■ Christian religious leaders cry out
■ Condemn attacks on Christians, churches in North
Desmond Mgboh (Kano); Gyang Bere (Jos); Sola Ojo (Kaduna); Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin); John Adams (Minna)
In recent times, Christians and their churches in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Plateau, and Kaduna states have suffered one form of attack or the other.
For the faithful, no amount of mortal attacks would deter them from worshipping their God hence they have held on to their faith despite the unmitigated onslaught against them, particularly in the North.
Attacks on Christians in the North heightened at the advent of Boko Haram, an Islamic fundamentalist sect that detests western education, which became pronounced in the early 2014.
Since then, Christians and their churches have been various attacked by the sect in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Plateau, and Southern Kaduna, among other areas in the North.
As if these were not enough, herdsmen who had hitherto been having frictions with farmers recently joined in the attacks on Christians.
In the penultimate week, herdsmen descended heavily on a Catholic Church in Benue State, mauled down worshippers and killed two of their priests.
Since after the attack, Christians in the North and their counterparts across the country have risen to condemn the incident.
In this report, Sunday Sun spoke to religious leaders in the North, as well as those in other parts of the country, who said, “enough is enough,” as they condemned the attack in strong words.
They unanimously expressed worry that the church of God has come under intensive attacks while the government has not risen up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property.
The General Overseer, Calvary Life Assembly and immediate past Chairman, Christian Association Of Nigeria, Kano State Chapter, Bishop Ransom Bello, regretted that the Church of God could be so attacked.
“I totally and completely condemn the killings in places of worship. I totally condemn such barbaric acts as we have witnessed in recent times. These killings are very barbaric, they are ungodly and must be rejected by any sane mind. Let me state it clearly that the killing of any Nigerian is a loss to Nigeria.
“I feel that the Federal Government must step up its efforts to ensure that these incessant killings going on, particularly attacks on places of worship like the Church, are stopped henceforth. These killings are becoming horrific and these killings are becoming suspicious. Before you conclude that it is a religious attack against Christians, you will see that they kill both Muslims and Christians and it becomes so difficult to analyze. But one thing we know is that this country is under siege. There is no doubt about that. And the earlier our security arrangement steps up their game, the better for us all
“I am indeed one of those who believe that the Federal Government and our president should again look at the headship of the security agencies, look at the people in charge of our security- something is really wrong somewhere. Many times, it is like there is no intelligence supply, that there is lack of intelligence information.”
He condemned the attack in the Catholic Church in Benue State, saying “I’m sad about it for many reasons. When we allow these things to get to that level, then we are inviting serious anarchy to this country. In places of worship, we must ensure that we have safety. Traditionally, the church is supposed to be a place where people go for their safety. If the church itself is no longer safe, then we are in a deep trouble. Going to the extent of killing the priest and the worshipers, then I think that we are in trouble. And that is why I mentioned earlier that it is difficult to analyze the motives of the perpetrators because if it is herdsmen/farmers clash, why then kill a priest or a group of innocent worshipers?”
Also speaking, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Northern Nigeria, Rev. Yakubu Pam, with the incessant attacks on Christians and churches, if something urgent was not done to check the ugly trend the country might slide into another civil war.
He regretted that the Federal Government and the Northern Governor’s Forum have not done enough to halt herdsmen killings in the region, which he pointed out is gradually leading the country into another civil war.
“I am worried, everybody is worried over the incessant killings, our people here in the North, particularly Christians are feeling very unsafe with what is happening, we are burying people on a daily basis and after the burial, we don’t know which village or state we will go for the same burial tomorrow. This thing is very bad, so sad and I am not happy over what is happening,” he said.
He blamed the government for not rising up to the occasion.
“I don’t think they have handled it very well, they may on their own think they have done well, but the killing is still there every day, we received report on daily basis from all states in the North and based on the report it’s like the whole thing is increasing day by day. The report indicated that people are running from their villages and communities for fear of attack while the herdsmen are taking over the lands forcefully, so, I don’t know how the Federal Government is handling this matter, people are getting discouraged and losing trust and confidence in their political leaders, I think they need to do something to arrest the situation, otherwise people may toe the same line and start to do some things outside the law.
