By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has maintained its stand that Christians in the country have been at the receiving end of several attacks, killings and persecution carried out by Muslim fundamentalists.
The association which reacted to the statement credited to Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, that it cried wolf, said it was painful that the sultan would say that there was no case of Christian persecution in the country.
In a statement signed by the National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, Evangelist Kwamkur Samuel, CAN said evidences abound of the cases of attacks on Christians which led to loss of properties and lives of innocent persons.
It recounted incidents where several hundreds of innocent lives were cut short by Fulani herdsmen in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba states.
CAN said: “it is an insult and insensitivity for anyone to be claiming that the unprecedented persecution which victims are well known did not occur. It is also an act of disrespect to the dead. If those who were responsible for the genocide in the Middle Belt of the country were Fulani atheists ‘whose main interest is to protect their cattle,’ what stopped him from condemning the unprecedented genocide? By the way, if Fulani atheists took it upon themselves to be killing Christians the way they did in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, will it still not be called Christian persecution? Do the Fulani atheists have the right to be killing people the way they did and are still doing in some parts of the states?”
CAN said it had not seen the full text of the speech by Sultan of Sokoto, and as a result, it was only reacting to what newspapers reported that he said in Kano. “But if he truly said that Christians are not being persecuted in Nigeria simply “because not all Fulanis are Muslims”, then, with due respect, he got it totally wrong. We respect the Sultan very much but what he said requires response in order to put things right,” it said.
CAN said the Sultan was aware of several efforts it made to bring its complaints to President Muhammadu Buhari over reported incidents of attacks and persecution of Christians by some of their Muslim folk which apparently were not responded to.
“We are happy that the Sultan did not fault our claim that there was unprecedented killings in those areas may be the security agencies would have helped us to unmask the culprits and their religion if they had not appeared powerless while the killings lasted.
“It is reprehensible that to date, those who killed our brothers and sisters after raping and maiming them for weeks are still at large as if they were spirits.
“On the observation made by His Eminence that if there have been cases of Christian persecution in the country we would have raised it at the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), where the leadership of the both religions meet, we wonder why the Sultan too could not come to NIREC to fault our position instead of using the public forum.
“The Sultan should not pretend as if he was unaware of several times we had gone to President Muhammadu Buhari to complain about systematic and deliberate killings of our brothers and sisters and the need for the killers to be brought to book and the killings stopped to no avail,” CAN said
CAN said that a highly respected organisation, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), a British non-profit organization had recorded that no fewer than 1000 Christians were killed by the Fulani herdsmen this year alone while about 6000 have been killed since 2012 and 12,000 displaced.
“Yet none of those responsible for these dastardly attacks have been brought to book. If these are not persecution, what are they?,” it added.
In the statement, CAN appealed to the government to let the constitution be its guide in all its policies and operations.
It said the country belongs to all Nigerians irrespective of their religious and tribal persuasions and any policy that is discriminatory is nothing but persecution.
“We call on President Buhari to be fair to all Nigerians. We would stop complaining when we see a just society where the rule of law, fairness, and social justice are allowed. When the President released Col Sambo Dasuki and Omoyele Sowore, we hailed him despite the fact that Dasuki is a devout Muslim. “We want those still languishing in detention after court granted them bail to be released forthwith. Let genuine democracy work in Nigeria and every Nigerian given sense of belonging through inclusive opportunities,” CAN said.