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Cardinal Argues for Negotiation with Terrorists


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/11/03

According to Religion News Service, John Onaiyekan, a Nigerian cardinal, made a proposal. It caused some controversy.

The proposition is to negotiate with the terrorists. Onaiyekan is the archbishop of Abuja. He has been working to have some talks with the violent Islamist — political Islam — group called Boko Haram. This would happen in the northern parts of Nigeria.

Numerous governments in Africa are against any negotiations with terrorist groups, including Boko Haram. The fear is the backlash from any discussions and so further violence and militancy on the part of the terrorist groups.

Onaiyekan said, “My position is no matter how extremist a person is, there must be somebody who can talk to them and others… Then eventually talking will start taking place. That will be an easier way of handling grievances than guns.”

He has argued that Muslim groups can help with this effort as they share the same faith tradition. Even though, Boko Haram takes a rather extreme interpretation of the faith.

A Kenyan homeland security consultant and counterterrorism expert, Richard Tutah, explained, “We cannot negotiate with terrorists as long as they continue to use violence to achieve their motives… They are terrorists because they use violence to terrorize civilians, whether they base it on their religion or otherwise.”

Tutah stated one of the only times for negotiation is in kidnapping situations or when the terrorist groups are open to putting down their weapons. Boko Haram, for nearly one full decade, has been bombing churches, mosques, and government installations in West Africa.

Women, boys, and girls have been kidnapped. The Quran is cited as a source for these attacks and kidnappings. Now, the group is spreading to the north of Nigeria, and Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram has killed thousands in its work to establish fundamentalist Islamic law as the law of the land regardless of the borders.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015, stated that 10,000 have been killed by Boko Haram, which is a tragic number. It has been widely using girls as suicide attackers or bombers. “Roman Catholic Church figures estimate more than 5,000 Catholics have been killed in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern region. More than 900 churches have also been destroyed, according to the Christian Association of Nigeria,” Religion News Service stated.

The government of Nigeria has been reluctant to have any negotiations with the Islamic terrorist group while also have some discussions at some points. There was a negotiation of the release of 276 kidnapped schoolgirls in April of 2014.

“Onaiyekan painted the Nigerian government’s response as primarily a military bombardment that has cost millions of dollars, some of which came from foreign assistance funds,” the reportage stated. The cardinal argued for better use of the funds for better relationships and the improvement of dialogue between the terrorist group and everyone else.

Onaiyekan stated, “The aim is not to kill all Boko Haram, but to arrive at reconciliation so that people can go home to their families.” Based on the analysis of the African Union’s Continental Conflict Early Warning System, 31 conflicts are rooted in the unresolved colonial past of Africa, e.g. “interethnic wars to Islamist campaigns, border disputes and civil wars.”

The leaders of religious movements are often the targets with as many as 30 ordained clergypersons killed in South Sudan in since only December of 2013. The Central African Republic had four church leaders murdered since January of this year.

The general secretary of the African Council of Religious Leaders affirmed, “Unless we confront that past, we shall not resolve these conflicts… Religion is part and parcel of that.”

The deputy chief Kadhi and Sheikh Rashid Omar, as well as the higher ranking religious judges in the Islamic courts of the country, argued for the need to comprehend the religious texts of the other faiths. This may help with interfaith understanding, provide a basis for talks, and so peace.

The cooperation between African Christians and African Muslims is not strong. Bishop Alfred Rotich said, “We must have the voice and prophesy, but first we must work on our inner selves… Once we are comfortable, we must strongly speak against violence.”

Much of the conversation is by and from religious leaders and religious lenses. In some ways this is not helpful, and in other ways this can be helpful, it can assist with the cross-belief understanding for those who speak the language and metaphor of the holy books when they talk with extremists because they have a firmer foundation upon which to do so.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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