The issue of the Nigerian violence is of increasing concern to the WEA Peace & Reconciliation Initiative (WEAPRI) office. WEAPRI Director Steve Tollestrup urges caution before labelling the upsurge of violence as religiously motivated.
“As well as fundamentalist Islam, criminal gangs, corrupt officials and external state actors who want to see Nigeria politically weakened are also implicated. It is, to say the least dangerous and complicated. While Christians are the victims of the violence, it appears that this conflict isn’t logically reducible to religious motivation alone,” he says.
Mr Tollestrup considers the restructuring of the Nigerian economy which created mass layoffs and forced retirements, placed intense pressure on limited resources, particularly access to land. The result was the inflation of its value so that only the wealthy could own is another important factor. Likewise there is resentment among Muslims who feel they are discriminated against, believing they have been excluded from public office through the manipulation of elections.
WEAPRI condemns the violence and calls on the Nigerian government to use its policing and security capacity to insure peace in the region and halt the spiral of violence directed toward the Christian community. WEAPRI also asks moderate Islamic leaders to clearly call for a halt to the atrocities. WEAPRI also is considering a scoping exercise identifying what organisations, ministries, NGO’s and initiatives are presently in place and operating in a peace-building capacity then encouraging and supporting a local collaborative response.