Attacks apparently directed against Christians by radical groups claiming the mantle of Islam in Kenya and Nigeria yesterday illustrated the increasing polarization along Africa’s Christian-Muslim divide.
In Nigeria, radicals attacked a university campus in Kano, a predominantly and historically Islamic city in northern Nigeria with a significant Christian minority. Approximately 15 people attending a Christian prayer service were bombed or shot, reports the BBC.
On the other side of Africa, a hand grenade was thrown into a church in Nairobi, Kenya, killing one person and wounding 19. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing, but there has been a series of attacks on Christian targets in Kenya after Kenyan troops have participated in peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.
The MSM likes to play this down, but Christian-Muslim conflict is an important driver of events in Africa today. While there are thoughtful and moderate people on both sides of the divide who believe that their respective religions should promote tolerance and peace, more militant ideas seem to have gained ground. In particular, traditional African forms of moderate Islam, often with sufi roots, are being challenged by Saudi funded Wahabist movements and preachers.
The explosive growth of Christianity across Africa in the last half century has challenged and rattled Muslims in parts of the continent, and tensions between the groups are further exacerbated when conflicts over resources and between tribal groups get mixed in with religious competition. Add weak states, poorly policed frontiers, rapid population growth and large pools of underemployed young men to the mix, and it seems clear that these two attacks will not be the last.
More blood will flow in Africa, and quite possibly a lot more, before the two faiths settle into a peaceful coexistence.