Violence in Nigeria: Breaking the Country's Fatal Deadlock
In Kaduna, GAWON introduced a revolving loan program based on Jesus' principle that creative initiatives can reduce threats to human dignity. The loans empower Muslims and Christians widowed or orphaned by the sectarian violence that killed thousands in 2000. GAWON believes the best way to help Christian victims overcome retaliatory violence is to create opportunities for them to work alongside Muslim victims in order to build trust and confidence. Widows work on income-generating projects in groups of 10 based on their needs and interests. They hold each other accountable and support and encourage each other. The loan program launched in 2002 in the Moro'a chiefdom of southern Kaduna State. Since then, the community has enjoyed stability and peaceful coexistence. It has even provided refuge to Hausa-Fulani tribesmen forced to leave nearby communities where just peacemaking has not been practiced.
In Jos, GRDM gives loans and relief materials to both Christian and Muslim women in order to break the wall of partition between the two faiths. Because conflicts that emanate from differences are often very costly—destroying human lives as well as the material resources desperately needed by those who survive—GRDM collaborates with other NGOS and local governments to encourage the spirit of just peacemaking in Plateau State through workshops, seminars, and parleys.
In a Nigeria confronted with myriads of problems that perpetuate the vicious cycle of retaliatory violence, the way out is to adopt Jesus' active principle of just peacemaking. Because sectarian violence heavily affects both the Muslim and Christian poor in northern Nigeria, they need each other. Christians should make every effort to work with poor Muslims in the north who suffer the same oppression and exploitation. Both need a new affection for God, for justice, for checks and balances, for accountability, and for a free press and an independent judiciary.
Fighting back or passively turning the other cheek will fail both Christians and Muslims. But just peacemaking, as a principle rooted in the theology of nonviolent reaction to hostility, provides a biblical alternative to retaliation. As the apostle Paul advised the Roman church, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Sunday Agang is provost of ECWA Theological Seminary in Kagoro, Kaduna State, and a John Stott Ministries-Langham scholar.
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Previous Christianity Today coverage of violence in Nigeria includes:
Church Leaders Debate Self-Defense | Nigerian Christians abandon cheek-turning. (December 19, 2011)
'In Jos We Are Coming Face to Face in Confrontation with Satan' | The Anglican Archbishop of Jos speaks out on last week's deadly attacks and the media coverage that followed. (January 26, 2010)
The Truth About the Religious Violence in Jos, Nigeria | It's not easy to state who started it or how many died. But the horror for those affected is clear. (January 21, 2010)
More Human Smoke Rises in Jos | This week's deadly riots struck home for the academic dean of ECWA Theological Seminary. (January 21, 2010)
CT's Liveblog also has updates about Nigeria:
Update on Religious Violence in Nigeria (January 6, 2012)
Sudan, Nigeria Rise Most in 2011 Persecution Rankings | Open Doors' 2012 World Watch List ranks countries where Christians suffered in 2011. (January 4, 2012)
Church Bombings Mar Christmas for Nigerian Christians (December 27, 2011)