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Peter Akinola, Anglican archbishop and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) issued some controversial warnings during February's deadly violence between Christians and Muslims. A couple weeks after the clashes he explained his concerns for the church and his nation to CT associate editor Collin Hansen.

What is the greatest challenge for the church in Nigeria?

How are we going to convince our Muslim neighbors and our governments that Nigerian Christians have no other place to call their country but this country? Since 1988, people have been maimed and brutally murdered, their hard-earned money and property destroyed by hooligans, by murderers, all on account of religion. And no one has been brought to justice that we know of. Usually arrests are made, but before you know what is happening they are released, so it's like they're doing this with impunity. So our challenge, therefore, is how we're going to get everybody in this country to know that Nigeria belongs to all of us.

I have been in touch with my Muslim counterpart this whole time, and we are hoping that we can meet soon, so we can work together and see how we can get our followers to understand.

What do you hope to hear from your Muslim counterpart?

Muslims cannot claim that Nigeria is theirs. Now Christians are doing the same. All of us agree that we have to learn to live together. From my point of view, the unity of this country is a done deal. They can't begin to talk of dividing along religious lines. They can't do that, because everywhere you go there are Muslims; everywhere you go there are Christians. But in some parts there are more Christians, in other parts there are more Muslims. But you cannot say "southern Christian" or "northern Muslim." ...

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April 2006

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