Christmas Bombings Could Ignite Religious War in Nigeria

After the bombings on Christmas in northern Nigeria killed dozens and wounded scores of others many in the region are warning that continued provocation will amount to the outright outbreak of religious war.

The warning was made in a statement by the northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a network of organizations comprising various denominations including Catholics, Protestant and Pentecostal churches, according to Reuters.

The Boko Haram Islamist group claimed responsibility for the bombings. Boko Haram, which roughly translates into “non-Islamic education is a sin,” aims to impose Sharia Islamic Law across Nigeria. This is the second straight Christmas that the Islamist group has targeted Christians in their bombing attacks.

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Saidu Dogo, secretary general for the CAN organization in Nigeria's 19 northern provinces called on Muslim leaders to tell their faithful followers to show constraint, adding Christians will defend their families and livelihoods against further attacks.

"We fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive one. Once again, 'enough is enough!'," Dogo said.

The attacks put an already volatile situation even closer to the brink between the mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south. The sectarian violence has claimed thousands of victims in much of the past decade.

Dogo said the CAN was calling on all Christians to continue respecting the law but to defend themselves and each other when needed.

"We shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country," Dogo said.

But the church bombs are more worrisome because they raise fears that Boko Haram is trying to ignite a sectarian civil war in a nation of nearly 160 million. Nigeria is split almost down-the-middle between Christians and Muslims, and the two groups have experienced moments of peaceful co-existence in the past.

"The violence is increasing both in scale and sophistication," northern-based Human Rights Activist Shehu Sani told Agence France Presse. "The attack on churches is to nationalize the crisis. It will instigate hitherto neutral people into the crisis," he said.

As a result, Sani hinted that Christians may try to take revenge on Muslims. "This is dangerous for the country," he said.

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