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Nigerian president calls for peace prayers

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathen attends a welcoming ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2013. Nigeria's finance minister says Jonathen's visit to China will finalize $1.1 billion in low-interest loans for much-needed infrastructure in Nigeria. UPI/Stephen Shaver
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathen attends a welcoming ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2013. Nigeria's finance minister says Jonathen's visit to China will finalize $1.1 billion in low-interest loans for much-needed infrastructure in Nigeria. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

ABUJA, Nigeria, July 9 (UPI) -- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called on members of the Muslim community to offer special prayers of peace during the holy month of Ramadan.

Jonathan, a Christian, offered a statement of support for Muslims in Nigeria as they start the holy month of fasting.

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"The president prays that God almighty will grant the prayers of the faithful during Ramadan, reward them bountifully and grant Nigeria greater peace, security, unity and national harmony," a presidential statement published by Nigerian newspaper The Nation said.

Nigeria is divided along Muslim and Christian lines. Islamic militant group Boko Haram was suspected of attacking a boarding school in northern Nigeria, leaving more than 40 children and a teacher dead in a Saturday assault.

Jonathan's message called on "all persons of the faith [Islam]" who may have been misled by extremists or international terrorists into taking up arms against the state to respect "Islam's true lessons of love and peaceful co-existence with others" during Ramadan.

The British government said Monday it was considering adding Boko Haram to its list of organizations banned under counter-terrorism legislation.

A state of emergency over parts of Nigeria was relaxed last week to facilitate Muslim obligations during Ramadan.

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