ABUJA, Nigeria, JUNE 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Bishops in Nigeria are urging Christians to avoid retaliation attacks in the wake of bombings on churches last Sunday.
Archbishop John Onaiyekan of the capital, Abuja, and Bishop Martin Igwe Uzoukwu of nearby Minna, spoke with Aid to the Church in Need, sounding a call for the government to do more to stop the violence.
Archbishop Onaiyekan went further, saying that the government should ask Muslims to help “infiltrate” terrorist groups.
Three churches were bombed last Sunday, leaving at least two dozen dead.
The attack at Shalom Pentecostal Church in Kaduna city – on the tense dividing line between the north and south – prompted retaliation from Christians in violence where 11 Muslims died and two mosques were reportedly targeted, one burnt to the ground.
Commenting on the reprisals during today’s ACN interview, Archbishop John Onaiyekan spoke about the Christian community’s growing impatience with the violence, saying: “It is becoming increasingly difficult to preach peace and to call for calm. It is becoming easier to beat the drums of war.
“More and more people are saying that unless we fight back they will continue to attack us.
“But this is a very worrying attitude and not a practical solution to the problem. The Muslims who were killed in Kaduna were from a Muslim enclave and they were innocent.”
Bishop Igwe said: “I am telling my people to keep calm. Two wrongs do not make a right.”
Benedict XVI made the same call Wednesday when he spoke of the situation in Nigeria at the end of the general audience.
Archbishop Onaiyekan proposed: “What is missing is adequate intelligence to infiltrate these [militant] groups and thereby identify the real leaders who must be eliminated so that the system of violence collapses.
“Our government needs to go to the Muslim groups who can engage with those responsible.”
He also said: “Yes, it is true that the Muslim community would not call these terrorists Muslims but, inasmuch as the terrorists say they are acting in the name of Islam, Muslims have a responsibility to reach out to them.
“It would be an abdication of responsibility if the whole Muslim community were to fail to act since they all belong to the House of Islam.”
Condemning the government’s record in tackling the violence, Archbishop Onaiyekan said: “The government is weak and cannot tackle the problem in a serious way. What we have before us is a weak government which cannot protect its people.”
He added: “We have to give the government their due for what they are doing but this is not enough.
“The government is not doing enough in terms of education, security and tackling corruption. If we had a better government, these problems would not happen.”
Bishop Igwe called on Christians worldwide to lobby their governments to put pressure on President Jonathan’s administration to stop the violence.
He said: “Christians not just in Nigeria but elsewhere should not keep quiet. Silence would suggest they condone the violence. If they want to make it clear they do not condone it, they should speak up.”
In an implicit criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis, Bishop Igwe said: “If we have to die for Christ, we will die for Christ, but why should we be forced to make the choice?”
Both bishops said that in most cases the violence had strengthened the Christian community’s faith.
Archbishop Onaiyekan said: “Many people who were not going to church before are now coming. There is a lot of prayer and there is a lot of hard thinking going on.”
Bishop Igwe said: “It is said that if these attacks continue, especially in the north, Christians will leave and go elsewhere in the country but Nigeria is for all of us.
“The Christians should stay where they are. What they need is adequate protection.”