Are Muslims afraid of Christians?

Christians and Muslims in NigeriaThe fear of old friends

There is a warm welcome between the Catholic priest Alexander Miskita William and Yusuf Yaro, the chairman of the Muslim council in Mubi. A city with almost 100,000 inhabitants in northeastern Nigeria. Both men grew up here. Now they hug and shake hands for a long time before they want to talk about a joint event. For Yusuf Yaro, it is a matter of course to come regularly to the grounds of the St. Andrew's Church:

"I am here as chairman of the Muslim Council. Here I visit my Christian brother. We always visit each other, no matter what happens. The most important thing for us is peaceful coexistence. In our community we find families with one brother." a Christian and the other brother is a Muslim. "

Christians and Muslims lived together

Yaro paints a rather optimistic picture. Priest Alexander Miskita William grew up with this understanding of religion:

"In the area where I grew up, there were Muslims everywhere. There were only two Christian families. But at that time there was no difference at all. We even met and ate together every evening. It was a very pleasant atmosphere . "

In Mubi, destroyed bank buildings are a reminder of the reign of terror in Boko Haram. (Deutschlandradio / Katrin Gänsler)

That was 30 to 40 years ago now. There is not much left of this atmosphere in northeastern Nigeria today. The reason for this is the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which Mubi also occupied for a few months. That was two and a half years ago. Christians fled to Yola, the capital of Adamawa state. Today many are back, but one question often torments them: Which Muslims collaborated with Boko Haram during the occupation? Who did it willingly? Who was forced to do this? Father Alexander Miskita William:

"Some Muslims did not leave the city, while others - especially Christians - ran for their lives. Those who stayed saw what happened. They cooperated in one way or another. After all, we know about Boko Haram: When they are in When you come to a city, you have to follow its interpretation of religion. Those who stayed must have agreed with them. "

Mutual exchange is essential

It is an accusation that can be heard all over the northeast. There everyday life is slowly returning. Shops, markets and houses are being rebuilt. But the atrocities committed by the terrorists are mostly kept silent: since 2009 they have murdered more than 20,000 people, kidnapped women and children, raped them and abused them as suicide bombers. This stirs up enormous distrust between the religions. One of the few organizations that wants to change that is Carefronting, based in Kaduna. All over the northeast, she's trying to bring people back together. Maji Peterx organizes and accompanies these meetings:

"These tensions exist between groups that have stayed and the returnees. It is particularly bad when there is no opportunity for conversation. People come back and have certain ideas in their heads that come from other people's stories. It is important to to create a place of exchange. Only in this way can they learn to understand each other and to look to the future. "

Maji Peterx from Carefronting brings suspicious communities back together. (Deutschlandradio / Katrin Gänsler)

This is exactly what the Catholic priest and the chairman of the Muslim council want to do in Mubi. So far they have neither founded an organization for this nor have they received any donations. Instead, they start on a small scale and at the moment want to be present together in their hometown Mubi, says the priest:

"Whenever there is a meeting, he informs me. We drive there together. That helps a lot to strengthen the relationship between Christians and Muslims. When people see us in a car together, they know: To a certain extent peace is back. "

"Religious separation must be prevented"

The first events with imams, priests and preachers, who are important opinion leaders in Nigeria, have already taken place. Conversations about forgiveness and reconciliation were in the foreground. Yusuf Yaro would like to expand this:

"If the government supports us, we could do a lot more. It could also be a private organization that can help. Then we could reach more people than we are now. Then we could go to churches, mosques, marketplaces, even hospitals, to educate people about peaceful coexistence. "

For Mubi, the once peaceful city with mixed residential areas, Father Alexander Miskita William fears a different development. In the future, Mubi could develop into a city in which Christians and Muslims live separately from one another. He therefore demands:

"The government must seriously do something about it when people decide on the basis of this experience: They want to live where their religious community has a majority. This is a bad development. The city of Kaduna, for example. There are a few signs in Mubi . But we speak out against it and say: Wherever your house is, stay there. "

A practical approach that Maji Peterx also welcomes. However, he believes that it will take a long time in Mubi for Christians and Muslims to live together again without fear.

"Forgiveness is not an act, forgiveness is a process that takes time depending on those involved. In general, I have the impression that the basic idea of ​​reconciliation is important for people. Forgiveness is an important part of it. We are on the right track."