Updated Wednesday morning
Several commentators, including Andrew Brown in the Church Times have drawn attention to this article in the Atlantic Monthly by Eliza Griswold titled God’s Country. The magazine describes it this way:
Using militias and marketing strategies, Christianity and Islam are competing for believers by promising Nigerians prosperity in this world as well as salvation in the next. A report from the front lines.
The website of Atlantic Monthly also has a related slideshow, an interview with the author, and an audio file.
AkinTunde Popoola has responded to the article (see comments below):
Eliza Griswold’s recent attempt to demonise the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria by publishing an article raising issues of religious violence is most unhelpful. As CAN president, one of the challenges the Archbishop faced was that of persuading youthful Christians to stop revenge attacks.
While the very sad ethnic/religious Yelwa incident took place in 2004, his statement about no religion having a monopoly of violence was made in 2006 when Nigerian Christians were being slaughtered because of some cartoons published in Denmark.
About Ms Griswold’s article, Archbishop Akinola has commented: “It is a pity that I have again been quoted out of context by the Atlantic Monthly two years after the event and the interview. The incident of the Danish Cartoons started off a crisis in Northern Nigeria. As president of the Christian Association of Nigeria I had to prevail on Christians not to retaliate. If we had not done that there would have been chaos. It was in the context of prevailing on Christian youth not to retaliate that I said what I said”
His statement was made not to encourage violent retaliation from Christian youth, but to recognise the reality of the possibility of such retaliation in the context of extreme provocation.
What is not reported so well, or known so widely is the many efforts that were initiated for peace-making. In February 2007 for example, Abp. Akinola (along with many Anglican bishops) was in the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria’ s overall Islamic leader on a friendly visit. ( http://www.anglican-nig.org/sokoto_surprise.htm ) Abp. Akinola has not and does not encourage violence but continues to maintain peaceful cordial relationships with every peace loving Nigerian irrespective of tribe, creed or gender.
The Western press should learn from the Danish cartoons that articles they publish, whatever the motive might be, can be responsible for the death of many innocent lives hundred of miles away.