VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is reiterating that violence is not the solution for problems, as he appealed Sunday for peace in Nigeria.
An Islamist sect in northern Nigeria claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Friday, including multiple suicide bombings. Six churches, including one Catholic parish, were targeted and at least 150 people were killed in the violence.
The Pope spoke of the attacks after praying the midday Angelus on Sunday with crowds in St. Peter’s Square.
“I am following with concern the tragic episodes that have occurred in Nigeria in the past few days and, as I pray for the victims, I ask people to put an end to all violence, which does not solve problems but increases them, sowing hatred and division also among believers,” he said.
The Pontiff will be visiting Nigeria’s western neighbor, Benin, in less than two weeks.
Today, the bishop of Maiduguri, Nigeria, told Aid to the Church in Need that the violence was attributable to politicians exploiting religion to fan anger and destabilize the region.
Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri told ACN: “Some politicians — I am unable to say which ones — in this region are responsible for what has happened. They are using Islamist groups for their own interests.”
The local Islamist group Boko Haram not only claimed responsibility for the attacks but also threatened further violence.
Bishop Doeme said: “Powerful politicians are using Islamists, enabling them to buy arms locally and make them. Religion is a very sensitive issue and the politicians can whip up hatred and suspicion very easily.”
He added that youth in the region were susceptible to radical influence because of high levels of poverty, poor education and unemployment.
The bishop also said last weekend’s violence was the latest in a series of attacks and that St. Mary’s church was the fifth Catholic building to be attacked since March.
Nigeria is 50% Muslim and 40% Christian, with the other 10% professing indigenous beliefs.