President Muhammadu Buhari has once again appealed to Nigerians, especially religious leaders, not to allow terrorists escalate religious disharmony in the country.
He said contrary to the narrative being spread that insurgents target Christians, about 90 per cent of their victims are Muslims.
Buhari cited the 2014 kidnap of 276 Chibok girls, shooting inside mosques and murder of two prominent imams as proof that Muslims are the worst-hit by the insurgents, who he described as “now-failing” in their activities.
The President made the assertions in an opinion articles published in a Christian news outlet, Christianity Today.
The President lamented the beheading of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Pastor Lawan Andimi, which he described as part of the plans of the terrorists to set Nigerians against each other along religious lines.
In the article titled: Pastor Andimi’s faith should inspire all Nigerians,’ Buhari charged all Nigerians, across all religious beliefs, to learn from the late CAN chief’s selflessness.
The President vowed that his administration would not relent in its efforts to free the country of all forms of religious disharmony.
He said: “We may not, yet, be completely winning the battle for the truth. Christianity in Nigeria is not—as some seem intent on believing—contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today.
“Nor is it the case that Boko Haram primarily targeting Christians: not all of the Chibok schoolgirls were Christians; some were Muslims, and were so at the point at which they were taken by the terrorists.
“Indeed, it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram victims have been Muslims: they include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate; shootings inside mosques; and the murder of two prominent imams.
“Perhaps, it makes for a better story should these truths, and more, be ignored in the telling. It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination.
“And at this point, when they are fractured, we cannot allow them to divide good Christians and good Muslims from those things that bind us all in the sight of God: faith, family, forgiveness, fidelity and friendship to each other.”
The President said that it was sad that a few vocal Christian and Muslim clerics were “prepared to take their bait and blame the opposite religious side” even as insurgents continue to sow seeds of acrimony in the country.
The Presidency has lauded The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for rising to its duty of sensitising Nigerians to stand against killings and other evils being perpetrated by terrorists.
It expressed relief that CAN is unlike “some groups that rally against the government instead of the enemy.”
The Presidency added in a statement on Tuesday that the Prayer rally on Sunday by the umbrella body of Christian bodies in Nigeria was in order and an exercise of a civic right.
General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Pastor Enoch Adeboye, led the prayer walk in Lagos while CAN President Supo Ayokunle led in in Ibadan,. All the RCCG parishes nationwide participated.
In the statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidency said: “The actions of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in recent days represent the right of all Nigerians to protest and express their views on matters of religion, ethics, politics and society.
“The origination of their protests is the shocking, unacceptable death of Pastor Lawan Andimi in the hands of Boko Haram. The President feels their pain and that of his family for his loss.
“The President believes, as does every member of his administration, both Christians and Muslims in the words of CAN’s placards: ‘All life is sacred’.
“Whether you are a Christian or Muslim, all Nigerians and their beliefs must be respected. The duty of all of us is to uphold the rights of others to worship according their faith – and to respect the rights of each other to do so freely in the spirit of brotherhood and respect – and without interference.
“This means, however, that we must stop false claims that only serve to divide one community against the other. There is no place in Nigeria for those who politicise religion. This is the President’s message to both Muslim and Christian communities alike.
“In the light of this, the CAN-inspired prayers and street enlightenment in our cities are much welcome as sensitisers to the need for all citizens, irrespective of faith, religion or language, to accept their duty and role in law enforcement, to prevent crime in all its manifestations, be it corruption, theft, terrorism, banditry or kidnapping.
“Without citizen involvement, there is no miracle with which less than half-a-million policemen can effectively protect a population of 200 million.
“CAN is right to arouse popular consciousness to this duty to the state.
“One more thing is this: it is the added need for citizen-consciousness to stand up for nation. Nigerians, only Nigerians, can defend their nation against these abhorrent killings and all sorts of crimes worrying us as a nation.
“From the prayers and advocacy by CAN, citizens need to take an important lesson, which is, that our people must rally around the flag. Together, they rise to defeat the enemy and defend the state.
“In Nigeria, some groups rally against the government instead of the enemy. This is not right. It has the effect of playing into the hands of the enemy of the state.
“We will not defeat the terrorists, nor speed the return for those citizens, young and old taken by them by division in our own ranks. To pull apart is to play into the hands of the terrorists: this is what they want.”