A large number of Muslim youths and Islamic scholars attended this year’s Christmas service and shared many gifts to strengthen Christian – Muslim relationship in the northern part of the country.
According to the General Overseer of Christ Evangelical and Life Intervention Ministry, Pastor Yohanna Buru, every year, hundreds of Muslims from 19 northern states usually joined them in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at his Church, to promote peace and unity.
He said the different sects of Muslim organizations, including members of Tijjaniya, shiites under Islamic Movement of Nigeria and other Sunni Muslims joined them with the sole purpose of strengthening peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance.
The Muslim groups also presented gifts to the Church as a sign of peace, love and better understanding.
“They came with many gifts and awards which they shared to the Christians to strengthen Christian and Muslims relationship.
The Christian cleric said this year’s Christmas celebration came amidst high inflation, insecurity, and rising costs of foodstuff, poverty and unemployment bedevilling peace and stability in the country.
Buru added that last year, more than 1,000 Muslims attended the Christmas service and they came with their different gifts to share with Christian brothers to strengthen interreligious tolerance .
Buru further called on Islamic and Christian clergies to embark on ceaseless prayers towards the conduct of peaceful elections in 2023.
Reports revealed that Muslim youths, in corporate dresses, visited other Churches including Unguwar Rimi Church.
In Zaria, a Muslim group, popularly called the Shi’ites, attended a Christmas church service at one of the largest denominations in Zaria, Kaduna State, as a sign of love and efforts to strengthen religious tolerance.
The prayer session was held at the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (Ekkelisiyar `Yan Uwa Ta Nigeria (EYN), Samaru, Sabon Gari, Zaria, Kaduna State.
The group also presented a gift to the church to further stem love to boost religious tolerance among the two faiths.
Speaking to newsmen after the service, leader of the team, Prof. Isah Mshelgaru, said the essence of attending the service was to rejoice with Christians on the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
He added that the visit was to rekindle and cement the existing relationship between the two faiths.
“Islam says if someone is not your brother in faith, he is your brother in humanity and we share this humanity with everybody, either Muslim, Christian or whatever,’’ he said.
“We decided to attend this church service today because today is Christmas Day, a day that the birth of Jesus Christ is being celebrated over the globe and we feel that we also have our concern to share with them the feelings of the day Jesus was born.
“The coming of Jesus to this world is a blessing to everybody, so we wish that we should come and celebrate this glorious day with them,” he said.
Mshelgaru said that as Muslims they considered Christians as their fellow brothers and sisters in humanity, stressing that they are at the church service to join them in celebrating and sharing the joy of this day with them.
“As they (Christians) attach importance to this day so also we attach so much importance to the day and that is why we came today to clear all the unnecessary imaginary boundaries that have been created between Muslims and Christians.
“This is important now that the country is facing multiple security challenges that require all hands to be on deck in order to overcome them,” he noted.
Mshelgaru advised Nigerians to come together irrespective of religious, tribal or political divide to save the nation.
Similarly, Rev. Tijjani Chindo, the Resident Pastor, EYN Church, Samaru, Zaria, noted that the church received the Muslims with joy and appealed for the replication of the gesture across the country.
He added that the purpose of the coming of Jesus Christ was to salvage humanity (without segregation) from the bondage of sin.
“We are all one, as the Lord has told us to love one another and extend the good tidings of salvation which the Christ has brought to the world.
“He (Christ) has come in a humble way; we are celebrating his coming in a humble way, we are not differentiating ourselves with Muslims. Today we are celebrating the good news that the Lord has come,’’ he said.
He also advised Nigerians to be more prayerful and seek for God’s direction as the 2023 general election approaches.
He added that eligible voters should elect leaders peacefully and elect leaders who have the wherewithal to salvage the nation from the socio-economic challenges bedeviling some parts of Nigeria.
CAN charges leaders to lead with fear of God
As the world celebrates Christmas, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Oyo State has urged governments at all levels and leaders to lead with the fear of God.
Chairman, Apostle Joshua Akinyemiju gave the advice in his Christmas message issued in Ibadan.
He urged politicians and leaders to be God-fearing.
He charged them to always remember that there would be a day of reckoning when everyone would stand before the judgement throne of God as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:10 in the Holy Bible.
