February 15, 2011.
In Africa's most populated nation of Nigeria, religion divides the country in two. The north is mostly Muslim and the south Christian. Leaving the central city of Jos on the front line of a confrontation that killed over 500 people in 2010.
It's unclear how many of these were killed over religion because there is also a large tribal division and disputes over land rights. The worst attack came on Christmas Eve, when bomb blasts tore through the city, leaving at least 38 dead and many more wounded.Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama
Archbishop of Jos (Nigeria)“That disturbed our Christmas celebrations, that planted a lot of fear into the hearts of people and since then Jos has never been the same. We are living in serious tension, a lot of suspicion, because people believed automatically that bomb blasts on the eve of Christmas would have been done by the people in the opposite religion.”
The Christmas Eve bombing reignited a fire in a powder keg of religious tension. In January, reports came in of armed Christian youth stopping vehicles in the road and killing Muslims.
This again caused uproar in the communities on both sides of the conflict. Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama
Archbishop of Jos (Nigeria)“As a religious leader I am approached by young people who say: 'Look our Church has been burned, our houses have been destroyed, my brother and sisters have been killed. What is the Church doing? Do something. Give us something. Let's fight.' Then I tell them my mission is that of Jesus Christ, a mission of love.”
The conflict is also rooted in problems of corrupt politicians and rights to grazing lands. The local government, which is run by Christians, has blocked the right of Muslims to be recognized as citizens.
The Archbishop of Jos has been busy reaching out to Muslim leaders, trying to restore peace. It's something he says has been difficult due to pessimism on both sides, but he remains hopeful after seeing the willingness of Muslim leaders to bring peace to their communities.