Monday 24 September 2012

Violence in Nigeria could lead to division of the country

Vítimas do mais recente ataque a cristãos na Nigéria
Full transcript of the interview with Fr. Michael Umoh, of the communications department of the diocese of Lagos, Nigeria, on the situation of the country regarding attacks on Christians, the latest of which took place yesterday, killing a woman and a child and injuring about 50 parishioners. See here for news report.

Transcrição completa da entrevista ao padre Michael Umoh, do departamento de comunicação da diocese de Lagos, na Nigéria, sobre a situação do país e dos ataques a cristãos, o último dos quais teve lugar ontem, matando uma mulher e uma criança e ferindo cerca de 50 pessoas. Veja aqui a reportagem.

Is the situation in Nigeria as bad as we have been hearing in the news?
It is bad enough, because wherever there is a life involved, not 1 or 10, or 100, it can be described as a disaster situation. However it must be noted that this problem has been more in the northern part of Nigeria and those responsible are sects of the Muslim fold, though the official Muslim body deny that they are Muslims. But it has been bad enough.

Does Boko Haram have a lot of support on the ground?
Considering the extent of damage they have caused and the extent of resources at their disposal, it stands to reason that they have very good support, internally and surely from the outside. One cannot deny the impact of their evil on the general life of the nation.

There have been some cases of retaliation. Could it reach a point where Christians need to take up arms to defend themselves?
There have been very few retaliation attacks on the part of Christians. But the Catholic Bishops Conference, in one of their communiqués, have warned that we are getting to a very dangerous point. The Bishops have pointed out to the Government that much as Christianity preaches love, and they as bishops continue to encourage Christians to embrace dialogue and peace, humanly speaking they themselves are beginning to be apprehensive of the fact that they may not be able to control or keep them in check again.

It is really spelling a very dangerous situation for the nation. Most of the Christians attacked in the North come from one of the main three ethnic groups from Nigeria. The three main groups are the Housas, who are majority Muslim, the Igbos, majority Christian, and the Yoruba, who are divided. Most of the Christians attacked in the North, killed or dispossessed of their homes and businesses are Igbos. There are quite a number of Hausas in the Eastern part, the homeland of the Igbos, and there are a good number of Igbos in the west generally. There could be a ganging up against the Hausas, an attack, if we don’t act in time, in the whole west and the east. If that should happen, and we pray it doesn’t, it means war. There is war already, but one side has refused to let it thrive.

The minority group in the Niger Delta are already threatening, because there is a political undertone to the whole thing, as a matter of fact, more than a religious matter.
Pe. Michael Umoh, à esquerda
Could this lead to a division of the country?
That is the fundamental question. The only type of explanation one can give to the Boko Haram issue is a generally unhappy relationship among the tribes in Nigeria.

Nigeria unfortunately is a marriage of seemingly incompatible bedfellows. It is a marriage of nations. When we trace it back to the 1914 amalgamation by the British government, most of the tribes brought together don’t really have things in common. The operating principles were manageable then, but can no longer hold now.

There have been a lot of calls for a constitutional conference, where the relationships between the tribes are discussed, the constitution is reviewed, how should the resources of the nation be distributed? Because most of the resources are taken from the Niger Delta, and everybody benefits from it, but the Niger Delta itself hardly benefits. These are some of the things that are really calling for definition.

If Nigeria will only remain one, if we sit down and redefine it. Because at the moment Nigeria is like a barrel of gunpowder, ready to explode. And everybody is seeing it, every right thinking person is calling for this discussion, but those who refuse the discussion are those that are benefitting from the Nigerian project, which is a bad project, a bad extension of colonialism.

Is tribalism a big problem for the Nigerian church?
It is a serious and unfortunate problem unfortunately, in the national and ecclesial life. It is painful that there are Christians, even in high levels of the church who are yet to be converted. It is a deep problem of lack of conversion. From the top it flows down, which means that its effect is significant enough and affecting things in Nigeria. Tribalism is a terrible evil.

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