The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Konrad Raiser, has strongly criticized Nigerian authorities for failing to act decisively enough to deal with inter-religious conflicts.

Raiser spoke at a press conference in the city of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, during a recent visit to the West African nation.

Several hundred people have died in clashes between Christians and Muslims since the Kaduna state government decided early this year to introduce Sharia (Islamic law.) Similar violence has occurred in other regions where state governments want to introduce Sharia.

Raiser said that he was "shocked and deeply saddened" at the destruction that he had seen in the city of Kaduna and its outskirts both in Christian and Muslim communities.

"It is one thing to witness destruction as a consequence of war, which I have seen in many parts of the world, but then it is indiscriminate destruction. [Here] it is very focused, very determined, very deliberate, almost surgical, destruction of particular institutions, of particular buildings, of particular ranges of houses along one or the other or both sides of a particular street, which indicates that it is not just a communal conflict but a kind of conflict that has deliberately been planned," he said.

Nigeria has more than 100 million people—making it Africa's most populous country—with big Christian and Muslim communities. There is no reliable estimate of which religion dominates nationally, but Muslims are in a big majority in the north and Christians dominate in the east, while the south-west is mixed.

Pointing out that both Islam and Christianity were religions which had come to Nigeria from outside, Raiser expressed surprise that the competition between the two religions ...

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