Responding to the violence in the Nigerian town of Jos, the local archbishop has said the media is further inflaming the conflict with “counter-productive” false reporting. He also said the Nigerian government has failed to provide for its people, especially its youth.
At least 200 people have been killed in and around Jos since Sunday. The Financial Times said the latest violence began when angry youths confronted a Muslim man who was rebuilding his house, which was burned down in similar violence in 2008.
The clashes, which also have an ethnic aspect, have reportedly split along religious lines. Nigeria’s population is split about equally between mainly Muslims in the north and mainly Christians in the south.
Archbishop of Jos Ignatius Ayau Kaigama spoke to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Critical of the national and international media, he called for “conscientious and prudent reporting.” He said the media tends to worsen the conflict by conveying false information and publishing numerous pictures in order to draw as many readers and viewers as possible.
The archbishop said that because Christians often have no voice in the media, they were in many cases portrayed as the aggressors.
Many people would believe these reports as “gospel truths” because they are unaware that the reports are often not factual but only contain the opinions of journalists, Archbishop Kaigama told ACN.
He said the actual facts of the recent violence are unclear and he warned about rumors reported as fact.
The archbishop added that the media focused on the violence but did not address issues of real importance. He said the violence is not so much religiously motivated but rather a social, political and ethnic conflict.
Criticizing the Nigerian government, he said the government fails to provide any form of social security. Many young people feel they have no future and there is no employment.
Being frustrated, they often turn to violence and this violence is often exploited by political and religious leaders.
Adults, too, are often unpaid or paid very late for their work, he continued.
Archbishop Kaigama told ACN that the government is not fulfilling its responsibilities. Almost all social services are provided by the Church, but her work is not supported by the government and is dependent on the support of outside aid.
He added that the curfew imposed after the violence makes the Church’s work more difficult and worsens the social tensions.
The archbishop called on the government to make Nigeria “a better country,” to develop the potential of the people and to provide security for them.
According to ACN, he also emphasized that the Church must continue to pursue dialogue with Islam, since it is an alternative to conflict. To increase social harmony among young people, he advocated projects in which young Christians and Muslims learn and work together.
The training of future priests and catechists is also important because they go out to the people “bringing hope and carrying out the work of peace and reconciliation right down at the grass roots.“