•Says no place for those forcing people to change religion
•Pays tribute to slain CAN chairman, Andimi
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja urged Nigerians not to allow terrorists to divide them along the fault line of religion, saying there was no place for members of Boko Haram whose stock in trade is to force people to renounce their faith.
Buhari made this declaration in an article that he wrote as his reaction to the brutal beheading of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi, by members of Boko Haram terrorists group for his refusal to renounce his Christian faith and convert to Islam.
Buhari’s article is entitled: “Pastor Andimi’s Faith Should Inspire All Nigerians.”
The president raised the alarm that the terrorist group is setting Nigerians against one another by seeking to divide the people.
Buhari, who said both Christianity and Islam share a lot in common, called on religious leaders to embrace his opinion in that regard and have hope in future, saying his government collaborates with the international partners in the efforts to defeat Boko Haram.
He said: “I call on Nigeria’s faith leaders, and Nigerians everywhere, to take these words of concord—and the many more that exist—to their hearts and their deeds- just as my government, and our international partners, quicken our campaign to defeat Boko Haram within and without our borders, we must turn our minds to the future. There is no place in Nigeria for those who seek to divide us by religion, who compel others to change their faith forcibly, or try to convince others that by so doing, they are doing good.
“Rather, we might all learn from the faith and works of Pastor Andimi. There seems little doubt he acted selflessly in so many regards—giving alms and prayers to both Christians and Muslims who suffered at the hands of the terrorists. And he passed from us, rightly refusing to renounce his faith that was not for his captors to take, any more than his life. His belief and his deeds are a lesson and an inspiration to all of us.”
He paid tributes to the memory of Andimi, whom he said he didn’t know personally but knew him and his church through their works such as healing, caring, feeding and educating people in the North-eastern region.
He said the life of the late Andimi should inspire all to learn from his faith and works, recalling that the clergyman served humanity selflessly in different ways particularly in the area of giving, noting that “Nigerians everywhere, those of belief and those of none, are mourning the death of Pastor Lawan Andimi, taken from us by Boko Haram for his refusal to denounce his Christian faith.”
Buhari, who admitted that his government might not be totally winning the war against terrorism yet, observed that since Andimi lived 60 miles away from Chibok, where 276 girls were kidnapped in 2014, the tendency is for people to believe that the war is not being won, a perception he described as untrue.
He said Boko Haram is no longer a unified group that it used to be as he thanked members of the armed forces whom he said had degraded the terrorist group in collaboration with their foreign counterparts.
According to him, in contrast to beliefs in some quarters that Christianity in Nigeria is reducing in size as a result of undue pressure, the faith is actually waxing strong and forming about half of the entire population.
“But 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,” he said.
Buhari said the terrorists whom he described as a failing group, is targeting all categories of people including the vulnerable, the religious and non-religious, pointing out that at this particular time when Boko Haram has shrunk in size, the remaining few elements must not be allowed to divide the country.
He took a swipe at Boko Haram, describing it as a debased group of people whom he said having failed in their evil trade, now seek to divide the country along religious lines.
According to him, the terrorists do not understand the Quran and hence, claim that some passages in the Quran authorise them to attack “pagans” and hence, their justification to launch ferocious attacks against Christians.
90% of Boko Haram Victims Muslims, Says Buhari
Buhari argued that 90 per cent of Boko Haram victims are Muslims.
“Indeed, it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s 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,” he wrote.
According to the president, “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 terrorists today attempt to build invisible walls between us. They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by pulling us from one another—to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.
“Yet sadly, there is a tiny, if vocal, minority of religious leaders—both Muslim and Christian—who appear more than prepared to take their bait and blame the opposite religious side. The terrorists today attempt to build invisible walls between us. They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one from another—to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.
“Translated into English, Boko Haram means ‘Western teachings are sinful.’ They claim as ‘proof’ passages of the Quran which state that Muslims should fight ‘pagans’ to be justification for attacks on Christians and those Muslims who hold no truck with them. They are debased by their willful misreading of scripture—at least those of them who are able to read at all.”
President Commends CAN for Peaceful Protests
Also yesterday, the president reacted to the peaceful protests staged at the weekend by Christians under the aegis of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) against the killing of Christians in the country by religious fundamentalists.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari shared belief in the inscription on CAN’s placard: “All life is sacred,” saying irrespective of the religion that anyone belongs to, his belief and right to worship must be respected in the spirit of brotherhood.
The statement said CAN’s protest was a right step in the right direction, emphasising that the Christian body was “right to arouse popular consciousness to this duty to the state,” adding: “One more thing is this: it is the added need for citizen-consciousness to stand up for the nation. Nigerians, only Nigerians, can defend their nation against abhorrent killings and all sorts of crimes worrying us as a nation.”
He said the lesson from CAN protest is that Nigerians must come together to conquer the enemy and defend the country, noting that a group in the country will rather mobilise against the government as against known enemies. According to him, this action amounts to playing into the hands of the enemy.