March 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 44
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    ABUJA, Nigeria ( - Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja on Tuesday decried a massacre in the Nigerian city of Aba, where mostly Christian Ibo tribesmen killed hundreds of mostly Muslim Hausas in revenge for attacks on Christians in northern Kaduna state last week.

    The archbishop also praised President Olusegun Obasanjo's brokering of a deal to revoke the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in the states of Zamfara, Niger and Sokoto. "This is a victory is not only for Christians, but for all Nigerians," he said. Moreover, the governors of Kano, Yobe, and Kaduna, where sharia was about to be introduced, have repealed the measure.

    The decision was reached on Tuesday during an emergency meeting to which Obasanjo called all 36 of Nigeria's state governors. On Monday, the president visited Kaduna where clashes between Christians and Muslims last week left at least 300 people dead. The fighting then spread to other regions of the country and hundreds more were killed.

    On Monday, Archbishop Onaiyekan sent a letter to Obasanjo asking him to take decisive action -- a request made several times already by the Catholic hierarchy -- against the unconstitutional introduction of the sharia, seen to be the cause of the clashes.

    The archbishop said he believed the agreement will end the fighting. "Now the cause of disorder, the enforcement of Muslim law, has been removed, we must work for reconciliation," he said. "This is a victory, not only for Christians but for all Nigerians. Christians should not be happier at the decision than the rest of the people. They rejoice like all the rest, including the millions of moderate Muslims who do not want the sharia to be law."

    Archbishop Onaiyekan added that Christians in Aba had committed "a very serious sin" by attacking Muslims in their city. "That many Ibo Christians took up arms to fight Muslim Hausas in revenge does not belong to Christianity," he said. "Those who attacked and killed innocent Hausa Muslims out of revenge for the death of innocent Christians in Kaduna, committed a serious sin, blinded by rage."


March 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 44

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