The European Union on Tuesday condemned the recent attacks on Christian churches as well as Muslim religious centers in Nigeria and reiterated its continued support to the Nigerian government's ongoing efforts to address the issue.
"I am appalled by the terrible attacks perpetrated against Christian churches in Nigeria on 17 June, following several similar attacks in recent weeks. I also deeply regret that reprisal attacks appear to have been made against members of the Muslim community," EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement issued by her office.
Her remarks came a day after more than 36 people were killed in bomb attacks on three churches as well as reprisal attacks on Muslim religious sites in Nigeria's northern state of Kaduna. The church bombings have since been blamed on the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
Ashton condemned all such violence that led to the loss of innocent lives, and expressed her sincere condolences to the victims and their families. She also noted that Nigeria's Constitution protects the freedom of belief and religion.
"Through the human rights dialogue that exists between the EU and Nigeria, which also covers issues related to the freedom of belief and religion, we will explore ways that the EU can support the Government's efforts to bring greater understanding between the various religious communities through wider dialogue, in order to prevent such atrocities happening again," she said.
Stressing on the importance of bringing those responsible for the violence before justice, Ashton reiterated EU's commitment to cooperate with the government and people of Nigeria "to address the underlying social and economic problems in the north of the country, and work with the authorities to make the fight against terrorism more effective."
Such periodic outbursts of religious violence are frequent in Nigeria, the northern regions of which are predominantly Muslim with the South being dominated by Christians. Last week, sectarian violence triggered by the bombing of two churches had left at least seven people dead.
The Boko Haram sect is based in the mainly Muslim north and campaigns against Western education, which it considers as anti-Islamic. It wants strict enforcement of Islamic laws in Nigeria after overthrowing the current government. An estimated 1,000 people have been killed since the terror outfit began its campaign of violence in 2009.
The organization came into prominence in July 2009, when hundreds of its members were killed in fighting Nigerian security forces in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri. The group has since claimed responsibility for bombing churches, police stations, military facilities, banks, and beer parlors in northern Nigeria, as well as the United Nations building and police headquarters in capital Abuja.
by RTT Staff Writer
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