“I have raised the alarm that this killing is leading Nigeria into a civil war, I want the authorities that are concerned with security of this nation to take note and take necessary action, people have been losing confidence in the government day by day, I don’t want us to get to a situation where people will begin to think of the best way to protect themselves and that will lead us into a civil war. I wish that the authorities should be able to listen to the cries of the people.”
Advising Christians not to lose hope in the face of the onslaught, he said: “The Bible injunction has told us that peace does not come from the world, peace only comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, I wish to draw the attention of every believer in Christ that this is the time of trial, we should trust more in God and look up to Him to help us at this moment, if we go by our own strength, we will fail, we should learnt to listen more to God, we should pray, listen to God and trust in Him.”
Like his colleagues, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kwara State, Prof. Timothy Opoola said: “It is too much and it has become too much. Many people have lost their fathers, their wives, and children. Many have been displaced for no reason by the Fulani herdsmen and we are calling on our president of this great nation to do everything to stop the killing of Nigerians, particularly the Christians because when Fulani herdsmen enter into churches, killing priests and worshippers, what are they looking for? Is it grasses they are looking for inside the churches? Definitely, it is not. This is a clear indication that this is jihad that is being launched by these Fulani herdsmen and our prayers today will stop them. Jesus will build His church.
“We are calling on the Federal Government that all those that have been displaced, they should take them back to their land and houses because we say that these people are killing them and they are occupying their land. Many Nigerians have no means of livelihood again, those who are farmers, there is nothing to farm again because these Fulani herdsmen have taken over all the land. We are calling on the Federal Government to do everything at the shortest possible time to make sure that the displaced persons are taken back to their land so that they can leave. This is their nation, they are Nigerians, they have no other place to go to and they have been living in these areas since decades before they are displaced for no reasons? We are saying enough is enough. I am saying that there is war that is looming in this nation because when you push people to the wall, they will react. It is better the Federal Government stops it now.
“Look at the issue of Leah Sharibu, it is unheard of that an innocent girl is in the captivity of some people and the Federal Government is not doing anything about it. We are sad that this girl is being detained because she is a Christian and she refused to denounce her faith. This is why I am saying that war is looming because the people will not fold their hands, so we are calling on the government to rise up to its constitutional responsibility to secure life and property of citizens of this nation.”
Also Pastor Rotimi Adekeye of Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG), Fruitful Sanctuary Parish, Opolo- Ilorin berated the president for his silence in the face of the massive killings perpetrated by herdsmen.
He noted that herdsmen have thrown many families into sorrow and hunger due to the killings of their breadwinners and the destruction of their farms.
“The herdsmen have been ravaging and sacking communities with reckless abandon. It appears that they are above the law. This is quite unfortunate. This administration must address that.
“These herdsmen have stopped the drums in many homes. Many homes are in sorrow and agony because their breadwinners have been massacred without anybody arresting their killers.
“Why? If the president is focusing on Boko Haram in the North-east, but has not done anything against the killer herdsmen, that is unfortunate, especially when we know that these Fulani herdsmen are from his ethnic clan. He needs to come hard on these herdsmen,” he said.
For Rev. Fr. James Nyajo of the Catholic Church, Lafia, Nasawara State, this is, indeed, not the best of times for the Christians.
“Yes, the church and the Christian community are worried over what is going on in the country, more so that the target is the Christian faith, already the leadership of CAN in the country led by the President, Rev Olasupo Ayokunle directed for a peaceful protest to register our grievances. We are appealing to the Federal Government and other security agencies to stop the unending killings and bloodshed in the country, particularly on Christians.
