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Nigeria: prelate denounces Islamist terrorist attack

Catholic World News - June 20, 2011

Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja has denounced the June 16 car bombing that took place at the nation’s police headquarters. The Islamist group Boko Haram, which bombed a cathedral in northern Nigeria earlier in June, claimed responsibility.

“The extremists are a challenge to all Nigerians and especially for the Nigerian Muslim community,” Archbishop Onaiyekan. “No Muslim can continue to assert that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.”

“I am a man of peace and dialogue; I always tell my Muslims that they should isolate the extremists that are present in their communities,” he continued. “It is not enough to say, ‘They do not belong to us’; concrete steps to identify and isolate those who are not in line with their activities with the good of the country and the good of Islam itself are needed.”

“Our churches are also affected because they are a very easy target: buildings are clearly visible and unprotected,” he added. “We do not deploy armed soldiers around our churches, which are places of worship open to everyone.”

Founded in 2002, Boko Haram (the words mean “Western or non-Islamic education is a sin”) seeks the imposition of Sharia law in Nigeria. Boko Haram’s late founder, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, told the BBC in 2009 that

there are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam. Like rain. We believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain. Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it.

15% of the nation’s 146.5 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics. An estimated 50% are Muslim, 25% are Protestant, and 10% retain indigenous beliefs.

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