Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has accused the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar III, of being economical with the truth as regards the endless attacks and perceived persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria.
It insists Sultan is fully aware of the high level of attacks and unfriendly treatment being received by Christians from state and non-state powers, and unfortunately, choose to either be silent or do little about it.
CAN said it was painful reading in the media that the Sultan said that there was no case of Christian persecution in the country as alleged by CAN, that Christians are being killed on a daily basis and their landed property confiscated. “It would have been better if the Sultan had remained quiet the way he did when those killings were taking place,” CAN said.
CAN, however, justified its claims with a recent report that a Christian lady that lives around Gwoza, Borno State, was kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists on her way to a wedding and summarily executed by the terrorists.
In addition to that, it said that a report it received from Borno State Christian Association of Nigeria, indicated that about ten Christians were kidnapped on their way to Maiduguri for Christmas event. The Muslims among them were released and asked to go, while eight out of ten Christians abducted were slaughtered, while two ladies were taken away, obviously to be sexually assaulted.
CAN National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel, in a statement released in Abuja, on Saturday, said it was an insult and insensitive for anyone to claim that the unprecedented persecution of Christians does not occur.
He added: “It’s also an act of disrespect to the dead. The Fulani atheists took it upon themselves to be killing Christians the way they did in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau and several other places. Will it still not be called Christian persecution? Do the Fulani atheists have the right to kill people the way they did and are still doing in some part of the states?
“If those who were responsible for the genocide in the middle belt of the country were Fulani atheists whose main objective was to protect their cattle, what then stopped the Sultan from condemning the unprecedented genocide?”
CAN was, however, happy that the Sultan, in the media report, agreed that there was unprecedented killings in some states which the security agencies would have helped to unmask the culprits and their religion if they had not appeared powerless while the killings lasted.
It added: “It is reprehensible that to date, those who killed our brothers and sisters after raping and maiming them for weeks are still at large as if they were spirits. Also, two years after, Leah Sharibu has not been rescued. Is that not also religious persecution?
“Is it the atheists that are denying Christians the Certificates of Occupancy in the core northern states to build churches? Are they the ones who pulled down churches in Jigawa State few years ago? Are they the ones that disallowed Christian religion to be taught in public schools in the North? Are they the ones expelling Christian corps members from NYSC camps because they didn’t want to wear trousers according to their religious obligations while hijab is allowed?”
CAN, however, said the fact that religious leaders periodically meet at the level of Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), does not mean that all is well. “We believe that having dialogues with our Muslim counterparts can reduce the tension in the land if there is sincerity. But as long as a highly-placed traditional ruler who is also the head of the Muslim community in the country is denying the obvious, then we are not surprised if other Muslim groups could talk in the same vein,” he said.
CAN also registered its discontent with the fact that the government, to whom they had complained about the plight of their people in the hands of overzealous Muslims who claimed they were fighting Jihad was not convincing enough to show that the action was not deliberate.
It appealed to the government to let the Constitution be its guide in all its policies and operations, with a kind reminder that Nigeria belongs to Nigerians irrespective of religious and tribal persuasions, and any discriminatory policy could be described as persecution.
They asked President Buhari to be fair to all Nigerians, insisting that CAN will only stop complaining when it sees a just society where the rule of law, fairness, and social justice are allowed.