“The attacks on the church and Christian faith showed that the Nigerian security system has become dysfunctional, it has exposed the inability of the various security arms to wrest to the ground those threatening the existence of Christians and other innocent citizens in Nigeria. I cannot understand why security agencies have not come up with an efficient and enduring system that can overwhelm the herdsmen attacks who are destroying villages, shooting and killing innocent Christians, the IG is always taking sides and making comments that are provocative to the people, so the church is worried that there may be plans by the Buhari government to eliminate the Christian community.
“The impression is now that the islamists of northern Nigeria have legalised Jihad, already they have extended their trail of blood and destruction on the church community so we are worried. It is very clear now to the discerning mind that President Muhammadu Buhari is not running Nigeria according to the dictates of democratic values in the constitution and has no respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy,” he said.
Also, the CAN Chairman, Niger State and Vice Chairman, CAN, North Central states and Abuja, Rev. Mathias Echioda said that the time has come for Nigerians to call a spade a spade, saying that the wanton killings of innocent Nigerians has reached an alarming proportion.
He said the recent killings in Benue, especially the priests and other worshippers were most barbaric and unacceptable.
“I think that with these things happening again and again in places like Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Plateau, Southern Kaduna and the rest, and the people they are killing largely Christians, it gives a message that certain group of people are the target.
“To me, this gives a message that looks like an ethnic cleansing. It’s also a message that Nigeria as a religious country, our religions are not deep enough for the believers to fear God,” he said.
Rev. Ichioda pointed out that most worrisome was the fact that the authorities are not outrightly condemning the act of barbarism, rather “we see a situation of helplessness on the part of the authorities.”
He warned that if the situation was not immediately brought under control, it might lead to anarchy.
“A goat naturally does not bite, but when it is pushed to the wall, and has no place to go to again, anything can happen. The authorities should not make Nigerians believe that it has hands in what is going on right now in some parts if the country,” he said.
He described as unacceptable the insinuation that the killings are being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, stressing that “as a child growing up, we have lived with Fulanis side by side and in a peaceful manner”.
According to him, the next general elections in 2019 will be an acid test for Nigeria, adding that there might not be election if the people are being killed with reckless abandoned.”
He advised the government to be all out and condemned outrightly the ongoing killings and restore confidence on Nigerians, adding that “the current situation is like a time bomb waiting to go off if nothing is urgently done”.
For the Senior Pastor, Goodnews Power Base Church (aka Catch the Fire Ministries) Kafanchan, in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Reverend Emmanuel Egoh Bako, Christians need to worry over the spate of killings in the country, which now have them as target.
The clergyman said that the government must go beyond the usual ritual of issuance of condolence statements and act according to the law of the land to stop killings of innocent Nigerians, especially Christians.
Citing the Southern Kaduna, Benue and Adamawa killings as examples Rev Bako said, “we cannot afford to keep losing our loved ones while what we get from government and security agencies are consolatory messages and calls for peaceful co-existence.
“The development is rather unfair and highly condemnable because while Southern Kaduna people are not at war with anyone, it has remained under incessant attacks by a group of ethnic and religious terrorists.
“What we, therefore, demand are developmental projects that would impact positively on the lives of our people and not episodes of press releases calling for peaceful co-existence.
“Enough is enough. This is the time for the enforcement of peace. The government should work its talk. The promises being repeatedly made to bring this bloodshed to an end have failed. All we see is shrewd demonstration of security might and mere lip service by so-called government’s spokespersons after the attacks. This is most unfortunate in spite of the huge budgetary allocations for security.
“Where is Surveillance Operation Team in the heat of the whole situation? What happens to the intelligence report that should help in stamping out this evil? It is very clear that either the intelligence report is being doctored to give the government the impression that all is well because the responses (solutions) to the crises do not reflect the true happenings on ground. Same with the statements made by people in authority that often downplay the intensity of what we glaringly confront.
“Since the security structure and strategy has hitherto remained the same, how then does the government expect a different result?
“There should be a fresh and an all inclusive team to bring about a lasting solution to this ugly situation that has become a national trademark”, he advised.