Nigerian Death Toll at 165 After Muslim-Christian Clashes

West African Bishops´ Fears Materialize

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ROME, SEPT. 11, 2001 ( Since last Friday, some 165 people have died and 928 have been wounded in bloody confrontations between Christians and Muslims in Jos, a city in central Nigeria, the Nigerian Red Cross reported.

Catholic bishops in the region had called for the withdrawal of the Shariah, or Islamic law, saying that existing tensions could degenerate into a Muslim-Christian conflict, and spread to other states in the subregion.

An official of the Nigerian Red Cross said that there are still bodies lying on the streets of the city, and that the hospital services can scarcely cope.

In a statement published Aug. 30 at the end of their ninth plenary assembly, the Association of Episcopal Conferences of English-speaking West Africa urged the Nigerian government «to heed the loud and just opposition of the Nigerian Christians and others to the imposition … of Shariah as state law.»

The episcopal assembly was attended by Vatican delegates and a number of associated foreign organizations. Several priests and lay participants said that they regarded the introduction of the Shariah as a «flagrant violation of the secular nature of the Nigerian nation,» the bishops reported in their statement.

Clashes between Christians and Muslims, because of the implementation of the Islamic code, have been taking place since 1999, when a process of Islamization of the country was initiated in the state of Zamfara. Since then, 10 northern Nigerian states have adopted the strict Shariah.

Under this law, Muslims have had limbs amputated for robbery, and been scourged for adultery.

When the Shariah was introduced in the state of Kaduna in 2000, which has an almost equal number of Christians and Muslims, 1,000 people died in the violence that ensued.

Fear-ridden northern Christians say that the Shariah threatens the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, and continue their protests.

«Its introduction has given rise to the trampling of the rights of innocent and law-abiding citizens, leading to wanton destruction of life and property, and the ugly phenomenon of refugees fleeing for their lives,» the bishops lamented in their statement.

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