Hundreds killed in conflict over sharia law
By Citra Sldhu POPE JOHN PAUL II has condemned clashes between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria which have left over 300 dead and hundreds wounded.
Last Friday at a Mass at Cairo's sports stadium, the Pontiff said: "I pray to the Lord that all inhabitants of this country might adhere to living in fraternity, based on respect for persons and on religious freedom. These values can only open up the ' future for the Nigerian nation."
Violence erupted last Monday when Christians, who make up 40 per cent of Kaduna's population, demonstrated against plans to introduce Islamic sharia law.
Bodies were piled in the morgue at the main hospital, on the floor and the ground outside. Dozens of homes and businesses were burned, along with the Catholic cathedral and the city's central mosque.
Those killed appeared to come from both communities, although exact figures were impossible to establish.
One witness reported the killing in cold blood of Christians who had sought refuge in an army barracks. Hundreds of residents have left the city.
The issue of sharia law, which has already been introduced in several northern Nigerians states, has become an increasing source of tension between the country's mainly Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
Although supporters of the sharia law have promised that Christians will not be affected by Islamic legislation, they were not able to alleviate Christian fears of Islamic dictatorship and anti-Christian discrimination in the country.
Islamic law not only allows for corporal punishment for minor offences like public drunkenness, but also calls for separate schools and public transportation for males and females.
On Tuesday, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a Christian, told Church leaders in the capital Abuja that the rioting caused him "great personal distress and anguish".
The Nigerian president also criticised religious extremists for resorting to violence, stressing that God could "take care of his own causes".
But the President's comments could not halt the violence, which on Monday spread to the southeastern city of Aba.
Residents of the town said that at least 50 people had been killed in public clashes that pitted local Christian lbos against Hausa-speaking immigrants from the mainly Muslim north.
The violence in Aba triggered panic in the north's largest city, Kano, where there is a large lbo community. Shops and markets are now closed and many Christians have taken refuge in army barracks.
The country's bishops warned that Nigeria is heading fur "national suicide" over the introduction of the sharia law and appealed to the government to control the fighting. The violence parallels the start of the Biafran war in 1967, when thousands of lbos fled the north, sparking the southeast's bid to secede.