Nigerian Church, Mosque Shootings Create Confusion; Leaders Warn of Anarchy
Tensions are mounting in Nigeria after four people were killed Aug. 8 near a mosque – providing a new twist in a national conflict that so far had exclusively targeted Christians.
According to reports the attack on the Muslim prayer building occurred at the Central Mosque in Okene, when armed gunmen came out of a van chanting Islamic songs before shooting at people standing outside, killing two soldiers in the process.
The incident came the same week that 25 Christians were shot dead by gunmen using AK-47s in Okene in Kogi state near the capital of Abuja.
While police have yet to determine who carried out both attacks and if they were related, the Islamic radical group Boko Haram has strongly been linked with the Christian attack. The group has been targeting churches and believers for a year, killing over 600 people in their self-stated mission to get rid of Christianity in Nigeria.
The mosque attack remains a mystery, however, as it is not clear if or why Boko Haram would this time chose to target Muslims – or if it is in any way a retaliation attack in response to the growing tensions between Christians and Muslims. Whatever the reason and motives, however, church leaders in Nigeria are pleading with citizens not to allow the country to descend into total chaos by turning on each other.
"At the rate we are going, the country is drifting fast into anarchy," Anglican Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said. He added that the government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, needs to do more to protect its people.
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"If dog eats dog, that is the end of the country," Okoh continued. He added that the attacks against innocent people were a "damnable thing; it is evil."
"Those killing innocent people are heartless people who are not fearing their God. The incessant attacks are condemnable, it's against the teaching of any religion, so those who are doing this act are criminals who will face God hereafter," Sheikh Ahmed Gummi, an Islamic scholar in northern Kaduna has also said.
"There is not any religion in the world that accepts killing of innocent people at their worshipping centers," remarked Tunde Ishaku, a senior member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). "We have to be serious now to take urgent action for the sake of our life and that of our followers."
Church leaders have asked the government to spare no resources in increasing security at churches.