Sudan

Sudan may soon become two nations.

Sudan was troubled from its birth when, in 1956, the British handed over power to the Arab northern elite, despite the country’s vast ethnic and cultural pluralities, setting the parameters for one of the world’s most dysfunctional states. So it is not surprising that the southerners — who have suffered through the two civil wars, from 1956-72 and 1983-2005, which left 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced — are pulling the plug on Africa’s largest nation. The voting in a referendum on southern independence — the key component of a 2005 peace deal — began on Jan. 9 and will last until Jan. 15; the results, not in doubt, should be announced later in the month or in early February.

“Cultural pluralities” is partial code for different religions. Of course, that is only one piece to the puzzle – and not even the biggest piece. But that said, I was reminded of something I said about Nigeria last year:

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…to get a whole pot of hate and violence stirring.

The problems of a poorly developed nation like Sudan aren’t going to go away simply because of a successful separationist movement. But the exacerbation? At least a little of the fuel? It isn’t going to be there. I predict improvements in the two Sudans in the coming years. (I will also point out that if Iraq was diced up according to its religious divisions, a notable bit of the violence there would be quelled – not as much as would be quelled if we just left, but still a notable amount.)

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.)

Thought of the day

The force standing in the way of proper science education? The force standing in the way of marriage equality? The force standing in the way of child safety? The force standing in the way of even beginning to find peace in Nigeria and the Middle East?

Religion.

And is there evidence for its creation stories? Can it offer well-reasoned ethical arguments against gay marriage? Can it justify allowing parents to forego needed medical care for their children? Can it operate beyond its sectarian labels? Can it be reconciled with fundamentally different claims?

No.

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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