Nigerian Bishops See Riots as "Failure of Government"

Violence Followed Publication of Mohammed Drawings

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ABUJA, Nigeria, MARCH 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Catholic leaders in Nigeria blamed the government for turning a blind eye as violence swept the country recently.



Condemning the "horrific killings" of Muslims and Christians alike, the Nigerian bishops' conference published a communiqué Wednesday denouncing the "failure of the government."

"The destruction of life and property in the name of religion puts Nigeria to shame," said the prelates, commenting on the recent riots.

The riots were triggered in part by the publication in Western newspapers of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. Among those killed was a priest, Father Michael Gajere.

"We pray for the repose of all those who lost their lives," the prelates said in their statement.

They added: "It is to be noted in some cases that while churches, mosques, shops and homes were being set ablaze by arsonists, and innocent people being attacked and viciously killed by mindless murderers, law enforcement agents did not come to their rescue."

"No Nigerian should be made to feel unsafe anywhere, due to religion, tribe or tongue," the bishops stated. "We state that failure of security agencies to secure life and property is failure of government."

Orchestrated

They continued: "Examined more deeply, it would appear that these riots have been orchestrated by people with dubious intents. There is, therefore, an urgent need for government to live up to its responsibility by identifying, isolating, disarming and prosecuting murderers and arsonists, fanatics and terrorists."

The bishops acknowledged that "in Muslims who ensured the safety of Christians during the riots, we see hope."

"In religious leaders who live up to their responsibility in ensuring that religion is not hijacked by fanatics and terrorists we also see hope," they continued. "It is the will of God that Nigerians of every ethnic and religious affiliation live in unity and benefit from the resources with which He has blessed this land."

In line with the Christian Association of Nigeria, the bishops direct all Catholic faithful to observe two days of prayer on March 27-28 for the deceased and the victims of the riots.