Hostilities between Christians and Muslims escalated last month in northern Nigeria, where some 300 people were reportedly killed during inter-religious fighting. According to international press reports, several Christian churches were also destroyed in what is being characterized as some of the worst rioting in nearly a decade of tensions.

In the midst of the conflicts, some Christian leaders are pushing reconciliation efforts. However, according to one prominent Nigerian pastor, the prospects for peace and nonviolence are growing more distant. Nigerian Anglican Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon reports that Christians in the Muslim-dominated areas of his country are “starting to fight back with violence.” “More Christians are seeing Muslims as their enemies,” the bishop said during a brief visit to Washington, D.C., in May.

Nigeria’s long-standing religious tensions stem in large part from the demographic factors that divide the West African nation of some 118 million. Idowu-Fearon says population patterns have created “three countries in one”: a Muslim-dominated north, a religiously mixed middle belt, and a predominantly Christian south.

Idowu-Fearon serves in the northern Sokoto diocese, a region believed to be 93 percent Muslim. Most of the violent clashes have occurred in the north, where Christians frequently are denied education privileges, public preaching is forbidden, and churches are often targeted for destruction by radical Muslims.

Fighting Back

Idowu-Fearon believes a turning point in the conflicts occurred late in October last year when German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke attempted to stage a crusade in the Muslim-controlled city of Kano. As a Muslim protest erupted into a violent rampage, the bishop says Christians for ...

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