Early morning raids on three villages near Jos, Nigeria by Muslim shepherds on Sunday morning left hundreds of Christian farmers dead. Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja emphasized on Monday that the source of the unrest is due to socio-economic concerns, not religion.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the archbishop called the confrontations “the classic conflict between shepherds and farmers.”
It’s estimated that the conflict on Sunday left over 200 people dead. Ethnic Fulani herdsmen attacked three villages of inhabited by members of the Berom ethnicity in the early hours of Sunday morning. The BBC reported that many of the victims were women, children and elderly attacked with machetes.
The three villages are all within 10 miles of the city of Jos, in the central Plateau state of Nigeria. Analysts dubbed Sunday’s conflict a reprisal for another encounter between Christians and Muslims in January that left hundreds dead.
Archbishop Olorunfemi said that international media often link violence between ethnic groups in Nigeria to religious roots, but, he explained, “this is not the case, because they don’t kill each other due to religion, but for social, economic, tribal, (or) cultural demands."
The Church’s reaction, the archbishop said, is that "we continue to work to promote good relations between Christians and Muslims and we seek also to come to an agreement in trying to curb the violence and work together to face concrete political and ethical problems."
He added that it would be the duty of the Nigerian government to provide security for the area, but “it appears to not have the capacity to do so.”
Ninety five people have been arrested for Sundays conflicts, according to the Vatican Radio report, which was hand delivered to the media by Fr. Federico Lombardi in the Holy See’s Press Office.