The Sultan of Sokoto, and the country’s Muslim spiritual leader, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, on Tuesday branded the fundamentalist Islamic group, Boko Haram, evil, seeking to calm public anger over Sunday’s devastating bombings that killed dozens.
The group has taken responsibility for the Christmas day coordinated killings at the St. Theresa Catholic church, Madalla, Jos, Plateau state and Damaturu, Yobe state, which have fuelled fears of a prolonged sectarian conflict.
Sultan Abubakar, who met with President Goodluck Jonathan for about two hours at the state house 48 hours after Boko Haram detonated bombs killing at least 35 people including worshippers and security, said the carnage was not an expression of hatred between Christians and Muslims but “a conflict between good and evil”.
“I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity,” he said after the meeting.
“It’s a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message.”
The attacks, some of the worst the nation has faced in recent times, has inflamed anger and elicited condemnations, amid concerns it could lead to religious divisions.
The northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) warned Tuesday that the church bombings could lead to a “religious war.”
“We fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive one. Once again, ‘enough is enough!'” said Saidu Dogo, the group’s secretary general, in a statement.
It urged Christians not to retaliate, but to defend themselves when necessary.
“We shall, henceforth, in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property, be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country,” Dogo said.
The christian group said it was worried that past reports on such violence had not been implemented, and that the perpetrators and their sponsors “are well-known to government and no serious or decisive actions have been taken to stem their nefarious activities”.
President Goodluck Jonathan did not speak publicly after the meeting with the sultan. But his national security adviser, Awoye Azazi, urged Christians not to retaliate over the bombings.
“Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation,” Azazi said.
The sultan however said the president had agreed to look at past reports on violence linked to radical Islamists in the country, adding also that more discussions would be held with religious and traditional leaders and Mr. Jonathan.