*Says South-west may be next battle ground
BY Sam Eyoboka
THE leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the South-west has accepted a challenge of mobilizing the Church to put an end to Islamic intolerance in the nation.
Chairman of CAN South-west also declared a 31-day fasting and prayers programme for the persecuted Church in Nigeria with effect from January 14.
President of Christian Welfare Initiative (CWI), who doubles as the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), South-west Zone, Archbishop Magnus Atilade, urged Christians to join in the prayer programme, noting that denominations/ministries which had begun fasting and prayers programme in this season should add the prayers for the persecuted Church to their prayer schedules in addition to praying against any Islamic agenda.
He maintained that Christians should use the period to draw attention of the entire country, as well as other nations of the world, to the growing security threats to Christians in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
”We affirm that Nigeria is a secular society in which all the citizens have free right to live, work, and express their faith according to their individual convictions. If the secularity of Nigeria has in any way been reviewed or modified, we are not aware,” he stated, adding that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and the right to worship God according to individual conviction,” Atilade stated..
”We are however disturbed, and very alarmed, at the rate and consistency with which Christians are being slaughtered in northern Nigeria, in a manner similar to the genocide in Rwanda. The brutality, cruelty and inhuman manner in which Nigerian Christians are being systematically and consistently slaughtered by individuals claiming to be adherents of the Islamic faith has reached an alarming proportion that we are compelled to speak out. THIS IS INHUMAN!
”In the northern parts of the country, these individuals and groups of individuals have been operating for years with impunity and without regard for law and order, or respect for the right of other Nigerians to live and express their faith in God according to their choice.”
He outlined several instances since March 2010 when the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, had caused mayhem all over the North killing Christians and destroying properties, while Fulani herdsmen are on the rampage all over the nation killing people at will, with a high concentration of their atrocities in the Middle Belt.
According to Atilade, the Fulani herdsmen are fast becoming notorious as a harbinger of destruction wherever they lead their cattle to, in the Middle Belt, South-west and in the South-east.
”It is quite amazing that these Fulani herdsmen are yet to be convicted of mass murder. It is equally disheartening that even moderate Muslims that do not seem to support these agents of death and destruction are also targeted and killed by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group. It is very unfortunate that innocent students are also massacred by these terrorists,” the CAN leader stated..
”While attacks have been reported against moderate Muslims that do not support these insurgents, it is clear to the whole world that the main target of these terrorist attacks by both Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen are Christians in Nigeria.
”While some mischievous elements in the media have attempted portraying these killings as ethnic or socio-economic related clashes, the pattern of the attacks confirm that it is a religious war, patterned after the Islamic Jihad. According to the World Watch List, The majority of the incidents of conflicts that have been reported in the international media as ‘clashes’ between Muslims and Christians in actual fact have been one-sided violence against Christians.”
Continuing, he said as a result of these crises, thousands of Christian men, women and children have been murdered, thousands of children have become orphans, thousands of women are widowed, while innumerable Christian men and women have been maimed and mutilated.
”It is unbelievable that in this age and period, human beings could descend to such level of inhuman barbarity and cruelty while claiming divine mandate. Nigerian citizens have been hacked to death with machete, their throats have been slit with knives like rams, their heads have been severed from their necks with the saw carpenters use on wood, the barrel of AK 47 has been placed on their nose before being fired, the stomach of pregnant women were ripped open with knives, they have been burnt alive, and all manners of unprintable atrocities have been committed by some Nigerian citizens against other Nigerian citizens all in the name of expanding a religion,” he stated..
”In Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Bauchi, Kogi, Niger, Nassarawa, Taraba, Kano, Kaduna, Gombe states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, individuals and groups of individuals, claiming Islamic injunction, have been routinely killing, bombing, maiming and mutilating Christians. Properties of Christians are being destroyed and their places of worship as well as business locations are routinely burnt and destroyed.
”The situation reached a crescendo that the Federal Government was compelled to impose a state of emergency in the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa on May 14, 2013. Despite the emergency rule, the Islamic terrorists did not relent in their attacks.”.
Atilade maintained that the 2013 World Watch List report showed that 66% of Christians killed, globally, were Nigerian Christians.
Wondering why there is a conspiracy of silence over the emerging religious war in Nigeria, the archbishop attempted to give reasons why the situation persists, noting that what is more distressing is the valid information that the incessant bloodshed is a culmination of a carefully planned agenda to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state and Africa as an Islamic continent.
Members of the Boko Haram, he argued, have clearly announced that their objective is to Islamize Nigeria. “We are aware that a meeting was held many years ago to strategize on Islamizing Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. We are also aware that eradication of Christian groups resistant to Islamic conversion was advocated in a conference held in Abuja in 1989.. That Islamic agenda is unfolding before our eyes today,” the archbishop said..
”We wish to use this medium to alert Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the South-west, that there is an Islamic agenda that has been launched against Nigeria, and the trend of events seems to point in the direction of the South-west as the next battle ground. There seems to be a gradual plot to make Islam the dominant religion in the region.
