, JOS, Mar 11 – Residents of a central Nigerian state scarred by deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians began a three-day fast Thursday in a symbolic commitment to reconciliation.
Plateau state governor Jonah Jang announced late Wednesday a fast "to forgive our sins and bring peace" after more than 100 Christian villages were killed Sunday in a rampage blamed mainly on a Muslim clan.
"I am already fasting, for three days. It\’s a symbolic commitment," said accountant Michael Kwakfut, 36.
"It\’s for the healing of our land, because of (the) … things that we have done and that have annoyed God."
Police have arrested 49 herdsmen from Fulani ethnic clan for the killings and said they had confessed to have been acting in revenge for attacks in January which left more than 300 mainly Muslims dead.
Announcing the fast, Jang said it was time to put an end to the violence that has long plagued the state.
"It is time to forgive and allow peace to reign. We must sheathe our swords. The responsibility of achieving peace is a collective one," he said.
The country, Africa\’s most populous, is divided almost in the middle between the two faiths.
Plateau, of which Jos is the capital, straddles the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
The security forces have come in for heavy criticism over their failure to intervene to stop the latest killings at a time when a curfew was meant to be in force.
Sunday\’s attacks on three mainly Christian villages, launched before dawn, also caused about 8,000 people to flee their homes.
In downtown Jos Thursday, 26-year-old tailor Helen Laraba was among a group of women dressed in black gathering for prayers.
"We are going to church to cry (over) the killing of innocent people," she said, accusing the army of not doing enough to avert the massacre.
"They said they would come and protect us, but they didn\’t do anything for us," she said.