Emphasizing that modern education and modern civilizations do not preclude “ardent” religious devotion, Catholic Church leaders in Nigeria have condemned a militant Muslim sect opposed to Western education whose confrontation with security forces this week left over 100 people dead.
Several members of the sect, called the Boko Haram movement, were killed after a strong military crackdown. One of the dead was Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf.
According to the Catholic Information Service for Africa, the name of Boko Haram translates as “Western education is sin.”
Fr. Louis Odudu, Deputy Secretary-General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, signed a statement calling on Boko Haram leaders to “adopt a creative approach to their religious practice in order to give honor and glory to Almighty God.”
The statement said that any religion must include the principles of justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
“Modern education and modern civilizations do not preclude ardent religious devotion,” the statement said. “In fact, it should be underlined that Islam, as a religious practice, from places like Al-Azhar, carried the light of learning through so many centuries and paved the way for Europe’s renaissance and enlightenment.”
The statement praised reported Muslim contributions to the arts and technological progress, naming algebra, navigation, printing, medicine, poetry and music.
“We therefore condemn any religious movement that would subvert the progress that has been made in education and technology in Nigeria and at the same time thwart law and order,” the statement said. We condemn a descent to religious fanaticism that would destroy our national peace and stability.”
The church also accused the Nigerian government of condoning the growth of the Boko Haram movement, CISA reports. Church leaders called for urgent efforts to control the surge of religious militancy and for legal action against the perpetrators of violence.
The church attributed the cause of the uprising and other forms of violence to widespread poverty and urged the government to address the problem.