”We cannot understand why the political party that is currently ruling in the South-west fielded mostly Muslims as its governorship candidates. 80 per cent of the governors of this political party in the South-west are Muslims. It is a gross imbalance that must be redressed without delay.
“To add to our apprehension, Osun State Gov. Rauf Aregbesola has commenced taking decisions and introducing policies that are clearly anti-Christian.
”Osun State under Gov. Aregbesola is not hiding its intolerance and disdain for the Christian faith. Recently, as a direct result of his policies, a Christian secondary school in Osun was invaded by Muslims and the principal was nearly beaten into a state of coma. It is by a stroke of divine intervention that he did not die.
To date, we are yet to witness the prosecution of the Muslims who perpetrated that dastardly act.
”Christians in Nigeria should be warned not to underestimate the unfolding Islamic agenda in the country. Historically, nations like Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and so on, were Christian nations before they were overran by Islam. Not only were they overrun by Islam, their culture and governance were taken over by Arabs. If a nation like Turkey could be Islamized, Christians in Nigeria should not assume that the Islamization agenda is an idle threat.”
He advised Christians in the South-west, who have concluded that the region is immune to such attacks, to study carefully what is unfolding in Osun, noting that “developments in Osun State clearly confirm that there is cause for concern.”
”We wish to state clearly that those of us who are Christians in Nigeria shall not renounce Christianity, and neither shall we convert to Islam. We are Christians by choice, and we choose to remain Christians. We are persuaded that no human being needs to be forced or coerced to accept a gift. A gift that comes with a sword as an alternative is a questionable gift. It is a suspicious gift. Every gift speaks for itself and forceful persuasion becomes unnecessary,” the CAN leader stated.
On politics of religion, Atilade observed that it is worrisome that religion is gradually becoming the defining factor in politics in the country.
”We are also disturbed by the consistent intensity with which Muslim politicians seek to destabilize the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. We clearly remember that before his election, certain Muslim politicians threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable for him should he exercise his constitutional right of seeking election as the president of Nigeria. Events that have unfolded after his election, starting with the post-election violence in 2011, proved that it was not an idle threat,” he stressed.
”We appeal to our fellow Muslim citizens that are determined to cause problem in the nation, that Nigeria belongs to both Christians and Muslims. Every Nigerian has the constitutional right to seek elective office and no one should be harassed or intimidated for doing so. In addition, we are observing the emergence of political gatherings with conflicting signals about its religious intent.
”As Christians, we welcome an all-inclusive political party that will protect the interests of all Nigerian citizens, irrespective of tribe, religion, or social status. The unfortunate religious persecution in the northern parts of Nigeria is an eye-opener and calls for caution in establishing political associations. The current imbalance in the religious structure in the North of Nigeria that is gradually being replicated in the South West demands serious attention by all leaders of the church in Nigeria.”
Undoubtedly, he continued, the unbalanced control of the political machinery by a religion in the northern parts of Nigeria is at the bedrock of the current religious intolerance that is plaguing the region. To have such structure replicated at any other zone in the country should be of grave concern to every Nigerian.
”Therefore, at the Christian Welfare Initiative (CWI) and the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN), South-west, we recommend as follows: Christians all over Nigeria and in the South West in particular, should embark on prayer and fasting from January 14 – February 14, 2014 for the Church in Nigeria and for the nation. Prayers should be mobilized that every conspiracy that has been conceived against Christians in Nigeria shall fail.
“We call on Nigeria’s president, the Inspector General of Police and the governors of the states where mass murder is being committed to come up with effective and proactive policing strategies to ensure that no Nigerian citizen or village becomes a soft target for the harbingers of terror.
”The use of technology (drones and CCTV) for surveillance and rapid response purposes by security agents should be employed. We wish to inform our Muslim relatives in the South-west that any Islamic violence in Yoruba land portends grave danger, not only to Christians, but also to Muslims. Sometime in 2013, when the terrorists from the North attempted to blow up the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, they did not make plans to evacuate Muslims from the impending disaster. If they had succeeded, they would have killed both Christians and Muslims. As we see in the North, Boko Haram is killing both Christians and Muslims.
”Therefore, Muslims in the South-west should join the clarion call that the secularity of the region must be maintained. No Yoruba man or woman will profit from any Islamization agenda in the South-west. For our sake and for the sake of our descendants, we must maintain the delicate balance of our society so that Yorubaland does not become the next Syria, Iraq, or Somalia.
”It is a common saying with our people that ‘we shall not adopt insanity with religion’. What is going on in the North of Nigeria must be prevented from taking place in the South-west.
”Christians in the South West must raise their voices and demand that the next governor of Lagos State in 2015 must be a genuine Christian. After 16 years of Muslim governors, it is only fair that the next governor should be a Christian.
This is in keeping with the secular nature of the nation and maintains the delicate balance in our society.
We are equally concerned about the gradual Islamization of the civil service structure in states where the governor is a Muslim. There is a visible lopsided appointment of directors, permanent secretaries, and heads of parastatals in favor of Muslims.
”This is the scenario in the 12 Sharia states in northern Nigeria and it is disturbing that it is being replicated in the South-west. It must be reversed immediately, in the best interest of our people.”