Nigeria is often depicted as being split between Muslims and Christians. But in Adamawa, where a state of emergency was declared to counter an Islamist insurgency, members of both faiths celebrate Christmas together.
Phinear Padio hears the sound of the big iron gate opening. His neighbor Muhammad Sani drives into the yard they share. Padio
is eager to greet him. The two meet frequently to discuss everyday life in northern Nigeria. They talk about their families and politics. But today Padio has a particular request.
“You really must celebrate Christmas with us. You are most cordially invited,” Padio tells his neighbor. Sani nods. “The past two years, I wasn’t in Yola over Christmas so we couldn’t celebrate together. I’m glad it will work out this year,” he said.
Yola is the capital of Adamawa state in north-eastern Nigeria. It is one of the three states in which a state of emergency was declared in May 2013. This is because the state is at the focus of terrorist activities by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram. They attack villages and kill Christians or students of “western” schools.
Sharing the Christmas cookies
Muhammad Sani and his entire family are Muslim. Nevertheless, he thinks it is important to join his Christian neighbors and friends when they celebrate Christmas. “We enjoy celebrating together,” Sani said. “On Christmas Day, my neighbors always give me food – cookies, chicken and rice,” he added with a chuckle. “During the Muslim festivals, we also do the same and invite the Christians,” he explained.