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Jos’s violence not sparked by religion its Archbishop says

by Ed Beavan

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Prayers: Muslims outside the central mosque in Jos, Nigeria, last Friday, under the watchful eye of the military AP

Prayers: Muslims outside the central mosque in Jos, Nigeria, last Friday, under the watchful eye of the military AP

THE ARCHBISHOP of Jos, the Most Revd Benjamin Kwashi, has said that reports by the media on interfaith tensions in the city last week were “skewed” and “intended to put the Church in a bad light” (News, 22 January).

Speaking to the Church Times on Tuesday, Archbishop Kwashi said that reports of the problems were not accurate and had been “mag­nified” by the press.

Christians were worshipping in church last Sunday when the trouble broke out. The Archbishop hinted that it was the result of social prob­lems in the city when he said that much of the violence had been carried out by “frustrated, unem­ployed young people”.

The Archbishop said that the situation in the city had since calmed down. A curfew had been eased and was now imposed from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Police and the military were still present on the streets to maintain law and order.

Archbishop Kwashi plans to set up a team to look into the causes of the recent violence, and to encourage interfaith dialogue. He said that Christians were now working for peace and were called “not to retaliate, but to forgive”, and that many pastors and imams in the city got on well and met together.

The Archbishop has been to visit some of the damaged homes and churches, but could not understand why an apparent dispute over re­build­ing homes damaged by pre­vious clashes had escalated into such large-scale violence.

The number killed in the violence was still unclear, but the Archbishop estimated it at about 300.

It is the third time there has been sectarian fighting in the city in the past decade. In December 2008, up to 400 people were killed in violence, and there was previous trouble in 2001.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos, the Most Revd Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, also said this week that he believed the violence was more a result of social and political prob­lems than religiously motivated.

Christian Solidarity World­wide has said that it received reports of men dressed in military uniforms, posing as soldiers, targeting Chris­tians in the city.

Its advocacy director, Tina Lam­bert, said that the issue of “fake soldiers” made it impossible for people to identify legitimate mem­bers of the army, and that this was contributing to the feeling of in­security in the city.

Archbishop Kwashi said that the city was an important commercial centre, peopled by many different groups — including the Muslim Hausa, the Jarawa group, and the largely Christian indigenous Berom group.

The Archbishop said that it was only in recent years that Jos had be­come demarcated on religious lines; until then, people had man­aged to co-exist peacefully.

The city of Jos was established in 1915 after tin was discovered there, which was mined until 1960.

Nigerian bishop kidnapped. The Bishop of Benin, the Rt Revd Peter Imasuen, was kid­napped last Sunday after celebrating mass in St Matthew’s Cathedral in Benin City.

The Bishop was abducted by “un­known gunmen” from outside his home in the city, capital of Edo state in southern Nigeria.

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