FOLLOWING recent spate of attacks on Christians by some Islamic fanatics in Kano, Niger, and Kaduna states, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN has implored both the federal and state governments including security agencies to take steps to forestall the attacks.
While declaring that enough is enough, CAN, speaking through its General-Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake warned that Christians and Christian leaders will no longer fold their arms while some fanatics and misguided elements waste the lives of Christians.
“The situation is unacceptable to us, and we can’t continue like this. We urge government and other security agencies to do the needful, otherwise it will be fire-for-fire, but we believe in peace and that is why we have been appealing to Christians not to fight back. But for how long will we continue to appeal for restraint since this senseless killings has continued?” he rhetorically asked.
The CAN scribe also spoke on other national issues including the recent development in Osun State following the use of hijab by Muslim students in public schools. He spoke to TUNDE THOMAS. Excerpts:
What is the update on CAN’s position on the recent killing of a Christian woman in Kano for alleged blasphemy, by some Islamic fanatics, and the violent attack on one Emmanuel, a carpenter in Kaduna State by some Muslim youths who were reported to have been peeved that the man was eating during Ramadan?
Both attacks are very unfortunate. They are not only uncalled for, but also provocative. It is very sad that the Christian woman in Kano was killed by her assailants.
We are shocked and saddened by her untimely death. We are bothered by the growing level of tolerance by these people who professed to be Muslims. Something has to be done about it.
It is heartwarming that many eminent Islamic leaders and scholars have spoken out against these fanatics.
This, not withstanding we want the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice. He who killed must be killed. No human life is superior to another. We are all equal before God.
Is CAN satisfied by measures taken so far by Kano and Kaduna state governments over the issues?
We like the steps being taken so far by Governor Ganduje of Kano State to have those behind the killing of the woman to be brought to justice. Some of them have already been arraigned in court. But that is not enough, other culprits must be apprehended. They must also suffer the same fate suffered by the woman.
In Kaduna State, Governor El- Rufai had also promised justice for the victim of the attack – he had even visited him in the hospital. But like in Kano’s case, Governor El-Rufai must also ensure that those behind the attack on the Christian carpenter are also made to face justice.
What offence has the man committed for eating during Ramadan since he is not a Muslim? Have these fanatics forgotten that Nigeria is a secular state? Why do they want to impose their own faith on others? Why are they intolerant of other faiths?
I think religious leaders need to do more in the area of enlightening their followers over doctrines and tenets of their religion. More importantly they must always let their followers know that Nigeria is not an Islamic entity, but rather a secular state.
Is CAN satisfied with the prompt condemnation of the incidents in Kano and Kaduna by the federal government and state governments concerned?
Well it is good that both the federal and state governments involved have spoken out to condemn the attacks.
But I’m skeptical about the usual condemnations and assurances that such will never happen by government. That has become mere rhetorics.
Federal and state governments should go beyond mere rhetorics. They should follow their pronouncements with actions by ensuring that the perpetrators of mindless killings and violence are brought to book.
Impunity is what is dragging us back as a nation. When people commit crime and believe they can get away with it, they will be encouraged to commit more heinous crimes. But if you apply sanctions, that will serve as a deterrent. How many of those involved in similar attacks in the past have been brought to book?
If some of those people who committed these kind of crimes in the past have been sentenced to death and eventually hanged or be made to firing squad through execution, there would have been sanity. Those who want to commit such crimes would have restrained themselves.
The mater is very simple. Let both the federal and the state governments do the needful instead of issuing press statements after the deed had been done. That will look like playing to the gallery. The answer is very simple, anybody involved in those crimes should be charged to court while maximum penalty is invoked on them.
Fears are being expressed that if these issues are not quickly addressed that they are capable of igniting religious war, do you share such view?
Those expressing such fears are absolutely right. We are only postponing the evil day if we fail to take the right measures to address these crises. It is like sitting on a keg of gun powder. It can explode anytime.
