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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs