Two prominent Nigerian religious leaders the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, yesterday, openly differed on the war being waged against Nigeria by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Although the two religious leaders agreed that the Boko Haram sect had committed serious havoc against the country and its people, they disagreed sharply on why the sect has continued to unleash unabated violence on the nation.
The two men of God spoke at a roundtable meeting with special advisers on religious affairs drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The programme with the theme “Toward synergising and interfacing in the religious sector for national development” organised by the Offices of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Islamic and Christian Matters was declared open by Vice President Namadi Sambo.
In effect, Abubakar had insisted that Islamic leaders had done their best to dissuade the sect from committing further destruction of lives and property while the CAN President punctured the claim, saying that the Islamic leaders had not done enough in that regard.
Muslim leaders have tried so much—Sultan
According to the Sultan, Islamic leaders have “tried so much” to preach against the activities of the sect but Oritsejafor said such effort was not strong enough to prevent the insurgents from further mayhem.
The Sultan maintained that there was no problem between Islam and Christianity in Nigeria, pointing out that if there was any problem between the two major religions, it would have been dealt with at that level.
Abubakar, however, blamed the rising level of insurgence on lack of education about religions which breeds lack of trust and sincerity.
He regretted that while Islamic leaders have continued to condemn the insurgents, they are still being accused of not doing enough. This, he said, was not fair to the religious leaders.
He said, he had personally gone across the globe to preach peace and uphold the fact that there is no problem between Islam and Christianity.
In his quest for peaceful relationship between adherents of the two religions, the Sultan said he had written two separate lengthy letters to the Catholic Pope and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He said when people were asking Islamic leaders to sit with insurgents and discuss, they fail to note that the current situation could not be compared to the activities of militants in the Niger Delta.
Abubakar said: “In a situation where Muslim leaders condemn insurgents and they will still be told they have not done enough. That is not fair. We don’t tell ourselves the truth. Followers are not telling the leaders the truth, and the leaders will think they are doing the right things.
“If the governor in Sokoto is told that he should sponsor four people to Christian pilgrimage, so be it. It is government’s fund. If a land is needed in Kano for a church, they should get it after following the due process.
“Muslim leaders have tried so much. I have gone across the globe to say that there is no problem between Islam and Christianity.
We are not going deep enough —Oritsejafor
Oritsejafor said: “But if we would come together there must be sincerity, equality, fear of God and genuine love for one another. The problem with gatherings like this is that if we are not careful it becomes an occasion for good photographs, we shake hands, we talk very nicely, we are all politically correct. We don’t want to offend each other.
Please let’s offend each other, we need to. Because if we don’t offend each other, we will not tell each other the truth and that is part of Nigeria’s problem.
“If you come out to say certain things, there are those who feel you are rocking the boat, but God is in the boat, the boat will not sink. Let us talk to each other, let’s tell the truth to each other and let’s not sweep it under the carpet. When we finish the opening ceremony and you go into the close door session, lay all the cards on the table.
“It is truth your Eminence that Christianity and Islam have no problem but I’m glad you said, there could be problem between Christians and Muslims and the reason is because probably we are not going deep enough.”
Likening Nigeria to the boat in the Holy Bible that wanted to sink with Jesus Christ on board but did not sink, he noted that many things have happened in Nigeria that have rocked the boat, but the boat has remained standing.
He said: “Some are religious, political, tribal, but different things have happened that have rocked the boat. But let me still thank the Lord that the boat is still floating.”
Querying why a church in the North in the last 30 years have not been able to get a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for land, he said any mosque or church should be able to get C of O anywhere in the country.
Letter to Boko Haram
He charged the Sultan to also write a letter to Boko Haram to stop their attacks and not just the letter to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He said: “His Eminence said he wrote a letter to ISIS, I have to truly congratulate you for that because that was a very good move. I didn’t know about it until today and I am so glad it happened. But I want to appeal that you also write to Boko Haram because Boko Haram is worst than ISIS. They have killed more people than ISIS, they have caused more atrocities than ISIS. They need to be written to as well, it is very important it will help.”
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