Nigerian bishops link government inaction on violence to religion


LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) – Catholic bishops in Nigeria have criticized the president’s lack of action against ethnic Fulani herdsmen who attack farmers and have linked his inaction to his religion.

“It can no longer be considered a mere coincidence that the alleged perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the president himself,” the bishops said. .

“If the president cannot ensure the security of our country, he automatically loses the confidence of the citizens,” the bishops’ conference said in a July 2 statement signed in the capital, Abuja, by its president, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, and Secretary General, Bishop Camille Umoh of Ikot Ekpene.

President Muhammadu Buhari “should no longer continue to preside over the battlefields and the mass cemetery that our country has become,” they said.

Buhari, a Muslim and former military leader, was elected in a democratic transfer of power in 2015 and plans to run for a second term in elections scheduled for February.

Communal violence is largely attributed to a decades-old cycle of conflict between predominantly Christian farmers and semi-nomadic Muslim herders, in part due to competition for arable land.

More than 200 people were killed in late June in violence in Plateau State, central Nigeria. There has been a spike in community violence in Africa’s most populous country, with hundreds of people killed since the start of the year.

Following an upsurge in community violence in Nigeria, the country’s bishops said the government had lost the confidence of the people.

“Words are no longer enough for the president and his department heads to convince the rest of the citizens that these murders are not part of a larger religious project,” the bishops said.

The country “is likely to witness yet another mass burial of innocent Nigerians as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group who clearly appear to be above the laws of the land and who, by their actions and words, insisted that human lives are worth less than the lives of cattle, ”they said.

Nineteen people, including two priests, were buried in May in Ayati. Father Joseph Gor, Father Felix Tyolaha and 17 parishioners were killed during the celebration of Mass at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayar Mbalom, in Benue State.

“This shameful reversal of values ​​portrays our country as barbarian and our society as brute,” said the bishops.

They called on the police to make swift arrests of the perpetrators of the Plateau state attacks, noting that law enforcement intervenes swiftly when pastoralists are killed.

In a letter to Buhari, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, retired Archbishop of Lagos, said that every life is precious, regardless of ethnicity, region or religion, and that citizens look to the government to protect them. .

“But, here in Nigeria, the blood of the innocent is flowing like water, despite Nigerians’ desire and demand for the government to protect their lives and property,” he said.

“Where were you, Mr. President, while innocent lives were wasted in Plateau State? Where were your department heads when babies were torn from their mothers’ wombs by men claiming to do so because of their cows? ” He asked.

“I am not afraid to risk my life for the good of this country, for the good of future generations. I have no party affiliation, ”said the cardinal.

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