Friday, April 21, 2006

The CofE voice in the House of Lords

Same debate as before, now the Bishop of Coventry on Nigerian religious tensions and violence:

Eight years ago the diocese of Coventry set up a formal link with the diocese of Kaduna. Noble Lords will be aware that Kaduna is almost unique among Nigerian states in being a 50:50 split between Christians and Muslims. I first visited the city of Kaduna in 1999, just two days after a vicious attack on a Christian procession which left 600 Christians dead on the streets. Any sense of self-righteous anger on my part was very soon put into perspective when, a few weeks later, the Christians retaliated, leaving many more dead Muslims.

The presenting cause was, of course, the introduction of Sharia law, but it is rarely quite as simple as that. It has been well said that there is almost nothing one can say about a country as rich and diverse as Nigeria which does not end with the words, "But, of course, it is more complicated than that". Our history as a nation in bringing together the north and the south under Lord Lugard and our record of colonial rule—which, of course, included some exploitation of natural resources—suggest a need for us to have a certain care and humility in saying what ought to happen in Nigeria.

Much is made of the religious conflict in Nigeria. We in Coventry are well served in our International Centre for Reconciliation by a number of people who have committed themselves wholeheartedly, not only to working in the country but to researching it as well. ... They have concluded—and I think I share their conclusions—that religion is often used as a pretext to provide a simplistic hook on which to hang complex ethnic, social and economic problems. The difficulty, of course, is that if the hook is used frequently enough, it becomes the problem. [emphasis mine]

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