Corinthians 5:10 states that: “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.’’
Akinyemiju stated that: “leaders should be readily disposed to helping the less-privileged in their constituencies. Those in position of authority should take justice and fairness as their manta and watchword. They must ensure that the blood of their constituents is not shed because of their ambition.
“They should know that no one can receive anything except it be given him from heaven as stated in John 3:27 in the Holy Bible,’’ he added.
John 3:27 states that “a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.’’
Akinyemiju stated that every politician must know that their personal relationship with God matters a lot in the course of realising their dreams.
“As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, may we begin to see the world in the light of the knowledge and understanding the Lord gave us in Jesus name,’’ he added.
According to him, Christmas is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and symbolises the truth of spiritual life.
“At the time Jesus Christ came, the world was full of hatred, greed, ignorance and hypocrisy. Naturally, His birth transformed the lives of the people. He taught people the necessity of spirituality, holiness, devotion and how all these could change their lives for the better. Christmas shows us that a life full of knowledge and light can take over the darkness spread in all corners of the world. Christmas is a blessed time for all Christians to get together and celebrate the birth of God’s only begotten Son,’’ he also stated.
Christian families should pray together at Christmas; they should go to church, pray and worship God, he admonished.
“It is a season to show and share love among families, friends and neighbours, the entire Christian world should be filled with joy and gladness,’’ Akinyemiju stressed.
Knights preach love, peaceful coexistence
The Supreme Subordinate President, Nigeria, of the Knights of St. John International, Prof. Remy Uche has implored Nigerians to show love and compassion to one another as Christ did for the whole world.
Uche who leads the Christian group in Nigeria said that expressing love to one another would make way for national peace and development.
In a Christmas and New Year message signed by his Chief of Staff, Abuchi Anueyiagu on Saturday, Uche said that it had become necessary this time for the spirit of love and compassion to reign,. noting that it will reduce the high level of distrust and hatred that had been a major trouble with the country.
He observed that distrust and hatred were responsible for some of the social vices that held the country down in terms of peace, security and national development.
“Without love and compassion for one another, the country would continue to polarise and operate along tribal, sectional and religious divisions and discrimination, a situation that doesn’t encourage peace, harmony, national security and development.
“I enjoin Christians, using the Christmas season to show love to Muslims and people of other faith by inviting them to celebrate Christmas with them or going to their various places of worship to give charity to them, especially the needy among them.
“Where there is no love for one another, irrespective of the diversity of culture, religion and geography, there would be no understanding, peace, national cohesion and development.
“Both Christians and Muslims in particular should eschew any differences orchestrated by politicians for their selfish gains,” he said.
Uche commended members of the KSJI in Nigeria for their perseverance and steadfastness to the Order despite recent challenges, hoping that things would be better in the year ahead.
Christmas is about grace and mercy —Osinbajo
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the celebration of Christmas is a reminder of the grace of God, and the birth of Jesus Christ is the beginning of a new covenant of God’s mercy.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo, stated this after the Christmas Service while answering questions from State House Correspondents who were part of the service.
The vice president had earlier delivered the sermon at a hybrid service attended by his wife, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, senior government officials and others – both online and physically.
He said his message to Nigeria is “the message of Christmas which is the birth of the new covenant, the birth of grace. God’s grace and mercy are what we celebrate today.
“The birth of Jesus Christ is the birth of the grace of God. From the moment Christ was born, God said He wasn’t going to hold us to account for sin so long as we believed in what He did – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
“Before we had to pay for our sins and we had to bear the consequence of sin. We would always continue to sin, but with the coming of the Lord Jesus, He has come to replace us and substitute all our unrighteousness and replace it with His own righteousness, as long as we believe in him.”
Earlier in his sermon during the Church service, Prof. Osinbajo noted the difference between the old covenant which was based on performance and fulfilling of the law of sin and death and the new covenant which is based on the grace of God through the death of Jesus.
Citing the scriptures in Luke 2:4-17, the VP noted that “the birth of Jesus brought about the new covenant because mankind couldn’t fulfil the old covenant and fell short every time.
“God knew the old covenant didn’t work and then introduced the new covenant in the form of Jesus who came to fulfil the law.” The Vice President added that “what is required for the new covenant is that we believe in Jesus.”