‘Fake news’ driving ethno-religious crisis in Nigeria

nigeria_buhariMisinformation risks worsening ethnic and religious tensions in Nigeria, media commentators and researchers say, at a time of heightened concern about internal security and fragile community relations.

The months and weeks running up to recent elections saw a slew of false claims about politicians and their parties, as part of deliberate attempts to shape the narrative before polling.

Africa’s most populous nation is often characterised as teetering on the brink.

Security threats include Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast and violence between nomadic cattle herders and farmers in central states.

The latter is primarily a battle for water and land but those involved have been polarised along ethnic, sectarian and religious lines, in a country with more than 250 ethnic groups and where identity is rarely far from the surface.
Simon Kolawole, a former editor with Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper and founder of The Cable online news site, said manufactured lies in the guise of news was “further endangering the delicate ethno-religious fabric of Nigeria”.

It was also “hampering the credibility of news outlets in the country”, he told AFP.

Information minister Lai Mohammed said misinformation and hate speech “threatens the peace, unity, security and corporate existence of Nigerians”.

Of particular concern was the fabrication of stories pitting the country’s mainly Muslim north against the predominantly Christian south a traditional fault line often used by proponents of restructuring the current federal system and even breaking it up.

“When you go by social media, the impression you get is as if Nigeria is at war and as if Muslims are killing Christians,” said Mohammed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FRANCE24 

Nigerian archbishop: Church works as bridge between Muslims, Christians

20190305T1116-1350-CNS-NIGERIA-KAIGAMA-BRIDGE_800-690x450NEW YORK – The Catholic Church is working to bridge the divide between Muslims and Christians in a country where the divide between the groups is fraught with large and small issues, said a Nigerian archbishop.

Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama of Jos, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, gave examples from his archdiocese in the central part of the country.

In Jos, the bustling administrative capital of Plateau state, the archbishop established the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre in 2011 to “attempt to narrow the gap between different groups that are hostile to each other,” he said.

It is a place where “Muslims and Christians walk together,” the archbishop told Catholic News Service in early March. The archbishop was in New York to speak at a March 1 panel at the United Nations, “International Religious Freedom,” organized by the Holy See Observer Mission to the U.N.

“I have lived through all different types of crisis. I didn’t want to wait for big solutions, but wanted to do something small,” Archbishop Kaigama told CNS. “It’s a safe space to talk to one another and a proactive center to forestall crisis and possible violence.”

“We bring in Muslim and Christian primary and secondary school students and train them together in peace education. We also bring in traditional grassroots leaders to encourage people to cultivate dialogue,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW

Women’s interfaith network builds bridges amid Nigeria’s violence, Muslim and Christian mistrust

Peacebuilding1 cWhen Fatima Isiaka, a religious Muslim teacher, asked the cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church in Abuja, the driver thought she was lost. “The cab man that took me to the church, a Muslim, was surprised to see me enter a church,” Isiaka recalled of the summer 2014 meeting. “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

Isiaka was part of innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was first started in 2011by Sr. Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and local Muslim businesswoman Maryam Dada Ibrahim.

Isiaka, an observant Muslim who wears a grey jilbab, a long head covering and robe, the traditional dress of some Nigerian Muslim women, is a respected Muslim leader in Abuja. Today, she serves as deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch.

She looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church. “It was an amazing experience and I loved every bit of my stay there,” said Isiaka. “In fact, I found a place in the church where I performed ablution [ritual washing before Muslims prayer], to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group started in 2011, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country through seminars, meditations, presentations by religious leaders, and dialogue.

The peacebuilding network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in the annual 21-day seminar. “The empowerment [training] serves as bait to lure more women to the network so that they’ll learn peaceful coexistence,” said Isiaka. The Swiss Embassy provided seed money to get the vocational training started in 2014. Cardinal John Onaiyekan’s Foundation For Peace (COFP), an organization working for peace in northern Nigeria, has sponsored the vocational training in subsequent years.

Sr. Agatha Chikelue started thinking about how to build bridges between Christians and Muslims in 2008, as northern Nigeria disintegrated into violence. Nigeria’s population is evenly divided with 48 percent Muslims and 49 percent Christians. Northern Nigeria is majority Muslim, while southern Nigeria is majority Christian. Ensuring equal Christian and Muslim political representation at local, state, and national levels is an especially sensitive subject.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT 

Muslims, Christians can flourish together — Buhari

PRESIDENT-BUHARI-HOSTS-BIZ-MEN-1024x683President Muhammadu Buhari has warned against politicising religion, saying Christians and Muslims in Nigeria can flourish together.

