The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, has faulted claims by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other Christian leaders that their members, especially in the North, are being persecuted and denied some privileges because of their faith.
The Sultan was apparently responding to recent prayer protests by CAN and Catholic Bishops against what they called deliberate attempt by state and non-state actors to eliminate Christians from the North.
Speaking at the first quarterly meeting of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) meeting in Abuja, Abubakar expressed doubt about the sincerity and commitment of NIREC members to religious peace and tolerance in Nigeria.
He said: “It pains me when we gather at NIREC or other meetings and agreed on measures that would promote religious peace, unity and tolerance. But shortly after, you will begin to hear stories of persecution here and there.
“If we go out shouting, marching, dancing and singing that people of a particular religion are being persecuted and killed, you also forget people of other religions are also affected in the killings by same enemies of the state.
“We must not allow terrorists to come in between us and divide us. If we mistakenly do, then we are finished. There is nothing wrong with any religious organisation marching on the street to call for God’s interventions in a particular issue. But we should not make a show of such things because we want to be visible and, therefore, bring more problems to the nation.
“We have been reading and hearing reports about persecution of Christians in Nigeria and I keep asking myself: how? Christians are being killed, Muslims are also being killed, and they are all lives created by God.
“For me, there is no persecution of anybody in this country. If you claim there is persecution of Christians in Nigeria, there would also be claims of persecution of Muslims. But that would not solve the problem.
“People claim they are denied places to build mosques, churches in some parts of the country. But the right thing to do in such cases is to approach relevant authorities and not to make claims of persecution.
“I can quote from now till the next 100 years of things that have been done or not done to Muslims. But we usually approach relevant authorities in ways that we believe would bring solutions to the problems.”
Also, the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, insisted that there was nothing like persecution of Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the North.
The SGF urged religious leaders to be properly guided in their utterances and stop making statements that would incite the people against themselves.