President Muhammdu Buhari has dismissed as false the impression that Christians in the country were under persecution or being targeted by Islamist insurgent.
Rather, he said 90 percent of Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims.
The president, in an article titled: “Pastor Andimi’s faith should inspire all Nigerians” published in Speaking Out, a guest opinion column for Christianity Today, insisted that the ranks of the sect have been decimated and fractured just as he said the country was winning the fight against insurgents.
He insisted the murder Andimi by Boko Haram was a ploy to set Christians and Muslims against one another.
The article read in part: “Since I was first elected to office in 2015, 107 of the Chibok girls have been freed. Today we seek the others. Boko Haram are no longer one, unified threat, but fractured into several rivals. These splinters are themselves degraded: reduced to criminal acts which—nonetheless no less cruel—target smaller and smaller numbers of the innocent. We owe thanks to the Nigerian defence forces, bolstered by our partnership with the British, American militaries and other countries that we are winning this struggle in the field.
“But we may not, yet, be completely winning the battle for the truth. Christianity in Nigeria is not—as some seem intent on believing—contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today. Nor is it the case that Boko Haram is primarily targeting Christians: not all of the Chibok schoolgirls were Christians; some were Muslims, and were so at the point at which they were taken by the terrorists.
“Indeed, it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims: they include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate, shootings inside mosques, and the murder of two prominent imams. Perhaps it makes for a better story should these truths, and more, be ignored in the telling.
“It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination. And at this point, when they are fractured, we cannot allow them to divide good Christians and good Muslims from those things that bind us all in the sight of God: faith, family, forgiveness, fidelity, and friendship to each other.
“Yet sadly, there is a tiny, if vocal, minority of religious leaders—both Muslim and Christian—who appear more than prepared to take their bait and blame the opposite religious side. The terrorists today attempt to build invisible walls between us. They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one from another—to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.”
Translated into English, Boko Haram means “Western teachings are sinful.” They claim as “proof” passages of the Quran which state that Muslims should fight “pagans” to be justification for attacks on Christians and those Muslims who hold no truck with them. They are debased by their wilful misreading of scripture—at least those of them who are able to read at all.
“Of course, there is much of Christianity and Islam—both in teaching and practice—that are not the same. Were that not so, there would be no need for the separateness of the two religions. Yet though these unread terrorists seem not to know it, there is much between our two faiths—both the word and the scripture—that run in parallel.
For the Bible teaches, “Each one must give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7), while the Quran states: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Similarly, the Bible states: “For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror” (James 1:23). The Quran concurs: “Those who believe and do good works, theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward” (35:7).
“I call on Nigeria’s faith leaders, and Nigerians everywhere, to take these words of concord—and the many more that exist—to their hearts and their deeds. “Just as my government, and our international partners, quicken our campaign to defeat Boko Haram within and without our borders, we must turn our minds to the future. There is no place in Nigeria for those who seek to divide us by religion, who compel others to change their faith forcibly, or try to convince others that by so doing, they are doing good.
“Rather, we might all learn from the faith and works of Pastor Andimi. There seems little doubt he acted selflessly in so many regards—giving alms and prayers to both Christians and Muslims who suffered at the hands of the terrorists. And he passed from us, rightly refusing to renounce his faith that was not for his captors to take, any more than his life. His belief and his deeds are a lesson and an inspiration to all of us.”