Religious tensions erupt in deadly riot in Nigeria

By December 18, 2007

Nigeria (MNN) — Last week, a second violent attack in the same Nigerian town in the last few months resulted in ten deaths and three Christian churches burned. 

Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs Canada says this violence is evidence of ongoing tensions in northern Nigeria. "It's certainly not unusual for it to take place in Northern Nigeria, although for it to take place in the same city so close together is a little bit unsual."

The tension spilled over when suspicions leaked that Christian students had removed foundation blocks from a new high school mosque under construction. Eyewitnesses say Muslim students began attacking their Christian peers during school. The violence gradually spread into town, where others joined in. 

Dozens of Christian homes were set on fire along with the three churches. "They see each other as threats to their religion, and so they believe, as the apostle Paul did when he was still a persecutor, that what they're doing is in the name of God," said Penner.

A committee of Christian and Islamic elders convened to prevent the violence from spreading.  They invited Muslims to serve on the security committee as well, but the committee was seemingly unsuccessful as violence continued into the next day. 

One associate pastor of a local church ran to his nearby church, where he watched as Muslims set fire to his home. He lost everything. 

While it seems obvious that the incident began as a result of religious friction, the governor has told new sources that he believes his political enemies hired hoodlums to initiate the incident. He delayed his pilgrimage to Mecca to attend to the crisis.

Penner said that the older generation does what it can to prevent incidents like this from occurring. "Both Muslim and Christian leaders often try to talk to these young people to tell them to realize that acts of violence are not the way to solve problems. But unfortunately, these young men don't always listen to their elders."

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