SomaliPress.com

Religious Clashes in Nigeria Worries U.S.

Published on Wednesday 8th April 2009

There are indications that the frequent religious clashes in Nigeria may have become a source of concern to the United States government and major institutions working in the area of religious tolerance in the country.

The recent Jos and Bauchi clashes have prompted questions on what steps the Nigerian government is taking to ensure long-term peace and tranquility, in a country considered an important US ally in the African continent.

THISDAY learnt that the propensity of the clashes has recently placed the country on the radar for serious discussion.

For instance, the International Religious Freedom Caucus in the US Congress has shown interest in the Nigerian case. THISDAY gathered that the Jos, Bauchi and Gombe crises were closely monitored resulting in close contacts between the group and the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Discussions are also on going on how Nigeria, the largest black nation in the world, evenly split between Christians and Muslims can forge ahead.

It was learnt that the Nigerian government gave an assurance that the crises were politically motivated and that there is religious freedom in the country.

However, sources told THISDAY that some concerned groups are no longer buying that line of defence.

There is also the feeling that there is no honest discussion about what the problems are and how to move forward. They are therefore pushing for concrete steps that ensure the fundamental rights of citizens are not threatened in the name of religion.

As one observer who pleaded anonymity put it: "there is no point pretending that all is well. Religious freedom does not mean you should sweep the real problem under the carpet. There has to be a serious discussion about these conflicts."

There is a concern that the situation might degenerate in the absence of well thought out solutions.

Also, Nigeria has been picked as one of the countries to be represented at a forum taking place on June 17 in Washington, D.C.

Termed "Evangelicals and Muslims: Conversations on Respect, Reconciliation, and Religious Freedom," the event is organised by the Institute of Global Engagement (IGE) and co-sponsored by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

An Imam and a Pastor from Nigeria have been invited as panelists to the event. An entire night forum will be dedicated to the two men who will be speaking on "Reconciliation".

According to the organisers, the event "will feature an honest conversation between Muslims and Evangelicals about their deepest differences."

The panel on reconciliation will be "focusing both on the deep theological, cultural, and political differences between the two great traditions and on the common points of agreement which could become the beginning of a larger reconciling process," said IGE.

IGE further stated that "in the end, we hope that the annual Global Leadership Forum (GLF) 2009 will assist participants to better understand the issues that divide-and connect-these two great traditions and will enable pastors and imams to bring back new insights to their congregations."

Past speakers at IGE included former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Director, Andrew Natsios.

The US State Department 2008 Human Rights record had described the Nigerian situation as poor. The annual report of all countries in the world mentioned religious clashes in the country as a worrisome trend.

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