Can Christians and Muslims Ever Live in Peace?

Can Christians and Muslims live in peace side by side?

Scales of Justice

Can Christians and Muslims live in peace side by side? The African nation of Nigeria has for years been an experiment in coexistence – and it’s never been easy. Today the nation is believed to be split about 50-50 Christian and Muslim, but numbers are disputed.

Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian advocacy group, says the split is Christian 51.3%, Muslim 45.1%. The Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook estimates it at 50 percent Muslim, 40 percent Christian. A 2009 Pew Forum report says the Muslim population is 50.4 percent. According to a 2010 report, in the last national census, 47.20% were Muslims. The government officially quit collecting religious information in 1963.

The Nigerian constitution guarantees a secular state and freedom of religion, and vests in Nigeria's 36 autonomous states the power to establish their own court systems. However, “at both constitutional and practical levels, these guarantees are incompatible in light of the fact that Islam rejects separation of political from religious authority and proposes a unified theocratic system of governance,” says Consultancy Africa.


A recent attack on the largest Christian community in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria has raised religious tensions throughout Africa’s most populous nation. At least 25 people were killed and 60 others injured following a suicide bomb attack in a bus station in the Christian district of Sabon Gari. The bus station is primarily used by passengers heading for the Christian south. Five buses were destroyed, one full of people. No group has yet claimed responsibility. The manner of attack is, however, similar to previous ones by the Islamist Boko Haram group. Its scale prompted Christian, Muslim and political leaders to urge the federal government to take urgent measures to avert a major crisis.

The Christian Association of Nigeria and its main Muslim counterpart, Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the Society for the Victory of Islam, expressed deep concern. JNI’s Sultan of Sokoto is spiritual leader of Nigeria’s 70 million Muslims and has huge power and influence. The country’s two religious organizations worried the Kano suicide attack was capable of threatening the unity of Nigeria and its future as a nation.

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