other insinuations and/or accusations such as has been made viral on the media space are FABRICATED LIES to dent the good works of ECWA since the past 129 years of its existence.”