Jos: Causes of violence are not religious

Statement of 17 March: Another massacre in Nigeria; Archbishop of Jos tells Fides “this is just another retaliation over loss of livestock, not a religious conflict,” talk of interreligious violence ends up spreading it

Jos (Agenzia Fides) – “This is a retaliation against the Fulani herders against the villagers, for an alleged theft of livestock. This is not a clash between Christians and Muslims,” Fides was told by Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, the capital of the Nigerian Plateau State, where this past night, March 16-17, 12 people were killed in an attack in the village of Byie.
“The Fulani herdsmen, considering the villagers responsible for the loss of part of their livestock, have carried out a retaliation attack. The fact that the Fulani are Muslim, and the villagers are mostly Christians, is an incidental fact. The real motivation for the massacre is the alleged theft of the livestock,” Bishop Kaigama strongly affirmed.
“I am concerned about the fact that the large international press continues to present the clashes that take place in Plateau State as a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. This is not so. “This violence is of a social, economic, and political origin. Stating that there is a religious clash means endangering the lives of people, because, talking about it really presents a threat to igniting sectarian hatred. Why doesn’t the international press talk of the initiatives undertaken by everyone, including Christians and Muslims, to reduce tension in the area? It seems to me that they are just trying to throw fuel on the fire” concludes the Archbishop of Jos. (Agenzia Fides 17/3/2010)

Statement of 13 March: Archbishop of Jos tells Fides News Agency: “It is time that political leaders do their part and address the root causes of violence,” Archbishop of Jos tells Fides

Jos (Agenzia Fides) – “The politicians must take the bull by the horns and address the root causes of these cyclical episodes of violence. I will not tire of repeating: the real causes of violence are not religious, but ethnic, social, political, and economic” Fides was told by Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama of Jos, capital of the Plateau State.
“We religious leaders will continue to do our part, preaching nonviolence and mutual respect, but administrators and politicians also need to do their part,” said Archbishop Kaigama.
Among the causes of the crisis, Archbishop Kaigama mentions the distinction between “indigenous” and “non-indigenous,” which divides the population of the state.
According to various analysts, the root of the clashes in Plateau State dates back to British colonial times, between those who have the status of “indigenous” and “non-indigenous.” In the first case, you have access to a range of rights as original inhabitants of the state. The “non-natives,” however, suffer discrimination, for example, exclusion from various state posts, restrictions on access to universities for which they pay higher tuition fees, etc. …
In a note sent to Fides, Archbishop Kaigama explains the latest attacks.
“Less than two months after the January 17th 2010 Jos ethno-religious crisis in which hundreds of people lost their lives (see Fides 20/1/2010), in what seems to be a reprisal attack in which over one hundred persons have been reportedly killed in an early morning raid, occurred on March 7th in the villages of Dogon Nahawa, Ratsat, and Zot Foron, some 15 kilometers south of the city of Jos. The villagers of the Berom ethnic group (mainly Christians) alleged that their attackers were Fulani Muslim herdsmen who swooped on them while they slept. The attack which lasted more than two hours began at about 2:30 am and the victims were completely unprepared for the fury of the marauders. The free use of guns, cutlasses, and other lethal weapons left little chance for the victims, mainly children and women who were hacked down and burnt as they attempted to escape the massacre.”
The exact figures of casualties are normally difficult to ascertain in such circumstances. The electronic and print media have given divergent figures ranging from 150 to over 700. The parish priest of St. Thomas Parish in Shen who pastorally serves the affected areas, Fr. Philip Jamang, said he physically witnessed the mass burial of sixty four persons in Dogon Na Hawa village, thirty persons in Ratsat and twenty-four in Zot Foron, not including those still missing. A resident of the village, Peter Jang, described how the attackers went about their dastardly act by starting to shoot in the air in order to bring people from their houses and then when people came out, they started shooting at them and cutting them with machetes and other weapons while at the same time burning their houses.
As was the case in 2008 crisis, the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos is organizing a Mass of solidarity to pray with and for the victims of the affected persons. The Holy Mass will take place on the 19th of March 2010 at St. Jarlath’s Parish Church in Bukuru, an area which experienced most of the physical destruction to lives and properties…We have taken up collections of material items as well as made monetary contributions to help the affected. We got support from some dioceses in Nigeria, international church agencies and individuals. Our Justice, Peace and Caritas Department has already attempted to attend to some food, medical and clothing needs of the many thousands who were displaced (Muslims, Christians and others).” (Agenzia Fides 13/3/2010)

More information at www.fides.org