Mr Buhari said this in an opinion article published by the News Agency of Nigeria.

The article earlier appeared on the UK-based Christian Times on Friday.

In the article, the president referenced a Biblical verse and argued that Christians and Muslims share the same root, although their believes differ.

Read the op-ed below:

In 1844, the Revd Samuel Ajayi Crowther returned home to Yoruba land (now part of modern-day Nigeria). Twenty years earlier, he had been kidnapped and sold to European slave traders who were bound for the Americas. He was freed by an abolitionist naval patrol, and received by the Church Missionary Society. There, he found his calling.

Crowther made his voyage home to establish the first Anglican mission in Yoruba land. He came with the first Bibles translated into Yoruba and Hausa languages. He opened dialogue and discussion with those of other faiths. And his mission was a success: Crowther later became the first African Anglican bishop in Africa.

Today, Nigeria has the largest Christian population on the continent. The messages and teachings of Christianity are part of the fabric of each person’s life.

Along with the millions of Christians in Nigeria today, I believe in peace, tolerance, and reconciliation; in the institution of the family, the sanctity of marriage, and the honour of fidelity; in hope, compassion, and divine revelation.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PREMIUM TIMES (NIGERIA)

The Nigerian imam who saved Christians from Muslim gunmen

_102265216_imam-tbe-version-2When an imam in Nigeria saw hundreds of desperate, frightened families running into his village last Saturday, he decided to risk his life to save theirs.

They were fleeing from a neighbouring village – a mainly Christian community.

They say they came under attack at about 15:00 (14:00 GMT) from about 300 well-armed men – suspected cattle herders, who are mostly Muslims – who started shooting sporadically and burning down their homes.

Some of those who managed to escape ran towards the mainly Muslim neighbourhood nearby where the imam lived, arriving over the next hour.

The cleric immediately came to their aid, hiding in total 262 men, women and children in his home and mosque.

“I first took the women to my personal house to hide them. Then I took the men to the mosque,” the imam told BBC Pidgin.

We have blurred the faces of the imam and the villages, for their own safety.

A young girl who lost her parents and was injured during the farmer-Fulani clashes is supported by her aunt in the paediatric ward of the Jos University Teaching Hospital on June 28, 2018.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHundreds have been killed in attacks across Plateau state – including the parents of this young girl who herself was injured and is now cared for by her aunt
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC 

Nigerian bishop promotes dialogue between Muslims and Christians after years of violence

6a28c5584939387432295685a18f4533_XLVANCOUVER – In the 23 years since Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama became a bishop, he has not taken one day off from promoting dialogue and peace between Christians and Muslims.

“If there is anybody who should be advocating a violent response to Muslim attacks, it should be me,” he told The B.C. Catholic during his first visit to Canada June 7-14. “I have experienced it in my ethnic group and from my work as a priest. I should know. My people have died in front of me.”

In 2014, the world was shocked when more than 270 girls from the primarily Christian Nigerian town of Chibok were kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram, forced to convert and held for ransom.

It wasn’t an isolated incident, and violence, terrorism and corruption are still daily realities in Nigerian communities. In January, a mass funeral was held for 72 people killed during a fight between what appeared to be mostly Muslim cattle herders and mainly Christian farmers on New Year’s Day. About three months later, 19 Christians were killed when gunmen opened fire at Mass and set fire to about 50 homes in a remote village. Among the dead were two priests.

“It has always been a challenge. There has never been a peaceful moment,” said Kaigama, whose trip through several Canadian cities was sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical charity for Catholics suffering poverty or persecution.

Despite his anger, Kaigama says violence will only lead to more violence. So, since his ordination at the age of 36, he has been promoting peace and inter-religious dialogue. “Either we do something, or we perish together.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC REGISTER 

Lent: Muslims group urges Christians to pray for peace, stability in Nigeria

christian-muslimMuslim Clerics and Youth Organization on Thursday felicitated with Christians on the commencement of the Lenten season and urged them to use the occasion to pray for peace and stability in the country.

Head of the organization, Malam Gambo Abdullahi, made the appeal when he led members on a solidarity visit to Pastor Yohanna Buru, General Overseer of Christ Evangelical Intercessory Fellowship Ministry in Kaduna. “The Lenten period is a very special Holy season to all Christians, we as Muslims, who also fast during Ramadan, understand the significance of fasting and prayers to the Almighty God. “Hence, we came as a team to felicitate and wish all Christians success from the beginning of the holy month till the end”. He said the visit was also to encourage peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VANGUARD