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Welby in Blair reconciliation mission to Nigeria

30 November 2012

by a staff reporter


"Challenged and excited": Bishop Justin Welby and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, at the launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in Abuja, last week. The launch was attended by diplomats and religious figures

"Challenged and excited": Bishop Justin Welby and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, at the launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in A...

FURTHER clashes between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria broke out as the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, and the former Prime Minister Tony Blair met in the country's capital, Abuja, to promote religious tolerance. 

Riots broke out in a northern Nigerian town over rumours that a Christian man had blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad. Four Christians were said to have been killed. 

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation had arranged the visit to Abuja to promote its initiative working with young people and faith leaders to encourage reconciliation between Christian and Muslim communities. It linked students from Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria, by video, with students from different faiths in Derby, joined by Mr Blair, Bishop Welby, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan. 

Bishop Welby said that it was his 70th visit to Nigeria, where he had formerly worked as an oil executive. 

"Thirty-four years after first coming to Nigeria, and with more than 70 visits since, in all parts of this vibrant, passionate, talented, and promising country, I am both challenged and profoundly excited by this initiative. In service to Nigeria, it offers a contribution to the hope of peace across the whole country." 

A few days later, on Sunday, bomb blasts that targeted a church inside a military barracks in Jaji, 30 km from the northern state capital, Kaduna, killed at least 11 people. A suicide bomber drove a bus into the church, and another detonated his car full of explosives minutes after the end of Sunday mass. 

Jaji has been hit in the past by deadly attacks blamed on the Islamist group Boko Haram. 

Boko Haram wants to impose sharia  on a country that is roughly divided between its Christian and Muslim populations.

Christians in the north have appealed to the government and fellow Christians in the south for help. In a statement in local news­papers, unnamed faith leaders said: "Christians are frightened for fear of being attacked at any time, to the extent that those who are bold enough to still identify with their faith now do so under cover by hiding their Bibles when going to church."

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