Religious Leaders Condemn Latest Cartoon Violence

After the worst violence that erupted in Nigeria since 2004, religious leaders called for an end to the protests that have killed at least 127 people, condemning the Muslim-Christian clashes.

Religious Leaders Condemn Latest Cartoon ViolenceDisplaced people seek refuge at a police station in Onitsha, Nigeria, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006. Bodies littered the streets of the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha on Wednesday as the death toll from days of Christian-Muslim violence across the volatile

Church and mosque burnings and killings in Nigeria erupted more than a week ago over published cartoons that have spread fires across much of the world. The latest violence pushed the death toll to more than 127.

The Bishop of Lokoja Catholic Diocese, the Rev. Martin Olorunmolu, said that the recent violence in the country triggered by controversial caricatures was most unfortunate.

There were no good reasons to unleash mayhem on the nation, he told reporters.

Olorunmolu called Nigerians to embrace dialogue, according to the Nigerian publication the Daily Trust.

The controversial caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad were first printed by a Danish daily last September, which was soon followed by reprints in European media and elsewhere. In protest, tens of thousands of Muslims worldwide rallied against the Western nations, with extremists breaking out in violent attacks that national leaders and religious heads have condemned.

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday addressed a large crowd at Saint Peter's Square, condemning religious violence and the violation of places of worship and saying God would punish those who killed in his name, referring to the recent attacks in Nigeria and Iraq.

In his weekly Angelus blessing to hundreds of pilgrims, the pontiff said, "The fruits of faith in God are not devastating antagonism, but a spirit of fraternity and co-operation for the common good.

"God would demand an even more severe explanation from those who shed the blood of their brothers in His name."

Nigeria is roughly divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian south. Experts have pointed out that although on the surface the violence appear to be religiously motivated, many of the past "Christian-Muslim clashes" in Nigeria were linked to ethnic, economic, and political conflicts with religious overtones.

Violence in Nigeria is the deadliest confrontation yet over the drawings. Sectarian violence spread to three more Nigerian cities last weekend.