Paris – Poverty, inequality and injustice are threatening to trigger a broad sectarian conflict in Nigeria, an international Christian-Muslim task force said on Wednesday.
Clashes between Nigerian Christians and Muslims have already killed hundreds of people this year alone. But although the violence is the worst between members of the two faiths since the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, the root causes go far beyond religion, the group’s report said.
Corruption, mismanagement, land disputes and the lack of aid for victims or punishment for troublemakers have all fuelled tensions, especially in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt”, where the mostly Muslim north meets the largely Christian south, it said.
Attacks by radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram that exploit these secular issues and revenge killings by Christian and Muslim gangs have reinforced the religious aspect of the violence.
“There is a possibility that the current tension and conflict might become subsumed by its religious dimension [especially along geographical 'religious fault-lines'],” the report said, warning that blaming only religion for the strife would make that incomplete view “a self-fulfilling prediction”.
The 12-member joint delegation was led by World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary Olav Fyske Tveit of Norway and Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, chairman of the board of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.
The report identified dozens of separate problems whose resolution could contribute to overall peace. The wealth gap between the oil-producing states in the south and the resource-poor north was a leading factor in regional tensions, as were land disputes such as the lack of recognised grazing land for nomadic Fulani cattle herders.