Sultan of Sokoto and head of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Mr Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III on Wednesday in Abuja said there is no crisis between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, adding that ignorance has always been the cause of religious tension in the country.
This is as President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Mr Samson Ayokunle, who refused to make a speech during the programme, said he was not in a good mood to speak because of the killing of a CAN chairman in Adamawa state, Mr Lawan Andimi.
“From December till now, we have continued to lose church leaders and others without any array of hope that it will stop. Dialogue with Boko Haram that abducted him (Andimi) could not yield fruit. I am not in a mood to do a speech,” Ayokunle said in an emotionally-laden voice before moving to his seat.
The Sultan who is also President General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), disclosed this at the Year 2020 Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) 3rd Annual General Assembly and Peace Conference, with the theme: “Interreligious Dialogue: Strengthening the Culture of Peace, Justice and Reconciliation”.
According to Abubakar, who was represented by Emir of Kano, Mr Muhammadu Sanusi II, the notion that Christians and Muslims are fighting in the country is untrue, noting that those engaged in the killings are criminals and must be treated as such.
“The poor Muslim Hausa farmer and the poor Christian Hausa farmer do not understand that their problems are the same. The rich Muslim and the rich Christians continue to confuse the poor to continue to fight themselves while the rich, irrespective of their religion are living together, attending weddings and parties together. Communication is an issue. How do leaders handle communication?
“Whoever that takes life whether Christian or Muslim is a criminal and should be treated as such. Everything I heard today is hegemonic.
“The traditional and religious leaders that are supposed to hold political leaders to account for the people are being muscled into silence.
“If you are an emir and you talk too much, you get remove. If you are an Imam or a Bishop, you need money for charity, but be ready to do business with the devil so that you can do charity.
“The idea that there is a problem between Christians and Muslims is strange. At the age of eight, my parents sent me to St Anne’s Catholic Church, Kaduna. No one attempted to convert me to Christianity,” Sanusi said while calling for tolerance among Nigerians.
Co-chairmen of IDFP, Mr Ishaq Kunle Sanni and Mr Sunday Onuaha, said the aim of the event was to ensure a continuous dialogue between Christians and Muslims for peace in Nigeria.
Other speakers at the event called for the establishment of reconciliation ministry to help deepen understanding between Christians and Muslims.
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic administrator, Archdiocese of Jos, Mr Ignatius Kaigama, called for the establishment of a ministry at the federal level for dialogue and reconciliation.
According to him, for the nation to have peace, there has to be reconciliation.
He said, “For us to have reconciliation, there has to be forgiveness. For us to have forgiveness, there has to be justice. Justice and peace are twin sisters. When they meet, reconciliation becomes possible. For there to be justice, we need to continue to engage one another through genuine and sincere dialogue.
He also said that to strengthen the culture of dialogue, religious leaders should be mindful of their utterances, especially dabbling into political predictions and instigating religious bigotry.
Also speaking, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mr Mathew Hassan Kukah and Bishop emeritus, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, agreed with the submission of Kaigama for a reconciliation ministry.