For five years, bombs and bullets from Nigeria’s Islamist group Boko Haram have ripped through churches and their members, raising concerns over the security of Christians in majority Muslim regions of the country.
But as similar attacks ignite violent reprisals by pro-Christian militias in the Central African Republic, Christian leaders in Nigeria continue to insist on a path of dialogue and nonviolence.
The clerics have also pressed President Goodluck Jonathan to use the state security services against the militants.
These Christian leaders want Jonathan to negotiate with Boko Haram leadership and end the campaign of terror.
Recently, militants have slaughtered both Christians and Muslims in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
“We are living in perpetual fear and tension here in Maiduguri,” said the Rev. John Bakeni, secretary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri in Borno.
On Friday (March 14), gunmen from Fulani, a largely Muslim ethnic community, attacked villages in Kaduna state in central Nigeria, killing more than 100 people.
The Fulani who migrate with their livestock have a long-standing land conflict with farming Christian communities, according to church leaders.
Humanitarian agencies say the attacks have forced hundreds of Christians to flee to the south and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Human Rights Watch says more than 300,000 people have been forced out of their homes since 2009.
Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa ethnic language. It is also known as “Jama’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-da’aw wal-Jihad” in Arabic, or “Congregation of the People of Proselytism and Jihad.”
A young firebrand Muslim cleric known as Mohammed Yusuf founded the group in Borno around 2002. It gained prominence in 2009, when Yusuf issued a video to Jonathan calling for revenge after 17 of the group’s fighters were killed in a clash with police. Yusuf died the same year, while under police custody.
Since then, attacks by Boko Haram have escalated.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service