Violence Continues in Divided Nigeria

Church Bomb Kills 10; Reprisals Bring More Deaths

| 1385 hits

JOS, Nigeria, MARCH 14, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Sunday a bomb exploded outside a Catholic church in the city of Jos, Nigeria. According to a report by Reuters the same day at least 10 people were killed.

The attack also sparked reprisals by people described as “young Christians,” leading to a number of deaths after the bombing.

The Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a wave of bomb attacks on churches across Nigeria since Christmas Day.

According to Reuters in the past decade Jos has become the main flashpoint for tensions between Nigeria's Christian and Muslim communities. Its churches have been bombed many times since Christmas.

"We were 10 minutes into the 10.30 Mass when we heard a loud bang that shook the church building," said Father Peter Umoren, the parish priest of St. Finbar's, the scene of the latest bomb attack in Jos.

"The vehicle carrying the bomb was trying to drive into the church premises when the bomb exploded just by the gate," he said according to a March 13 report published by All Africa news.

St. Finbar’s is one of the largest Catholic parishes in Jos, with an average attendance of more than 3,000 worshippers each Sunday, according to a March 11 report by Compass News Direct.

According to a March 12 report by the BBC, Pam Ayuba, a spokesperson for the state where Jos is located, said that the blast damaged the church's roof, blew out its windows and destroyed a portion of the perimeter fence.

Fault line

Nigeria’s population of more than 158 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3% of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45% of the population and live mainly in the north. The city of Jos in the center of the country, has been described as a sort of fault line between the two groups.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack but said the government was "winning the war against the terrorists.”

He called on people "to remain patient and refrain from taking matters into their own hands through actions such as reprisal attacks," according to the BBC.

Tensions are still high in the city of Jos, All Africa reported today. Shops, banks, primary and secondary schools were closed.

Military forces had to intervene to quell a fight that started between traders belonging to the Hausa and Igbo traders. The fight broke out after the discovery of the body of a Hausa boy.

Meanwhile, military helicopters were hovering over the city, while armored tanks and military vans were on patrol across the streets, All Africa reported.

The state Police Commissioner, Emmanuel Diipo Ayeni, warned youths that his men would no longer tolerate assaults from them like they did after the Sunday blast. He warned the youths to be wary of any action that could snowball into religious war, adding that "no nation ever survived religious war in the past. So don't even let it start please.”

The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, appealed for calm on the part of Christians, saying God was not unaware of their suffering, according to a report today by Compass News Direct.

“We have a faith that preaches the respect of the sanctity of the human life,” Kaigama said. “We have a faith and have the ability to reason. So, we must not behave like those who believe they are serving God by killing others.”