By John ShiklamÂ in Kaduna
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara have declared that Christians would not be able to overcome the challenges facing them in the country unless they are united in focus.
Both Gowon and Dogora spoke in Kaduna yesterday at the formal inauguration of a new Christian organisation known as â€˜Congress of Northern Nigeria Christiansâ€™ (CNNC).
Gowon, who was the chairman of the occasion, said there is so much disunity and problems in the church and Christian organisations which does not augur well for Christians. He said unless the church is united, the new organisation may not achieve its objectives. â€œYou have formed a big Christian family to try and reinvigorate all Christians in the northern states to come together to work together for the good of the Christian community in north without fear or favour.
â€œAs you know, there are sometimes problems in many churches and organisations, there is so much disunity among various churches and organisations and that certainly does not augur well for the Christian communityâ€,Â the former leader said.
He howver, urged Christians to pray for unity in their various churches so that there can be unity in the CNNC. â€œI request that you pray so that there is unity in your church before you can have unity in this sort of congress where all the Christian community, irrespective of denomination are coming together to look at the problem facing the community in this part of the country or throughout the country.
â€œUnless there is that unity, you will not be able to contributeÂ to this very big organisation that is coming up today. Let there be church unity in your respective churches and organisations or denominations and let there be unity in this congressâ€, Gowon advised.
He noted that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is the umbrella body for all Christians throughout the country and urged the new body to work with CAN â€œWe hope that CAN leadership will let you run the thoughts and ideas that you wantâ€, Gowon said.
Dogara, who was the special guest at the occasion, lamented that one of the most serious challenges facing the church was lack of unity. He said it was not for nothing that Jesus prayed for the unity of the church.
â€œJesus Christ must have known something about unity that we are missing. I even wondered how Christ feels when we talk about denominations more than the unityÂ of the church.
â€œWe work for the division of the church more than bringing believers together, not minding the fact that Christ was not a member of these denominations that are of importance to us. If we have this understanding, we will be able to face challenges facing the church.
â€œYou know the church wasnâ€™t meant to be defended by anyone. No government can defend the church, no Christian elite can defend the church. The church is to be defended by God Himself. No one will succeed in subsuming the church. Anyone, any nation, any kingdom that has ever tried it in the past, has come to nought, and it will not be different going forward.
â€œBut the most important challenge facing us is the question of unity. Letâ€™s leaveÂ the defence of the church and faith to God. Anyone who is not fighting for the unity of the body of Christ, which is the church, is fighting against Christ and that is the truthâ€, the speaker said.
According to him, the enemy of the church, is not the persecution the ChristiansÂ go through, â€œbut the biggest enemy of the church is disobedience. I fully identified with the vision of the founding fathers of this congress and I will do everything humanly possible within my power to support themâ€, he said.
Speaking earlier, the interim chairman of the CNC, Prof. Adamu Baikie said the formation of the organisation was informed by the desire to unite Christians in the north.
Baikie, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, said â€œWe are also committed to creating awareness among northern Nigeria Christians to stand firm against every form of violence, discrimination and intimidation being meted out to any citizen of this country; and above all, work towards the unity and indivisibility of the Nigerian state.â€
He said the congress is not a political organisation nor is it a front for any political party.
â€œWe shall also resist any attempt to clandestinely use the platform of the congress to promote the political interests of any individual or group of individuals. We are not unmindful of the fact that there are other organisations or religious associations that abound in the country, the north in particular. We have no desire to whatsoever to undermine their efforts or obliterate their very existenceâ€, he said.