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Nigerian cardinal sees ‘mixed motives’ behind religious violence

Catholic World News - June 21, 2013

Speaking in Milan, Nigeria’s leading prelate said that “religious violence in Nigeria is very often with mixed motives.”

“What appears as religious violence may actually be due to ethnic, political or socioeconomic reasons,” said Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja. “For example, where two neighboring or even overlapping ethnic groups are fighting over scarce resources, if one is largely Christian and the other is largely Muslim, their struggles and their battles become battles between Christians and Muslims, even though religion may have little or no part to play in the origin and course of the conflict.”

“The age-old antagonism between farmers and pastors, the story of Cain and Abel, is continuing even today,” he continued. “Because one side is seen as Christian and the other group is perceived as Muslim, the conflict is seen as a religious war. Cases where we have violence for purely religious reasons are indeed very rare.”

“Terrorism is something new in our country,” he said as he spoke on the Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram. Although the group has foreign links, “the Muslim community in Nigeria cannot deny them, as it has tried to do for long, even though it is encouraging to know that they do not represent the authentic face of Islam in our country.”

While “the house of Islam” must “put its own house in order, we Christians, on our part, need to have positive attitude to Islam in general, so that along with our brother Muslims, we can jointly face the challenge of Islamic terrorism,” he concluded.

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