Violence has broken out in southern Nigeria following rioting against cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that began last weekend in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. The most recent reports of violence come from the city of Onitsha, in the southeast area of the west African country.
At least five churches of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) were damaged or destroyed in Maiduguri, as of Feb. 20, in a report from Robert Krouse, Nigeria mission coordinator for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Five EYN members were seriously injured in the rioting on Saturday, Feb. 18, in addition to the damage to buildings.
EYN congregations do not appear to be affected by the most recent violence, Krouse said in an e-mail today.
“The closest EYN congregation to the city of Onitsha is the Port Harcourt congregation about 150 miles away,” Krouse reported. “It now appears that the present `Christian/Moslem’ conflict is more of an ethnic conflict than a religious conflict,” he added. “It appears that the current conflict is more rooted in that historical conflict” pitting the northern Hausa ethnic group against the southern Ibo ethnic group. The conflict is decades long, and contributed to Nigeria’s civil war, the Biafra War, in the 1960s. Krouse reported that the Hausa are mostly Muslim and the Ibo mostly Christian and Roman Catholic.
Media reports from Onitsha say that more than 100 people have been killed in two days of reprisals against mostly Hausa Muslim people by Christians. The BBC said concern has been raised of possible retaliation by Muslims, and that Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria have called for calm. The police have instituted a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Media reported that since 1999 some 10,000 people have been killed in such violence in Nigeria.
For the Feb. 20 report from Nigeria, and Brethren calls for prayer, go to http://www.brethren.org/genbd/newsline/2006/feb2006.htm