[Episcopal News Service]
According to press reports, Roman Catholic bishops from the English-speaking countries in West Africa have told the Nigerian government it must act now to resist the imposition of strict Islamic law (sharia) in the northern parts of the country before the situation deteriorates into a Muslim-Christian conflict and spill into other nations in the area.
In an August 30 communique at the end of a plenary of the Episcopal Conference of Anglophone West Africa, the bishops urged the Nigerian government to 'heed the loud and just opposition of the Nigerian Christians and others to the imposition… of Sharia as state law.' Since late in 1999, 10 states in the north have enforced the strict law. Participants in the assembly, including delegates from the Vatican and several foreign partner organizations, regard the introduction of sharia as 'flagrant violation of the secular nature of the Nigerian nation.' When sharia was introduced into Kaduna state, which has an equal number of Christians and Muslims, over a thousand people died in violent clashes. 'Its introduction has given rise to the trampling of the rights of innocent and law-abiding citizens, leading to wanton destruction of life and property and the ugly phenomenon of refugees fleeing for their lives,' the bishops said in the communique.