Call for new strategy for Africa

Britain's youngest female member of the House of Lords, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, has warned that if the crisis in northern Nigerian spreads, it could lead to the return of many Nigerians with British passports to the UK. And she has called for a new strategy of direct engagement with religious leaders to help stop the violence.

Lady Berridge is attending the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) forum in Uganda. She warned that the crisis in Nigeria, where Christian communities are coming under attack from militants, including terrorists Boko Haram, may have reached tipping point.

"Some Nigerians are now talking about partition. But wherever you get partition many thousands of people die," she said.

"It's incredibly worrying. It’s estimated that there are between 100,000 and 200,000 British passport holders living in Nigeria. This is a matter of huge concern to the British Nigerian community who number in the millions."

Lady Berridge called for a new strategy of dealing directly with religious leaders - a strategy employed successfully in Iraq. Baroness Berridge is on the advisory council of Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad. She said: "The wave of killing of Christians in Iraq was stopped by the issuing of a fatwa. You often need to speak to the religious leaders who the people will follow."

She described one of the greatest challenges facing Africa as a "huge area of instability, running from Libya right across Nigeria, Niger and Mali". And she sees that continuing crisis in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, as being religious rather than ethnic in nature.

"It can be properly characterised as having a religious dynamic. But from a Biblical perspective what is important is that there hasn't been widespread retaliation by Christians. Christ taught us about loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Christian leaders should be commended by International community for trying to stop the people from retaliating."