- Title: NIGERIA: Nigerians celebrate Ramadan amid growing religious tensions.
- Date: 31st July 2012
- Summary: VARIOUS OF LADI WILLIAMS MUSLIM LAGOS RESIDENT BUYING ORANGES
- Embargoed: 15th August 2012 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAEC2Q8I59R5X86QLB1G4DU5H4P
- Story Text: Decorations on the streets of Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, indicate the start of the Holy month of Ramadan. Nigerian Muslims are celebrating the holiday this year amid growing risk of attacks and suicide bombings from Islamist group Boko Haram.
Islamist sect Boko Haram are behind almost daily killings in the north of Nigeria in an insurgency against President Goodluck Jonathan's administration. The sect mostly targets authority and religious figures.
The sect wants to carve out an Islamic state within Africa's largest oil exporter, a country of more than 160 million people split roughly equally between Muslims and Christians.
Ramadan, which is observed by most of Nigeria's estimated 80 million Muslims, has not deterred the Islamic sect from violent attacks in northern Nigeria.
Religious tensions and armed strife are destabilising parts of the country, in particular in the north where the majority of Muslims live.
Here in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, this group of Muslims and Christians are celebrating Ramadan together, meeting to play games and break fast after the evening prayers.
Ladi Williams, a devout Muslim and a real estate agent, insists he and his Christian friends can live together in peace.
"We all play together, we are brothers to each other, no discrimination, no religion war, no religion fight, nothing whatsoever, I visit my friend, Papa Naga, he gives me Kola (local fruit), I eat, we do things in common," he said.
One of Ladi's friends, Isibor Emmanuel, a mechanical engineer, who is also a Christian believes that Boko Haram, as well as endemic corruption, are the biggest challenges to Nigeria's stability and development.
"The fact remains that if we are in peace, everything about the economy, about politics, about everything in Nigeria will be stabilised but as at now, we don't have a stable economy we don't have a stable nation because everything is in disarray," he said.
Fighting in northern Nigeria started after President Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, was declared winner in 2010. Many in Nigeria's north thought a northern Muslim should have become president.
Nigeria's religious leaders are making increasing efforts to improve inter-faith relations and to maintain peace.
The Catholic Archbishop in Abuja John Onaiyekan is among those taking steps to build bridges between the Muslim and Christian communities by joining Muslims who break their fast in mosques.
"My message to Nigerians both Christians and Moslems I will say is that we should resist the temptation to let anybody make us enemies of one another. I'm saying so because we have never been enemies of each other before, it's only now that certain things are creating a terrible crisis and tension," he said.
President Jonathan is under increased pressure to stem the wave of violence. He has recently sacked his national security adviser and minister of defence promising tactics to fight the sect.
Security experts believe Boko Haram has many cells operating independently from each other. The sect recruits from the millions of disillusioned youths in the impoverished north, who can be easily coerced into joining the insurgency.
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