Nigeria's Catholic bishops expressed concern that anger and hatred are growing among Christian and Muslim communities and have reached a dangerous level following a spate of church bombings believed to be carried out by a fundamentalist Islamic sect.
"These are sad days for Nigeria and for all Nigerians," the bishops said in a June 26 statement released in Abuja. "We feel greatly pained by the violent events which have become almost daily occurrences."
The statement, signed by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria, and Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos, lamented the lack of security for Christians despite mounting attacks.
Calling upon all Nigerians to defuse the rising tensions, the bishops also urged the government to step up its actions to protect all people from violence.
The bishops also condemned reprisal attacks on Muslim communities. The most recent incidents occurred June 17 when 45 people were reported killed after four churches in Zaria and Kaduna were bombed. Afterward, Christian mobs carried out reprisal attacks on Muslims.
The bombings were widely believed to be the work of Boko Haram, the Islamic sect. The bishops commended Muslim leaders for condemning the violence.
"But it is not enough to issue verbal condemnation of terrorist activities," the statement said. "There is need for concrete and pro-active action to call to order those responsible and to make them desist from causing any further havoc on our nation in the name of religion."
They also said the attacks on Christians in their places of worship would further stress the already fragile relations between the Christian and Muslim communities.
The bishops added that they found security had worsened over time "as terrorists strike almost at will against innocent citizens all across the northern parts of Nigeria."
"Much more needs to be done in the area of intelligence-gathering, analyzing, interpreting and security equipment procurement. The terrorists must be identified, engaged and disarmed,' the statement said.