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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid