Nigeria: Archbishop says 'fighting is about politics not religion'

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, has repeated his assertion that the cause of the recent violence in the region was political rather than religious.

In his  homily at a Mass for the repose of the souls of the victims of the massacres in the Plateau State, celebrated on 19 March in Bukuru, the Archbishop said: “Since 1994 the wind of ethnic, political, social and religious discord has blown throughout Plateau State resulting in depressing loss of lives and properties. Is God testing our faith so as to purify us and make us more loving? Or are we allowing the devil to take up domicile on this nice Plateau to create confusion and destabilize the polity?”

"Where Muslims and Christians once lived in friendship, love and harmony, now they take up arms against each other and even try to polarize settlements along religious lines,” he said. 

“It was politics rather than religion that caused the fighting for years.  They fought not because they wanted to be holy Catholics or Protestants but because of political power. It is time to liberate religion from the manipulative hands of people who when they fail, use religion as an excuse for their failure.”

Highlighting how the situation has worsened following the clashes on January 17, 2010 he said: “The 17th January 2010 crisis undid almost all the good work being done towards good neighbourliness and religious accommodation. It created greater ethnic and religious gaps, deepened mutual suspicion and distrust and encouraged a culture of violence instead of dialogue.”

Archbishop Kaigama once again said that the crisis has causes that go deeper and cannot be reduced to merely a Muslim-Christian conflict: “The crisis this time went deeper than the usual stereotype of Muslim/Christian conflict to create tension even among Christians. For instance, there was no consensus as to the root cause of the crisis and while some Christians felt dialogue could solve the problem others preferred hostile confrontation. The Muslims too talked tough and those among them who favoured negotiations were accused of being a sell out. Suspicion and the desire for vengeance were palpable everywhere. The security agents could not even correctly explain how the crises originated. The army was accused of partiality as they brushed aside the police and asked them to limit their operations outside of curfew hours.”

“Truth became a casualty. By means of mobile phone calls, text messages, the electronic and print media, situations were exaggerated and lies spread like wild fire creating great tension,” he continued.

“We thank God for those of you who prefer dialogue to violent conflicts. I hope that both Christians and Muslims can overcome petty religious prejudices and work for the peace and happiness of everyone realizing that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Christians and Muslims who promote violence must be ashamed of themselves because even the traditional religious adherents whom we look down upon and call 'pagans' are at peace with one another,” concluded Archbishop Kaigama.

Source:  Fides

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