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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid