Roman Catholic Bishops meeting in Nigeria over the weekend have warned against the adoption of the strict Islamic code known as Sharia in the north of the country.

The bishops issued a statement late Sunday at the end of the three-day Catholic Bishops Conference in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos. The declaration said the adoption of Sharia poses a threat to peace in Africa's most populous country. The bishops noted that religious and ethnic violence in Nigeria has killed thousands of people in recent years.

The bishops said the imposition of the strict Islamic code on non-Muslims would be a violation of human rights. In their statement, the Catholic leaders said they would use all legal means possible to prevent Sharia from being forced on non-Muslims.

At least 12 states have adopted Sharia either fully or partially in northern Nigerian states where the population is mostly Muslim. The code has been implemented despite Nigeria's constitution, which guarantees secular government.

The implementation of Sharia last year set off clashes between Muslims and Christians that killed at least 2,000 people in the northern city of Kaduna.

The imposition of Sharia has also triggered an exodus of Christians, and of Muslims who do not want to live under the strict code. Those fleeing have gone to neighboring regions, including Plateau state, where Christians make up the majority.

Clashes erupted in Plateau this month between members of the Christian majority and Muslims. More than 500 people were killed in violence amid heightened tensions between Christian natives and members of the growing Muslim community in the city of Jos.

Authorities last week announced they had arrested about 300 people. Nigerian state media said Sunday 270 people had been indicted in the attacks.