[ by Charles Cameron — switching between my comparative religion and cultural anthropology hats, while reading of Christian and indigenous mass graves in Nigeria — and the fear of a Rwanda-scale genocide ]
The Christian Post reports:
Villagers stood at a mass grave in Dogon Na Hauwa, Nigeria, in 2010. | (Photo: Reuters/Credit Akintunde Akinleye)
The church leaders said that “over 6,000 persons, mostly children, women and the aged have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen,” which is prompting their cry to the government of Nigeria “to stop this senseless and blood shedding in the land and avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves.”
That last phrase, to “avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves”, is a telling one with an implication of considerable restraint on the part of Christians thus far..
Reading the piece carefully, the question arises as to the interwoven influences of tribal, religious, and cultural differences..
Consider the Catholic bishop’s comment as reported:
“Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda,” he pleaded, referring to the massacre of Tutsi people in Rwanda, where close to 1 million were killed in 1994.
To what extent can this conflict and slaughter be characterized as tribal?
Consider also the clash of religions — indigenous / ancestral tribal religions included — implied by the reference to Boko Haram, and the Intersociety comment:
Nigeria is drifting to [a path of] genocide through killing, maiming, burning and destruction of churches and other sacred places of worship, and forceful seizure and occupation of ancestral, worship, farming and dwelling lands of the indigenous Christians and other indigenous religionists in Northern Nigeria
Or — and this one’s of terrific importance, as implied by the comment:
raids carried out by the herdsmen on local area farmers
To what extent is the conflict one of (mobile) herdsmen vs (settled) farmers?
Fulani vs one or more other tribes Islam vs Christianity & indigenous religions herdsmen vs agriculturalists
Please note that there are two feared outcomes here, the first of which touches my heart in its implication of Christian non-violence in the face of terrible violence, while the second addresses a significant increase in the scale of that violence:<
to avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda
Tragedy is seldom simple. If we are to avoid the worst, we need both to understand the drivers in all their subtle diversity, and to avoid the paralysis that comes from overthinking — not an east task, but a necessary one.
With thanks to J Scott Shipman.