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Crisis in Nigeria

Posted on: March 19, 2000 4:41 PM
Related Categories: Nigeria

The city and state of Kaduna have been embroiled in communal violence since 21st February.

Much of the infrastructure of the city of Kaduna has been destroyed; churches, mosques, homes and businesses have been burnt. 80,000 people have been made homeless, and hundreds have been killed. 'Our people are being shot, butchered and roasted', said Bishop Josiah Fearon, Bishop of Kaduna.

Local commentators and Christian leaders have feared violence since the imposition of Sharia Law in the neighbouring state of Zamfara, 95% Muslim, in October 1999. Although Kaduna has a much higher proportion of Christians than Zamfara, it put the legislation to put Sharia into place into motion. On 21st February, the Christian leaders delivered a protest letter to the State Government, but a peaceful demonstration by Christians retaliated the next day and there were many casualties on both sides.

Although it seems like inter-religious violence, the conflict in Nigeria exacerbated by tribal divisions running along similar lines as the religious divide. Both the President and the Minister of Defence have expressed their fear and belief that this violence was not just between Christians and Muslims, but was also against the new democratically elected government, and might have been encouraged by external influences. President Obasanjo is the first Christian president Nigeria has had since independence and there is some evidence that the traditional Muslim leaders feel threatened by this.

According to some observers there is evidence that it might be possible for Christians and Muslims to begin to work together. The Bishop of Kaduna and Imam Asafa, a local Muslim cleric, have called on people not just to tolerate each other, but to be prepared to rebuild together. Since then, Bishop Josiah and Imam Asaf have announced plans for joint Muslim/Christian projects to rebuild the city. Standing in the ruins of the Baptist Seminary, one of the local Christians said, 'please do not speak to us of reconciliation, only forgiveness, it won't be easy'.

The Bishop of Kaduna, has written to the Anglican Communion with the needs of his people. Seven churches and vicarages have been destroyed or significantly damaged, in Kaduna and the surrounding areas. A plea from Bishop Josiah; 'if there is any time for the Communion to express her concern for her children in Kaduna, it is now. We need prayers and the intervention of the Lord for people to regain their confidence. Whatever can be done to rehabilitate these children of the Lord should be done now.'

In a letter to the Compass Rose Society of the Anglican Communion, Secretary General Canon John L. Peterson said, 'Yesterday I received from Bishop Josiah of the Diocese of Kaduna a letter sharing with me the needs and the situation which they face in the Diocese as a result of the conflict which has been raging between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna this last month.

I am sure you have been reading your newspapers and looking at your televisions in absolute horror as the events have unfolded in Kaduna. The events have taken a spiritual toll as well as being an economic disaster for the Church.'

Asking for financial assistance Canon Peterson said, " Anything you could arrange would be a Godsend for the Church in Kaduna. Most important are prayers for Kaduna. This is a real tragedy on many levels."