Nigeria did not do well in the World Cup, held in June in South Africa. The team never won a game and failed to move out of its group. Ghana fared better than Nigeria, defeating the U.S. team, and battling Uruguay to a 1 - 1 tie, before losing in a 4 - 2 penalty kick shootout.
Nigeria did not do well in the World Cup, held in June in South Africa. The team never won a game and failed to move out of its group. Ghana fared better than Nigeria, defeating the U.S. team, and battling Uruguay to a 1 - 1 tie, before losing in a 4 - 2 penalty kick shootout. Nigeria was one of a handful of African nations that qualified for the World Cup with Ghana; others included Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and South Africa.
But Nigeria has done far worse in preventing sectarian violence between Christian and Muslims in recent months and years.
In the predawn hours of March 7, at about 3 a.m., Christian residents living in Dogo Nahawa, a small village about three miles south of Jos were awakened by gunfire. By dawn that Sunday, more than 500 in that town and two nearby villages would be slaughtered by a roving Muslim gang armed with machetes, guns and knives, according to a report from Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that assists Christians who have been killed because of their faith. A mass grave was set up in the area. The massacre took about 90 minutes - plenty of time, it would seem, for protective help from area police to arrive. The town is located just three miles from Jos, the largest city in the Plateau region of the country. Christians living in Zot and Rastat also suffered in the attack by the Muslim gangs, in Jos South, Barkin Ladi Local Government areas. Some of the villagers in the March 7 were reportedly burned to death, as the attacks burned as many 75 houses.
Emergency vehicles in the U.S., after receiving an emergency call, would probably arrive in 5 or 10 minutes, depending traffic. That no emergency personnel came to stop the slaughter is telling. Emergency personnel responded more promptly after the next attack less than two weeks later. On March 17, Muslim Fulani herdsmen struck two more Christian villages, Byei and Baten, killing 13 women and children, according to a report from Compass Direct News. The men also burned 20 houses in the attack that resembled a Muslim jihad. The towns are located about 29 miles from Jos. The military responded with troops to stop further bloodshed, according to Brig. Gen. Donald Oji, and seven of the assailants were arrested. Items recovered from the attack included guns, bow and arrows, machetes, knives and cutlasses.
Nigerian officials could have paid tribute to the deaths during the World Cup. But more attention was paid to the poor performance of the Nigerian players in the international venue. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan directed the Nigerian team to withdraw from international competition for two years, “ to enable the country to put its house in order.” He later rescinded the order.
Perhaps the silence is because life is harsh for the majority of Nigerians. Though wealthy from oil exports, the majority of its citizens, two-thirds live in poverty. Thousands of Nigerians live in or near trash dumps. Nigeria is one of the top seven oil importers to the U.S. and the most populous nation in Africa, with 158 million residents. The majority of its oil reserves are located in the Niger Delta on the coast of Africa. But wealth from oil exports does not necessarily translate into religious diplomacy. It is more likely that the deaths are due to religious and political conflict between Muslims and Christians, as well as a battle for land rights.
The ethnic Berom Christians, who live as farmers in the Plateau area, have battled Muslim Fulani, who graze their cattle on the Beroms' land. Christian leaders also believe the attacks are being fueled by Muslim extremists.
During the past decade thousands have been killed in due to religious and political conflict in the country. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000. Muslim - Christian battles resulted in the deaths of as many as 700 in 2004, and more than 300 residents died in a similar battle in 2008. The population in Nigeria is split between Muslims living in the north and the Christians in the south. Christians living near Jos are in a precarious situation, living adjacent to Muslim governed by the Fulani tribe. The 12 northern Muslim states have enacted Sharia law. Muslims in the north own cattle and the Christians are farmers, making land divisions and ownership valuable. The area rises in elevation, from the Niger River tributaries to the south. Violence against Christians is common in Jos, and often horrific, according to VOM. This year alone, VOM has helped more than 200 victims of religious violence in Nigeria. Injuries include gunshot wounds, deep cuts, amputations and broken limbs.
One VOM doctor, “Dr. Kim,” traveled 20 hours by plane to help care for the wounded after the March 7 attack. The doctor said churches and homes were burned-out by the perpetrators; one village had only 20 to 30 survivors. He said the nature of the wounds showed the Muslims “must have sharpened their weapons.”
He also treated wounds from attacks by Muslims in Jos in January. “The wounds were significantly deeper and more destructive than I had seen in the past in Northern Nigeria,” he said. The doctor treated a four-year-old girl whose left arm was slashed and amputated above the elbow. Another women was trying to escape the carnage with her two babies on her back. Both were slashed and killed by Muslims with machetes.
Many of the attackers knew the victims and were members of the Dogo Nahawa village. They assisted the raiding Fulani - Muslim mob, pointing out the Christians, to assist in the slaughter, according to reports in the village. Twenty-six arrests had been made in connection with the March 7 incident, according to Choji Gyang, a religious affairs adviser in the Plateau state. What will it take for Nigeria to treat religious conflict and persecution with the same importance as goals scored by its soccer team? The death of Christians in March cry out like the buzzing of vuvuzelas during a Nigerian World Cup soccer game.
© 2010 Larry Ingram
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