THE National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) has disagreed with certain aspects of the 2014 International Religious Freedom Report, IRF, of the United States of America, arguing that the portion is not a true reflection of the actual situation in Nigeria.
According to an 11-paragraph response to the 2014 US IRF report signed by the National Chairman of NCEF, Chief Solomon Asemota, a senior advocate of the nation, the Elders Forum further argued that the source of information that formed the basis of certain portions of the report may either have been compromised or deliberately mischievous.
The letter addressed to Ambass-ador David N. Saperstein of the International Religious Freedom through Mr. Dan Joyce, Political Officer at the Embassy of USA, 1075, Diplomatic Drive, Central District Area, Abuja appealling for the correction of the misconception, stressing “we shall be most grateful if issues like this are clarified with us before they are finally produced.”
The NCEF’s letter reads: “We wish to thank you for making available to us at the Christian Association of Nigeria, the 2014 International Religious Freedom Report (IRF) of the United States of America. We noted that a portion of the Report on page 11 states as follows:
“Many religious leaders publicly supported tolerance and interfaith methods of conflict resolution. For example, Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar held a summit on interfaith understanding in August. Some leaders, however, said distrust between Christian and Muslim communities (and discord among denominations within the same faith tradition) could threaten interfaith efforts.
“The independent Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) com-prised of Christian and Muslim leaders, failed to meet during the year, to the frustration of many Muslim and Christian leaders. The NIREC co-chair and head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has criticized Muslim leaders for not doing enough to condemn Boko Haram and has been reluctant to engage in interfaith dialogue, as a result. Muslim and other Christian leaders have expressed disappointment at Oritsejafor’s stance.”
“This portion in the 2014 Report is not a true reflection of the actual situation in Nigeria. It may be that the source of this information is either compromised or deliberately mischievous.
“Please permit us to correct the wrong impression that has been created by this segment of the Report. The President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has been the advocate for dialogue and interfaith relationship in Nigeria. In the past three years, NIREC has not met due to the reluctance of the Muslim leaders.
“When it became apparent that NIREC was deliberately being frustrated, the President of CAN proceeded to organize an interfaith program tagged “THINK NIGERIA”. This interfaith meeting was attended by a wide spectrum of Islamic sects in Nigeria, even more than those that are permitted to participate in NIREC.
“So far, the THINK NIGERIA interfaith meeting has met four times as follows: 28th January, 2014; 19th March, 2014; 17th June, 2014 and 18th March, 2015.
“If there is any individual committed to interfaith peace and dialogue in Nigeria, it is the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. This is in line with the Christian doctrine of “follow peace with all men.” (Hebrew 12:14)
“Christians in Nigeria are commi-tted to peaceful co-existence of all the divergent groups in the nation and if there is going to be any institution that would oppose peace and interfaith relationship, it would not be the Christian Association of Nigeria.
“We are aware that there are individuals that are given to mischief and deception to cover up the evils that they sponsor in the nation. We are saddened by the orgies of violence and destruction going on in Nigeria as a result of religious intolerance, of which Christians are the unfortunate victims. As can be seen from the global pattern, Christians are rarely the aggressors. It would therefore be improbable that the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria would hinder the process of peace and recon-ciliation as indicated in the 2014 IRF Report.
“We shall appreciate it if this misconception can be corrected. In addition, we shall be most grateful if issues like this are clarified with us before they are finally produced,” the Elders Forum stated.