CAIRO - Nigeria's top Muslim scholar sought Tuesday, December 27, to allay fears of a religious conflict in the country following deadly attacks on churches on Christmas Day, The Daily Telegraph reported.
"I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity," Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto said following a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
At least 40 people were killed in attacks claimed by the Islamist Boko Haram group on churches on Christmas Day.
The most deadly attack killed at least 27 people in the St Theresa Catholic church in Madalla, a town on the edge of the capital Abuja, and devastated surrounding buildings and cars as faithful poured out of the church after Christmas mass
The bombings prompted an umbrella Christian group to warn of a religious conflict in Africa's most populous country.
"We fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive one," Saidu Dogo, secretary general of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said.
"Once again, 'enough is enough!'," Dogo said.
But Abubakar, who is also the leader of the National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), downplayed the fears.
"We want to assure our brother Christians and Christian leaders to stand on the part of truth according to our religion and continue to work for the greatness of this country."
"It's a conflict between evil people and good people," Abubakar said.
"The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message."
Muslim groups from around the world have condemned the attacks, stressing that the attackers don't represent the true Islamic teachings.
Government officials have also appealed to Christians to avoid retaliations following the Sunday attacks.
"We are Nigerians. I don't see any major conflict between the Christian community and Muslim community," National Security Adviser Andrew Owoeye Azazi said.
"Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation.
Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.
But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.The tensions are rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with mostly Muslim migrants and settlers from the north.