But it is not in Nigeria’s best interest for us to be plunged into avoidable religious war.. Go to some of those countries involved in religious war at one time or the other, countries like old Sudan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey and a host of others. It was not a palatable experience at all.
By our nature, Christians preaches love, and harmony. We also follow the teachings of the Bible.
The Bible enjoin us not to take vengeance, but for how long will Christians keep quiet in the face of injustice. There is an extent to which people can suffer in silence? This is why we are appealing to government at all levels to take measures to avoid future occurrences.
There have been reports of renewed threats Kano and Kaduna by some fanatics to carry out more attacks on Christians following arrests of some of those behind the earlier attacks, what measure is CAN taking to protect Christians in those states?
What can CAN do? It is the Federal government and states that are constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives of citizens regardless of whatever faith one professes.
Nigeria is a secular state, and I want our leaders to remember that it is their onerous responsibility to protect citizens and this should be done without bias or favour.
Then Nigerians should remember that citizens are free to practice their faith or religion in any part of the country without harassment. The Nigerian Constitution guarantee that. Those fanatics should forget the idea of one religion being superior to the other. It is a wrong and foolish idea.
Some people have declared that the renewed attacks and violence would have been averted if some religious leaders have been preaching the right doctrines, and again the lack of a forum for Christian and Muslim leaders to regularly meet and rub minds periodically has also been fingered as one of the reasons for the renewed religious intolerance, what is your view on this?
There is a need for religious leaders to preach without prejudice, without bitterness or rancour. A religious leader that have a prejudiced mind towards other religions including Christianity will obviously be preaching wrong doctrines to his members. Unfortunately some gullible followers especially illiterates followed this wrong teachings.
Eminent Islamic scholars have always been telling us that Islam preaches peace, and that it abhors
violence just like Christianity. But where people listen to wrong teachings, what do you expect as the end result? Religious leaders should preach tolerance, love, and harmony across faiths especially in a secular state like Nigeria.
To avert religious war which is capable of throwing the nation into turmoil, federal and state governments especially in the North must take measures to protect Christians — we should not allow the situation to degenerate to a situation where Christians will resort to self-help.
Osun State is in the news again over hijab issue as the state branch of CAN has threatened that Christian children will start attending classes in choir gowns, boy scout and girls guide apparels if Muslims are allowed to wear hijab in Christian and public schools. How do you see this development, and what is the solution?
I believe the blame should go for the state governor, Rauf Aregbesola. Before he became Osun State governor, there was no religious crisis between Muslims and Christians. But since his assumption of office, his actions showed that he has bias for a particular religion. But Aregbesola should not forget that he is not a Muslim governor. He is governor to all faiths in that state including traditionalists, and atheists. Aregbesola is a governor in a secular state.
Although they are talking about court judgement, but what I can say is that Aregbesola is responsible for whatever is happening in Osun State. We at the national level
are in total support of the decision by Osun State chapter of CAN that Christian pupils should attend classes in choir gowns, girl guide and boy scouts apparels including white garments, depending on whatever attire that appeals to any Christian parent.
We also support traditionalist decision to send their children to schools wearing masquerade regalia and masks. Let everybody impose his own identity. That is what Governor Aregbesola want, and he should have it. We are not fighting or quarrelling with him, but what we will not allow is anybody or group to impose his or her own faith on us. We are for peace, but our desire for peace should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness. Aregbesola should not play with fire in Osun State, and whatever happens, he should be held responsible.
How can there be enduring peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims, especially in the Northern parts of the country?
We are always for peace. Christians have not been known for instigating violence or launching attacks on people of other faiths.
We can have enduring and lasting peace when religious leaders not only preach tolerance but also implore their followers to be tolerant of the other faiths. As Christians and Muslims, we should all see ourselves as brothers and sisters, and even before now, we used to see ourselves as one, until some years ago some fanatics started making trouble.