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Nigerian Christian Leader Gives Government Ultimatum Amid Terror Attacks

Religious Freedom Organization Suggests Christians, Muslims Join Forces to Defend Against Militants

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By Ivana Kvesic, Christian Post Reporter
May 4, 2012|2:43 pm

The head of the Nigerian Christian community has issued a final warning call to the government urging the country's leadership to use all necessary means to halt protracted violence against Christians in the country.

"I will now make a final call to the Nigerian government to use all resources available to it to clearly define and neutralize the problem as other nations have done," Ayo Oritsejafor, told reporters Wednesday, according to the AFP.

"The church leadership has hitherto put great restraint on the restive and aggrieved millions of Nigerians, but can no longer guarantee such cooperation if this trend of terror is not halted immediately," the leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria added.

The call from Oritsejafor came only days after two gunmen stormed church services at Bayero University in the city of Kano – leaving 19 people dead. The same day, four other people were killed as they left a church in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but many point to the Islamist militant group Boko Harm as the likely perpetrators of the violence.

Boko Haram, which can be translated to figuratively mean "Western or non-Islamic education is a sin," has been escalating its attacks on Nigeria's Christian population in its fight to create a breakaway Islamic state in northern Nigeria, where a majority of Nigeria's Christians reside.

Islam and Christianity are the country's two major religions and are split almost evenly among the population, but attacks and tensions between Nigeria's Christian population and Boko Haram have led to the death of over 1,000 people in the country since 2009.

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Christians in the country have been subject to scores of attacks including Christmas and Easter day bombings that left dozens of worshippers dead.

Wednesday's final call on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon and his government to take significant steps forward to halt the attacks could signal a turning point in the response to violence in the country.

"It is very difficult to really know what's going to happen," Jonathan Racho, the regional manger for Africa at International Christian Concern (ICC) told The Christian Post regarding the possibility of an all-out war between Nigeria's Christians and Boko Haram.

"But we understand that the Christians in Nigeria are really frustrated because the government of Nigeria has not protected them from attacks by Boko Haram. It has increased a sense of hopelessness among Christians who have been asking the government to protect them and step up measures to protect them, but it is just not happening."

However, with Boko Haram's increased militantism targeting not only Christians, but government officials, media, and moderate Muslims, the ICC sees Oritsejafor's call as an opportunity for Nigerians to band together against the atrocities carried out by militant groups like Boko Haram.

"There are instances in which Christians and Muslims walk together to strongly oppose violence in Nigeria and there are a number of entities and groups in northern Nigeria where Christians and Muslims leaders work together to expose the radical elements of Muslims similar to Boko Haram," Racho said.

"You have to remember Boko Haram has also targeted moderate Muslim leaders, so this is an opportunity where Christians and Muslims can work together with the government of Nigeria to isolate and take strong measures against Boko Haram and people who follow that ideology; especially those who commit violent acts. That is a very effective way of dealing with this," he added.

 

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