News / Africa

Critics Say Provocative Preaching Fuels Nigerian Clashes

Soldiers stand guard outside St. Rita's Catholic church following a suicide bombing, Kaduna, Nigeria, Oct. 28, 2012.
Soldiers stand guard outside St. Rita's Catholic church following a suicide bombing, Kaduna, Nigeria, Oct. 28, 2012.
Heather Murdock
Amid reports of deadly sectarian clashes in Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt” region, which roughly divides the mostly Christian south from the predominantly Muslim north, civil society groups are accusing religious leaders of perpetuating violence by putting politics before preaching.
 
While details about the recent bloodshed are still emerging dozens have been reported killed.  Plateau State Police Commissioner Chris Olakpe says gunmen attacked four villages Thursday in a remote, “almost inaccessible" region where economic interests cleave along ethnic and religious lines. Competition for resources often culminates in clashes between Muslim and Christian communities, and Olakpe says that this week's violence was almost certainly sectarian in nature.
 
Sulaimen Shinkafi, who heads African Youth for Conflict Resolution and Prevention, says while economics may be at the root of the fighting, religious ideology is often exploited as a means to perpetuate it.
 
“[Religious leaders] are diverting the teachings, objectives of Islam, objectives of Christianity, into political objectives," he said, accusing religious leaders of accepting cash payments from politicians to admonish followers to vote along religious lines.
 
"Most of them are curious to get money. They are all for money," he said of both Christian and Muslim leaders, adding that galvanizing religious groups behind politicians also reinforces the idea that Christians and Muslims are by nature at odds with each other.
 
For Emmanuel Bonet of the Civil Society on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, which is based in Kaduna, a Middle Belt city where sectarian violence has killed nearly 1,000 people in the past two years, the country's leading religious umbrella groups are to blame. Jama'atu Nasril Islam and the Christian Association of Nigeria, both fail to regulate the clerics who routinely encourage vengeance.
 
Claims of unfairness
Some religious leaders, however, reject the criticism, saying it is unfair to suggest that a handful of rogue sheikhs and pastors are able to undo the considerable amount peace-building work carried out by their offices.
 
Michael Haruna, an elder in the Christian Association of Nigeria’s Kaduna branch, says churches and mosques alone cannot unravel decades of sectarian clashes, as government institutions are responsible for punishing those who commit the atrocities. 
 
“We are talking about norms and values," he said. "If you deviate from the norms of our religion, it is God that will punish you. The religious leader has no right. They cannot punish you. If you commit a crime the only person that can punish you is the government."
 
Khalid Aliyu Abubakar, secretary general of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, says his organization is looking into the problem and will be meeting before Ramadan begins next month to seek solutions.
 
“There may be occasion where some people may be advancing one political philosophy or the other, or one tribal agenda or the other, or one interest or the other," he said. "These parochial interests should be set aside. The focal point should be to let people know the right thing to do."
 
A volatile region
Perhaps the country's most complex security challenge, sectarian violence in Nigeria's Middle Belt has claimed 14,000 victims since 1999, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. In recent years the problem has been aggravated by Boko Haram, a northeast-based group that preaches a harsh form of Islamic law and often targets churches.
 
Last year nearly 100 people were killed when young Christian men took to the streets in retaliation against the bombing of three churches in Kaduna.
 
Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna; Ardo Hazzad contributed from Bauchi.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid