- Tide of suffering in an unholy war
Jan De Volder
As the Islamist group Boko Haram is said to be surrounding the city of Maiduguri in the latest stage of its campaign of violence against Christians and Muslims alike, an expert on the country considers why the authorities are powerless to halt its progress
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Restricting the practice of religion to one official faith should be forbidden in all of Nigeria’s states, Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, has said.
Addressing the two-day “Religions for Peace” conference in Vienna from 23-24 November, Cardinal Onaiyekan pointed out that Nigeria was a federation of dozens of ethnicities and was split 50-50 between Christians and Muslims.
“Eighty million Christians and 80 million Muslims laugh and suffer together,” Cardinal Onaiyekan said, adding: “The majority of Nigerians certainly don’t regret that the British amalgamated us into a federation.”
Nine of Nigeria’s 36 states have instituted sharia law, and a further three have done so in some areas.
The conflict with the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist group, that aims to enforce sharia, had begun just three years ago, the cardinal recalled.
“We never had that before and it must be stopped,” he said, explaining that Boko Haram - meaning “Western education is evil” - was a fundamentalist Islamist sect that attacked both Christian churches and mosques. It was responsible for more than 3,600 deaths to date, he said, and its activities were “poisoning” peaceful relations in Nigeria.
More than tolerance was needed to establish peace, he emphasised. “People must accept and respect one another. Everything else is just political correctness.”