Religion continues to kill Nigerians

I’ve long been following the crisis in Nigeria. People have been murdering each other for quite some time there, with part of the basis being fertile farm land, part of it being poverty, part of it being government corruption, but the biggest part being religion. The most recent attacks reflect that.

Nigerian authorities on Friday arrested 92 people allegedly affiliated with a militant Islamist group that the government says is responsible for a string of recent killings in the country’s northeast.

Three men were arrested with bombs in their possession in the vicinity of Jos on Christmas Day, authorities said

The Jos region lies on a faith-based fault line between Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south.

At least four people were killed and another 13 wounded Friday in a bomb blast at an army barracks in Abuja [on New Year’s eve], the deputy police commissioner said.

I would prefer not to have the perfect example to illustrate the point that religion causes divide and fosters violence, but it is what it is. Without Christianity and without Islam dividing the city of Jos, Nigerians would either be able to more easily resolve issues over farm land or they wouldn’t have any violence in the first place. (These most recent attacks are driven by extremists, but it remains that many of the other attacks have been over non-religious issues which are heightened and worsened by the presence of religion.)

Religiously-motivated violence gets worse in Nigeria

It’s only getting worse.

Witnesses say people are fleeing their homes in central Nigeria over fears of renewed religious violence between Christians and Muslims.

Witnesses say there has been at least one death in the city of Jos and people began fleeing on Saturday.

A military spokesman confirmed there was unrest in the city, but gave no details.

It isn’t going to be easy for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, to deal with all the violence it currently faces. Some of it comes from corruption that pervades its entire government. Some of it comes from poverty. But much of it comes from religion; religion is the cause of all the killings between Christians and Muslims going on right now. To cause a significant change in the dynamics of the region, the fact of religion would need to be removed. It cannot simply be replaced with anything – only a simpleton would think that – but without religion, the basis of any violence would change. (It would also change if one religion was all that dominated, but then the entire country might come in conflict with entire other nations.) In places like Northern Ireland, an elimination of the Catholic/Protestant divide throughout the later half of the 20th century probably wouldn’t have completely eliminated all violence there, but it would have subtracted from the equation one significant piece of unnecessary (and untrue) ideology.

For Nigeria, the Christian/Muslim divide is acting as a reason to kill over a lack of fertile lands. Eliminate that divide and the lack of good growing land still exists, but one significant reason for all the murders will be gone. I suspect that for this country corrupt officials might step in to fill the void of controversy and unrest, but they would actually be a step forward in an effort of social and political reform for the better.

They certainly couldn’t be any worse than the two violent religions that have such a strong hold in Nigeria right now.

Religion-based violence continues in Nigeria

The religious-based violence has only been intensifying in Nigeria.

Funerals took place for victims of the three-hour orgy of violence on Sunday in three Christian villages close to the northern city of Jos, blamed on members of the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group.

While troops were deployed to the villages to prevent new attacks, security forces detained 95 suspects but faced bitter criticism over how the killers were able to go on the rampage at a time when a curfew was meant to be in force.

Media reported that Muslim residents of the villages in Plateau state had been warned by phone text message, two days prior to the attack, so they could make good their escape before the exit points were sealed off.

Survivors said the attackers were able to separate the Fulanis from members of the rival Berom group by chanting ‘nagge’, the Fulani word for cattle. Those who failed to respond in the same language were hacked to death.

Don’t be fooled by the use of a language barrier. That only acts as a tool for what is yet another case of religiously-based violence. Remove religion from this situation and these acts of violence have no real label, hardly a root.

“Nigeria’s political and religious leaders should work together to address the underlying causes and to achieve a permanent solution to the crisis in Jos.” [said a Vatican spokesman]

There is no permanent solution to violence. There are only best solutions. In this case, it is necessary that religious divides be destroyed – and the only way that will happen is either if one group absolutely dominates the landscape or if both groups dissipate. There is nothing like the organizing power of religion and bizarre beliefs (i.e., no depictions of a misogynistic asshole or, say, belief in Jew zombies – and inconsistent beliefs, at that) to get a whole pot of hate and violence stirring.

However the archbishop of the capital Abuja, John Onaiyekan, told Vatican Radio that the violence was rooted not in religion but in social, economic and tribal differences.

“It is a classic conflict between pastoralists and farmers, except that all the Fulani are Muslims and all the Berom are Christians,” he said.

Fulani are mainly nomadic cattle rearers while Beroms are traditionally farmers.

That must be why there are so many battles in the western U.S. where cattle herders and farmers cross paths. Wait. Wait. That’s right. There’s a homogeneity to the religion of America. And when there were ‘battles’, they were highly localized and not based upon religion.

This whole herders v farmers argument is hand-waving bullshit. No one is denying that there are almost always a number of factors that lead to violence, but that is a far cry from being able to discount religion’s culpability, especially in this situation. Nigeria has a long history of violence based upon unnecessary ethnic divisions that were primed and exacerbated by religion. It has always been religion that has intensified Nigerian history, not merely fence-cutting and grazing in the wrong place. In fact, one of the major obstacles to better governance in Nigeria is the massive number of political parties as organized by religious affiliation. (And this is probably still better than what we can expect from Iraq in coming years.)

And what the archbishop above is omitting is that Nigeria is still very much an agrarian economy. Nearly 2/5 of the population lives directly off the land. Doesn’t it seem just a little suspicious that it is where Christians and Muslims collide that the violence is occurring?

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