In last week’s post about Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt, I highlighted that I am troubled by the way that two connected faiths that call for tolerance are often manipulated for specific purposes. As a follow up to that post, I wanted to write about the violence last week between Christians and Muslims in Jos, which stands on the dividing line between predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria and predominantly Christian southern Nigeria. This is another unfortunate example in which religion is manipulated and used to cover other longstanding problems between groups, rather than addressing those problems directly, problems which many times result from poverty, oppression by both groups, and unemployment.
The violence in Jos began on Sunday, January 17th, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds. There are varying reports on what triggered the current wave of violence. The New York Times reports it began when Muslim youth attacked a church; The Christian Science Monitor says that it broke out after Christians protested the building of a mosque and Muslim protesters attacked a church; and Human Rights Watch indicates that some leaders say the violence resulted from a disagreement over the rebuilding of a Muslim home in a Christian neighborhood that was destroyed in 2008. Whatever the exact cause of this latest violence, it is important to note that unfortunately this is not the first time that this level of violence has occurred. There were violent riots in 2001 and 2008.
What these two situations, in Egypt and Nigeria, underscore is the need for more constructive discussions and analysis that addresses how religion can be used negatively to motivate people to hate and to ignore the real sources of the problems. More now than ever we live in a world where different people live closely together. We need to find ways to look beyond the differences–not disregard them–for the common good in order to prevent more violence.
What do you think about the violence in Nigeria? What do you think will stop the violence? Is religion at the core of these conflicts? Is there a difference between the faith and the adherents? Please leave your comments below.