Every now and again we are reminded of the continuing Christian/Muslim conflicts in the Sudan, in Nigeria, and in the Middle East. Most recently blood was shed in Jos, Nigeria, an area close by a seminary for training pastors I have supported.

Most reports of these violent conflicts have blamed the jihadists. The anti-Muslim groups in Australia always describe atrocities in such a manner. But reliable eyewitnesses are now saying that as people lost loved ones and began to retaliate, mistrust widened between the Christian and Muslim communities. Many Christian young people have taken up their machetes to gain revenge. 

"Craig S. Keener, professor of New Testament at Eastern University's Palmer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, in the US, says we must try to understand the sudden violence experienced by our brothers and sisters in the Middle Belt of Nigeria and to avoid the simplistic blame game. In time of conflict, the first thing to suffer is truth."

The majority of people in Jos, Muslim and Christian alike, live in peace and want to continue to live that way. In some areas of Nigeria the two religious groups have co-existed for decades. But the Government media is largely Muslim and their reports are often suspect. At least Christians make that complaint.

The fact is that both churches and mosques had been burned in the conflicts and young men on both sides have been murdered. Sometimes areas are reported as 'Muslim' areas, but that is only because all Christians have been driven out. This is the same in the West Bank of Israel where Palestinian Christians have been driven out by Israeli settlers and the areas designated as 'Jewish'. During the 'Troubles' in Ireland both Catholic and Protestant Christians were involved in killing each other.

The Sunday before last a Catholic Church was attacked and burned at a time when attackers could expect worshipers to be gathered. A Church of Christ in Northern Nigeria church was also burned that day. It would not be unlikely that other church burnings and retaliatory mosque burnings occurred during that time.

After Sunday's violence, many parts of Jos experienced calm on Monday morning, with Muslims and Christians talking with each other like normal in some markets. Nevertheless, killings were occurring, and automatic weapons fire was being heard. 

Violence reportedly increased the following Tuesday, as word spread about the real numbers killed on Sunday. A seminarian from an evangelical seminary in Jos had been en route to his theological field assignment when Muslim rioters caught him and beat him to death; his body was brought in to the hospital while a group of seminarians was waiting for treatment. 

Craig S. Keener, professor of New Testament at Eastern University's Palmer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, in the US, says we must try to understand the sudden violence experienced by our brothers and sisters in the Middle Belt of Nigeria and to avoid the simplistic blame game. In time of conflict, the first thing to suffer is truth. 

Nigerians have a lot to learn from their brothers, the Imam and the Pastor. At a time when many in the world are wondering whether friendly relations are possible between those of Muslim and Christian background, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye are living proof that they are.

In the 1990s, the two men led opposing, armed militias, dedicated to defending their respective communities. In pitched battles, Pastor James lost his hand and Imam Ashafa's spiritual mentor and two close relatives were killed. Now the two men are co-directors of the Muslim-Christian Interfaith Mediation Centre in their city of Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, leading task-forces to resolve conflicts across the country.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes is a Member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales, evangelist, broadcaster and former Superintendent of the Wesley Mission.

www.gordonmoyes.com