More than 2,000 Nigerians died last year in violent outbreaks between Christians and Muslims. The flash point has been the adoption and implementation of Shari'ah (Islamic law) in northern Nigeria, where Muslims predominate in 11 states.

The September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States further inflamed tensions in Africa's most populous nation, according to local Christian leaders.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, accused Muslim leaders of politicizing religion. "Unnecessary emphasis is being placed on religion and Shari'ah," Obasanjo said in an Internet chat room. "They bring religion to the arena of politics."

Ibrahim Datti Ahmed, president of the Supreme Council on Shari'ah in Nigeria, disagreed. He said existing national policies are part of a "grand design to frustrate the legitimate desire of Muslims in Nigeria to demo-cratically expand the scope of the application of the Shari'ah."

Nigerians have taken the dispute to the streets. In Kaduna state, 1,200 people died in rioting last February and May. In Jos, situated in the mostly Christian Plateau state, at least 500 died in September fighting. The violence erupted on September 7 when a Christian woman attempted to cross a street barricaded during a time of Muslim prayer. Eleven more people died on November 2 in Kaduna state after authorities adopted Shari'ah in Muslim-majority areas.

Chuka Ekemam, a bishop of the 2.3 million-member African Methodist Episcopal Church, is among Christian leaders who say they have not given up hope. "Our faith notwithstanding, the church believes that God did not make a mistake by putting Muslims and Christians together in Nigeria," Ekemam says. "We all can coexist. We can tolerate each other. We can respect each other's religious belief. And we don't have to fight or kill each other."

Mba Idika, head of the 4 million-member Presbyterian Church in Nigeria, agrees: "We as a church and Christians are not happy with what is going on in the country, and it is our view that there is no religion that preaches violence."

Muslim radicals are putting Idika's convictions to the test. At least 350 Christians died in Kano during anti-American riots in October. Muslim militants rioted to protest what Muslim leader Ahmed calls the Nigerian government's "blind support for American policies in Afghanistan."

"Osama bin Laden should not be allowed to divide Nigeria," Ekemam says, "even though the effects of his activities are felt here."

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Related Elsewhere

For more on Nigeria and Shari'ah, see Yahoo's Full Coverage and

See Christianity Today's previous coverage of the riots in Jos and Kano.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch released a report on the tensions in Nigeria and the violence in Jos. BBC reported on the release of the report in which the human rights group claims Nigeria ignored danger signs.

Media coverage of the Kano riots includes:

Nigeria road trip: Kano — BBC (Dec. 21)
Appraising the Ethos Behind Kano RiotsDaily Trust, Abuja (Oct. 24, 2001)
Rampant soldiers kill civilians — South African Press Association (Oct. 24, 2001)
Red Cross helps Kano riot victimsBusiness Day (Oct. 19, 2001)
Nigerian Leader Warns About Violence — Associated Press (Oct. 17, 2001)
Violent Clashes That Threaten Democracy Under Obasanjo — Vanguard, Lagos (Oct. 16, 2001)
Over 100 dead in riots — South African Press Association (Oct. 16, 2001)

Media coverage of the Jos violence includes:

Nigeria angry over human rights report — VOA (Dec. 19)
As many as 1,000 were killed in Jos, HRW says — UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (Dec. 18)
Obasanjo admits 'enormous' problems — BBC (Oct. 1)
Tension-Soaked NationNewswatch, Lagos (Sept. 30)
Mayhem in Tin CityNewswatch, Lagos (Sept. 23)
The Mayhem in JosThis Day, Lagos (Sept. 19)
Jos: Its Underbelly And the CarnageThe Guardian, Lagos (Sept. 14)
Renewed fighting in Jos — BBC (Sept. 12)
Nigerian troops curb religious violence — BBC (Sept. 8)

Previous Christianity Today coverage of religious tensions in Nigeria includes:

Orphaned and WidowedChristian families devastated since Shari'ah law adopted. (August 29, 2001)
Christians and Muslims at Odds Over Nigerian ConstitutionCalls made to limit Shari'ah law in Northern states. (July 12, 2001)
Nigeria Officials Press Northern Governors to Scale Back Islamic LawChurches harassed by Islamic youths purporting to enforce the law. (June 14, 2001)
Five Anglicans in Court After Rescuing Teenagers From Arranged MarriagesPriests claim Christian sisters are being forced into Islam. (June 5, 2001)
The Shari'ah ThreatMuslim Fundamentalist law troubles Christians and some Muslims. (Feb. 2, 2001)
'Focused, Determined, Deliberate' DestructionEcumenical leader calls on Nigeria to deal with religious violence between Muslims and Christians. (Oct. 30, 2000)
Nigerian Muslims and Christians Form a Religious CouncilGombe, a north Nigerian state, creates a council of faiths to deal with fears over Islamic law. (Sept. 19, 2000)
Churches Challenge Islamic LawChristians plan to take Shari'ah to court. (Aug. 15, 2000)
Is Nigeria Moving Toward War?Deadly riots lead to suspension of Islamic law. (March 31, 2000)
Nigeria On the Brink of Religious WarNorthern states adopt Islamic law, increasing Christian-Muslim tensions. (Dec. 16, 1999)
Nigeria's Churches Considering Legal Challenge to Islamic LawsThird state moving toward implementing Koranic laws (Dec. 17, 1999)
Can Christianity and Islam Coexist and Prosper?Is peace with Islam possible? (Oct. 25, 1999)

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