- (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)
In his post-Christmas morning Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI called Nigeria's Christmas day bombings “absurd,” urging peace and reconciliation in the persecuted country.
The pope delivered his annual Angelus prayer Monday from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He told those who gathered that the violence in Nigeria brought him “profound sadness,” and that the type of violence displayed Christmas day in Nigeria is “a path that leads only to pain, destruction and death; respect, reconciliation and love are the paths to peace.”
“I wish to express my solidarity with those who have been hit by this absurd act and invite prayers for the many victims,” the pope added.
On Christmas day the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram set off five bombs in Nigeria, three of which hit Catholic Churches. Boko Haram seeks to impose Islam’s strict Shariah law in Nigeria.
Three of the five bombs set off Christmas day hit churches. The most deadly attack was at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Nigeria, where 35 victims were killed due to the bombings.
Nigeria’s main opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari, has blamed the country’s leaders for not doing enough to prevent heightened tensions between hardline Islamists and Christian believers.
“How on earth would the Vatican and the British authorities speak before the Nigerian government on attacks within Nigeria that have led to the deaths of our citizens?" said Buhari according to a statement published in Punch Magazine on Monday.
“This is clearly a failure of leadership at a time the government needs to assure the people of the capacity to guarantee the safety of lives and property,” Buhari added.
There exists a tense divide between Nigeria’s Muslim and Christian population. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2007 the country’s 140 million person population was divided almost equally between the two religions.
According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 76 percent of Africans have said their religion is more important to them than their African nationality.
The Pope’s condemnation of Nigeria’s violence comes one day after the Pontiff’s Christmas Day address, in which he condemned the violence occurring in Burma and the Horn of Africa.