ABUJA – Muslim Nigerians are being applauded for leading relief efforts for Christian communities hit by communal violence in the country’s North-central state of Nasarawa, a move praised for dousing tension and suspicion among the faith communities in the wake of Boko Haram insurgency.
“Members of Jam’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) have been on the ground to assist,” Reverend Moses Abaka, the pastor in charge of the Evangelical Redeemed Christian Church (ERCC), told OnIslam.net.
“We are impressed and happy with their assistance.”
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Last week, arsonists attacked Agyaragu, a town about 10 kilometers away from Lafia, capital of Nasarawa state, killing at least ten people.
Over 50 houses, shops and business places were also burned down in the assault.
Following the attack, JNI volunteers were deployed to offer help to Christians in relief camps established in the wake of the violence.
An elderly Christian woman, Jane Mbamba, told OnIslam.net it was the second time she was supported by the Muslim volunteer group in Agyaragu.
“I am meeting them for the second time. I have now come to know some of them,” Mbamba said.
“They are wonderful,” she said.
“God will reward their kindness to us. Jesus said ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother; that you do unto me.’”
Sonny Agassi, the state Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Town Planning, praised the Muslim efforts to help the displaced Christians.
“The governor sent me to visit the camps and increase the support to relieve our people, after NASEMA distributed relief materials,” he said, referring to the state’s agency spearheading the relief program.
“I have been visiting; and I discovered that JNI volunteer members are already on ground to assist. That is most commendable.
“It is a giant step in our search for understanding and peace.”
Dr Abdullahi Idris, Executive Secretary of NASEMA, recalled that JNI has been assisting all through the months in assisting displaced people at camps.
“They have been giving assistance.”
Muslim volunteers say their relief efforts for Christians are dictated by their religion.
"There is really nothing extraordinary about assisting our brothers who we see as victims of circumstances,” Wahab Al-Hassan, one of the Muslim volunteers, told OnIslam.net.
“It could be you or I, so rendering assistance to the needy is what Islam and JNI is all about."
Umar Muhammadu, who led the Muslim volunteers, to assist Red Cross officials in administering medication and other relief packages to the displaced Christians, agrees.
“We come to assist. That is what our organisation is out for; love and support to the needy,” he said in his local Hausa dialect.
Some Christians opine that the Muslim relief efforts would help douse tension between the two faith communities in the wake of an insurgency led by the militant group Boko Haram, which has escalated attacks against churches in recent months.
“That in my opinion dispels claims that Christians and Muslims are enemies,” said Abaka.
“No, this gesture further confirms we are brothers. Only God can reward their kindness to our people,” he said, calling on Nigerians to emulate the gesture and recoil at "plots to instigate people of faith against one another."
Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.
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