NGHAR YELWA – A religious, kind-hearted and brave Muslim Nigerian cleric saved 262 Christians from attacks on June 23 in Nghar Yelwa village, central Nigeria, BBC reported July 1.
This was the latest wave of violence to hit Nigeria’s central region where Christian farming communities and Muslim cattle herders often clash – usually over access to land and grazing rights regardless of religious beliefs.
On Saturday the 23rd of June, about 300 armed men started shooting sporadically and burning down homes. They claimed this was in response to Christian attacks on a Muslim village.
“I first took the women to my personal house to hide them. Then I took the men to the mosque,” the Imam told BBC.
He also informed that when the attackers caught up with him, and forcefully demanded that he release to them those who were in the mosque, “I lied to the gang that everyone in the mosque were Muslims.”
The attackers threatened the imam to burn down the mosque and his house. But, along with the Muslim villagers he asked the gunmen to leave.
According to Daily Post, a similar attack occurred last weekend and resulted in over 200 deaths. Hundreds of people have been killed in 2018 to date, and the tit-for-tat violence has been ongoing for several years.
According to the BBC, a report from 2016 suggested Nigeria’s pastoral conflict was the cause of more deaths that year than Boko Haram.
Those whose lives were saved by the imam expressed their gratitude and relief. “Ever since they took us into the mosque, not once did they ask us to leave, not even during prayers. They provided dinner and lunch for us,” a Christian villager assured.
Future With No Gaps?
Religious extremism exists within a minority of both the Nigerian Christian and Muslim communities since centuries.
However, between the 18th and the 20th centuries, the British occupation intensified the marginal lines between the neighbouring ethno-religious communities in Nigeria.
Throughout three centuries, Britain worked on deepening the economic gap between the different ethno-religious communities to easen the way for British colonizers.
Furthermore, Britain impaired political, economic and social interactions between Nigerian Muslims and Christians to divide the country.
Nigeria, is the 3rd most populous country in the Muslim World with nearly 200 million people, according to the current statistical reports. Islam represents the plurality religion in this West African country by 47.3%, while the rest percentage is shared between Christianity and over ten other faiths.