Catholic Bishops Condemns Persecution of Northern Christians; Supports Emergency Rule
The Catholic Bishops, priests and clergymen from other denominations have condemned the violent persecution of Christians in the north. This was part of the outcome of the International Conference on 'Religious Freedom and Tolerance, Need for Dialogue', which held at the Ofuobi Cultural Centre, Enugu. The clergymen asked for God's mercy just as they called on Christians to be security conscious and be their brother's keepers. Speaking during the conference organized by Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) in collaboration with Christian Defense Force on Wednesday, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Rt Rev Dr Callistus Onaga endorsed the emergency rule imposed by President Jonathan in parts of the north. The cleric decried the situation where out of 52 churches in Maidugeri and environs, 50 have been destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists. He urged the Igbos in the north to consider relocating to the East to avoid more casualties.
In his contribution, the chairman of the occasion and Catholic Bishop of Minna Diocese, Rt Rev Dr Vincent Mbaukwu recounted how 47 of his parishioners died on Christmas day as a result of Madalla bomb blast, while another 147 are left with life disabilities, including blindness. He called on concerted prayer efforts by both Christians and Muslim devotees alike to contain the ugly solution.
Rev Obinna Akukwe, a political columnist and human rights crusader disagreed with the United States position that poverty was responsible for Boko Haram uprising. He alluded that there is state sponsored terrorism in the North citing the example of the recent Kano bomb blasted Bus Park which the state government was bent on converting to Islamic school, despite protestations from Igbos and Ohaneze leadership. The Pentecostal cleric wondered why it took president Jonathan ages before declaring state of emergency.
Venerable Ezeji, representing the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, disagreed with Rev Obinna Akukwe's position that the imposition of State of emergency was coming too late. He believed that President Jonathan merely ran out of patience with the north. He asked Christians to add legal means while enforcing their rights especially in the North.
The President of Christian Solidarity International, based in Switzerland, Mr Herbert Meier noted that CSI shares the pains of Nigerian Christians. He said that “the CSI came to Nigeria to learn, hear and listen to the youth of Nigeria”. He maintained that though CSI is a Christian based organization, it however maintains the right of any religious group to religious freedom.
Comrade Chuks Ibegbu, leader of Christian Defense Force said that his group is ready to assist the security agencies with tips, hints and information that can aide in averting the tide of insecurity against Christians.
Governor Sullivan Chime, speaking through his commissioner for Human Capital Development, Dr Chuks Oguenyi stated that the government is ready to distribute another set of 100 vehicles to aid security in the state. He noted that the South South youth made noise and got amnesty, the North made noise through Boko Haram and got amnesty, and therefore, Igbo youths should make pragmatic noise without attaching violence, in order to attract good attention to the plight of affected Christians. He noted that Enugu State Government assisted some displaced persons from the north to start a new life and is ready to assist more.
Rev Fr David Baka, the coordinator of Justice and Peace Commission, Lafia, Nassarawa State, noted that the menace of Fulani Herdsmen in villages in Nasarrawa States is capable of causing crisis worse than Boko Haram. He described the situation in Nasarrawa State as Pasture Haram and asked Southern Christians to come to the aid of their displaced brethren including finances.
Rev Fr Michael Gidache and Rev Fr Chiedozie from Minna diocese asked for financial help to continue to support the victims of Madalla bomb blast especially the orphaned and those maimed for life, noting that the church cannot abandon them. Rev Fr John Attah in his written submission believed that “government should take the bull by the horn to nip the madness of constant attack by Fulani herdsmen on the Agutu people of Benue State in the bud to stall further loss of hundreds of lives.”
The chief host, Rev Prof Msgr Obiora Ike also decried the persecution of traditional religious practitioners by Christians in the South East, and the destruction of their 'Ikenga', describing it as forms of intolerance. He sued for dialogue and emphasized the need for proper education as means of wiping off violence mentality.
The Vice Chancellor of Godfery Okoye University, Enugu, promised to grant scholarships to 19 students from 19 northern states as show of solidarity with their persecuted northern counterparts.
Rounding off the programme, the moderator, Rev Fr Ikechukwu Odigbo joined the Catholic Bishop of Minna, Rt Rev Uzoukwu in harping on the need for divine intervention through prayers as powerful in defeating the agents of terrorism.
Obinna Akukwe ( [email protected])