The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, on Thursday faulted claims by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other Christian leaders that Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the northern parts, are being persecuted and denied certain privileges because of their faith.
The Sultan’s position was, apparently, in response to recent prayer protests by CAN and Catholic Bishops against what they perceived as deliberate attempts by state and non state actors to eliminate Christians in northern Nigeria.
Speaking at the first quarterly meeting of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) meeting in Abuja, the Sultan expressed concerns over the level of sincerity and commitment by members of NIREC to religious peace and tolerance in Nigeria.
He said: “It pains me when we gather at NIREC or other meetings and agreed on measures that would promote religious peace, unity and tolerance. But shortly after, you will begin to hear stories of persecution here and there.
“If we go out shouting, marching, dancing and singing that people of a particular religion are being persecuted and killed, you also forgot people of other religions are also affected in the killings by same enemies of the state.
“We must not allow terrorists to come in between us and divide us. If we mistakenly do, then we are finished. There is nothing wrong with any religious organisation marching on the street to call for God’s interventions in a particular issue. But we shouldn’t make show of such things because we want to be visible and therefore bring more problems to the nation.
“We have been reading and hearing reports about persecution of Christians in Nigeria and I keep asking myself, how? Christians are being killed, Muslims are also being killed and they are all lives created by God.
“For me there is no persecution of anybody in this country. If you claim there is persecution of Christians in Nigeria, there would also be claims of persecution of Muslims, but that would not solve the problem.
“People claim they are denied places to build Mosque, Churches in some parts of the country. But the right thing to do in such case is to approach relevant authorities and not to make claims of persecution.
“I can quote from now till the next 100 years, of things that have been done or not done to Muslims, but we usually approach relevant authorities in ways that we believe would bring solutions to the problems”.
Also, Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, insisted there was nothing like persecution of Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the north, as claimed by some religious leaders.
He, however, appealed to religious leaders to be properly guided in their utterances and not to make statements that would incite the people against themselves.
He reminded them of their positions as religious leaders with massive influence and loyalty from Nigerians, appealing to them to use their positions to preach peace and unity among Nigerians irrespective of religious belief.
He said: “Nigeria has recently experienced several challenges including a spike in banditry, insurgency, kidnappings, killings and drugs abuse. It’s time for review of approach and strategy for improved result.”
The SGF however, reminded them that no religion, community or business will be speared if Nigeria goes up in flames.
He insisted on joint efforts by both religions to strengthen peace and unity in Nigeria.