WCC Head Presses Nigeria to 'Ensure' Security after Muslim Attacks

The head of the World Council of Churches pressed the Nigerian president in a letter this week to ensure the security of all its citizens after expressing concern about the recent attacks by Muslim militants on security forces that left hundreds dead.

Noting the long history of sectarian violence in Nigeria, WCC general secretary the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia requested President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua to "pay serious attention" to states in northern Nigeria, ensure the safety of all its people in the affected area, and bring to justice all those responsible for acts of violence.

The Kenyan-born clergyman also said he believes that the violence is not completely rooted in religious differences, but rather in politics.

Widespread poverty, corruption, poor governance and political instability combined with abuses by security forces all contribute to "push[ing] the country towards violence and insecurity," the global church leader said.

Last week, militants of the anti-western Muslim group Boko Haram, known as the Nigerian Taliban, launched several attacks on police stations and state facilities in Northern Nigeria.

Although some reports say the group did not particularly target Christians in the latest violence, at least six churches were destroyed and Christians were brutally murdered, according to local sources.

U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that Boko Haram militants captured civilians and forced those who are Christians to either convert to Islam or die. Other reports indicated that a Nigerian pastor was hacked to death by machetes and then burned.

The Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, laments the lack of international concern for the violence inflicted on Christians and local churches by the Islamic extremist group.

"It is unfortunate that the mayhem unleashed on the Church is systematically downplayed in the media," said Kwashi. "The first victim was the ecclesia, which was subjugated and sacrificed prior to any attack on the establishment, yet no report is pointing to Christians as the number one target before all others. We will continue to speak out."

Nigeria is about evenly split between Muslims and Christians, with Muslims dominating the northern part of the country and Christians living mainly in the south. However, members of both groups live where the other religion is dominant.

It is usual to hear reports of Muslim-Christian clashes in northern Nigeria.