by Obed Minchakpu
KALTUNGO, Nigeria (Compass) -- Bloody clashes that erupted September 7-9 between Muslims and Christians in Bambam, in northern Nigeria's Gombe state, left 25 persons dead and property damage estimated in the millions of dollars.
The violence was sparked by the visit of a state committee responsible for implementing sharia, the Islamic legal code, in the state. Christian leaders feel the planned introduction of sharia is an attempt to forcefully Islamize Christians.
"We cannot see how Gombe, made up of 75 percent non-Muslims, can adopt the sharia as a legal system. To us, the issue of sharia being dangled before us is another diversionary and anti-progressive prank of charlatans aimed at destabilizing the young state through a grand ploy of divide-and-rule tactics," Gombe Christian leaders wrote in a petition to Governor Alhaji Abubakar Habu Hashidu, a Muslim.
The Gombe state government had set up a "Sharia Implementation Committee" to work out procedures to adopt and implement sharia in the state. The committee was asked by Governor Hashidu to visit all parts of the state and return with recommendations.
Christian leaders reportedly protested the committee's planned visits to Bambam, Kaltungo and Biliri, all predominately Christian areas.
The adoption of the Islamic legal code by several northern Nigerian states has led to violent clashes between Muslims and Christians this year. Conflicts have occurred in Kaduna, where over 1,000 persons were killed, and in Kano, Katsina and Zamfara states.
Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.