Nigeria: Interfaith Dialogue Needed to Ease Tensions, say Leaders

Dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is needed to end the country's sectarian violence, a group of leaders from the Nigerian Inter Religious Council (NIREC) Adamawa State chapter said last week.

Speaking to a gathering of NIREC delegates, Alhaji Muhammadu Shu'aibu Girei, co-chairman of the organization, said that neither the Bible nor the Qur'an teaches that one religious group should kill the other, and added that dialogue was the "only way out" of the crisis, according to

Governor Murtala Nyako, meanwhile called on Nigerians to condemn "evil behaviors" of people who champion religion as their motivation for violence.

The leaders were meeting to find a peaceful solution to the worsening sectarian violence in the country, which has left more than 1,000 people dead since the beginning of this year.

According to reports, underlying issues of poverty, corruption and mismanagement, often related to oil production in Nigeria, are usually the root of the seemingly religious violence.

Last month, Jonah David Jang, governor of the Plateau state where some of the worst violence in the country has taken place, told a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) that "religion is used to cover up all conflicts although other factors also exist."

Jang, who is a minister of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, also told the ecumenical delegation that as governor of the state, he believes that God has given him the "mandate to direct the people in the righteous way."

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, a Roman Catholic priest in the region, told the WCC that the impression that Christians and Muslims in the state were at war is not correct.

"It is not the religions that are fighting but some people who adhere to the religions that are involved," he said. "There is no war between the two faiths."

Meanwhile, Catholic Archbishop John Onayekan, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said that religious leaders sometimes send "wrong signals" through their messages that indirectly lead to violence.

"My conviction is that people living in the grassroots don't have problems living together but the imams and pastors leading them sometimes send wrong signals by the kind of messages they preach," Onayekan said.

Dr. Matthews George Chunakara, director of the WCC Commission on International Affairs, noted that a separation between church and state would help to ease the country's conflicts.

"Overt and covert alliances between political and religious organizations often lead to conflicts in communities," Chunakara said. "It is in this context that legal measures to separate politics from religion should be pursued as a matter of state policy through appropriate structural changes or statutory instruments in the country."

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News