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Row Over Claim of Nigerian Pilgrims Raped in Sinai

Curious news from Nigeria (link added):

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs Wednesday denied claims that some female pilgrims were raped by Egyptians as they attempted to climb Mount Sinai in St Catherina City, Egypt in April.

“We wish to dismiss this report as a deliberate falsehood,” the statement signed by director, FCT Christian Pilgrims Board, Mr. Laz Gaza. “No such incident occurred or was brought to the notice of the FCT head, Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs…We also want to dismiss the claims that both Nigerian and Israeli authorities have protested on the allegation to Egyptian authority as falsehood as nothing of such magnitude took place. We view this as a deliberate effort by the reporter to sour the long cordial working relationship that has existed between Egypt and Nigeria.

Pilgrimages are organised at the state level in Nigeria; the FCT is the area around the capital, Abuja. The original report had been published in the Daily Champion on 2 April, and was by a journalist named Daniel Idonor. That report claimed that “many” women had been raped by local camel-riders, who lured women pilgrims into isolated places:

…Already, both the Nigerian and Israeli authorities have formally protested to the Egyptian authorities through the country’s police over the incident. The leader of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Pilgrims (Batch one), Mrs Helen Oloja, who is also the Director of Legal Services in the FCT Administration, launched Nigeria’s protest before the Israeli officials moment after she arrived Israel border from the Mt Sinai.

One Ms Jone, an Israeli official, and a senior employee of the Immanuel Tours Agency,…could not hold her emotion, but wept profusely.

…Also commenting on the incident, the FCT director of the Christians’ Pilgrim Welfare Board, Mr Laz Gaza, who spoke to Daily Champion at the Hilton Hotel in Taba, Egypt, expressed deep shock over the incident; and promised to make official complaints to the Nigeria government through the FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and the National Technical Committee on Pilgrimage, headed by Archbishop Ola Makinde, for necessary action.

So what’s going on? Did Idonor make up the original quotes from the aptly-named Laz Gaza and the others? Or is Gaza now back-tracking for political reasons of his own? And if the “incident” occurred, to what extent does it suggest a serious endemic problem?

Meanwhile, an account of pilgrims heading to Sinai from another state in Nigeria was published a couple of weeks ago here:

…they set out for the famous Mount Sinai, which is said to be where Moses received the Ten Commandments…In spite of several warnings about the dangers of making the climb, hundreds of pilgrims headed for the hills at the appointed time in the bitter cold, with temperatures reading twelve degree centigrade. The Nigerian pilgrims were accompanied by large groups of pilgrims from far off places like the UK, Australia, China, Japan among many others. The going was tough but the pilgrims, including old men and women over 60 years old, bravely kept on going. It was amazing to see them encourage and help one another along the punishing trail. The Nigerians particularly rejected offers by the Bedouin locals to convey them up the trail on camel back, which elicited hostility from the locals. By sunset, most of the pilgrims had made it to the summit of the mountain and were already downward bound.

Most of the pilgrims agreed that the climb marked the climax of the pilgrimage for them. Matoh Dogara, a commissioner in Kaduna State, told Newswatch that his ability to make it to the top of Mount Sinai marked a milestone in his life. Dogara said he believes that the experience would make him a better Christian. Victor Yakubu, chairman of the state’s Christian pilgrims welfare board, expressed satisfaction at the successful completion of the climb up the Sinai. Rev. Yakubu was particularly thankful that his aged mother was able to make it to the summit of the mountain. “It has been something of an obsession to her,” Yakubu told New Nigerian on Sunday shortly after the climb. “It was a really hard decision for me to allow her attempt such a risky thing, but thank God she has fulfilled her heart’s desire.”

As an aside, Gaza’s statement of denial includes the following incidental detail:

“The FCT Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs expresses shock that the reporter failed to report…the miracles of healing that took place at the Wailing Wall of Old Jerusalem City…”

Of course, many Christians respect the Jewish holy place (even many of those who don’t feel the need to fantasize about destroying the nearby mosques), but for the Western Wall (preferable usage to “Wailing Wall”) to become regarded as a place of miraculous healing in a Christian context is an interesting development. This Christian website offers a virtual Western Wall where prayers can be lodged.

2 Responses

  1. I wish I had a picture of the tiny replica of the Wailing Wall outside John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church.

  2. i am the author of what has become a controversial report. indeed, the inccident actually took place, especially the interviews after my investigations were concluded. the denying Director, Mr Laz Gaza truely spoke to me at the lobby of the Hilton Hotel at a border town in Egypt shortly after we returned from the city of cartrina. However, am not suprised that he is denying the story. He had pleaded with me not publish the story as a “RAPE” but as “sexual assult” in order to protect his job as he was still acting in office; and it is the very first time he will be heading the FCT pilgrimage to the Holy Land.I had actually written a features story on the urgly trend but my news editor in his wisdom decided to reduce it to news story.

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