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Religious and ethnically based conflicts have killed more than 5,000 people—most of them Christians—in Plateau state, which has a Christian majority. The crisis, which started in the centrally located city of Jos a year ago, has spread to many smaller areas. More than 500,000 people have been forced out of their destroyed villages and homes. Many churches lie in ruins.

"Only God can help us now," said the Anglican archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi. "In September [2001] … I said that Satan had unleashed hell on us. I was wrong. What he did then was to release only a sting of hell. Now we are having some form of a blast of hell."

Jos is on the fault line of interreligious stresses in Africa's most populous country, caught between the predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south. Sources say Muslims (both foreign mercenaries and local radicals) have been attacking Christians. In Jos and other major cities, Christian militias are responding in kind, reliable sources report.

Olusegun Obasanjo is the civilian Christian president based in the south who is running for reelection early next year. Some observers say Muslims are trying to influence the election. "These may be Nigeria's first elections where religion is a major election issue," says Elizabeth Kendal, who runs an online forum on religious liberty for the World Evangelical Alliance.

The conflict began in June and engulfed six major towns and numerous villages. Solomon Lar, an adviser to Nigeria's president, said the fighting destroyed more than 10 Christian-majority areas and uprooted 10,000 people. In the village of Wase, 500 people died on July 12 in Muslim-Christian fighting, and thousands were displaced.

Selcan Miner and Danjuma Rindams, Anglican leaders in ...

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October 7, 2002

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