The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, has lamented that Christians in Northern Nigeria have been and are still under severe stress, oppression and marginalisation by their Muslim counterparts.
Kukah in a recent paper presented at the conference on Harnessing Nigeria’s Religious Diversity for Sustainable Peace and National Development, held in Kano, the Kano State capital, said Christians in the North do not feel a sense of belonging despite their enormous contributions to business, education, and others.
The cleric said beyond Kano, Christians feel merely tolerated and their freedoms compromised.
He said, “Often, those in the minorities in given situations of injustice, whether they are Women or Youth, Christians or Muslims outside their comfort zones are often accused of being ungrateful and that they do not appreciate the generosity of their hosts.
“But, we are in one country, given out to us by Lord Lugard and today, no one should be treated as a stranger anywhere nor should anyone claim to be host to anyone. It is the duty of the government to make the laws that guarantee that we all obey such laws.
“For example, how do we explain the fact that Churches are seen but not accepted as part of our heritage in our cities? Why is burning of Churches tolerated? Why and how can a citizen take the life of another on the grounds of religion and nothing happens?
“How is it that across the northern states, you can find land to build a Restaurant, a Hotel, a Cinema House and so on with no problem, but there is no land to build a Church? Governments in the North for example, often say that Christians should seek written permission from those around where they want to build a Church.”
Kukah further questioned how and what is about Christianity that makes “so many ordinary Muslims in Northern Nigeria uncomfortable?” and “what makes some Christians uncomfortable about Islam?”
He said that we all claim to be descendants of Abraham which means we have a common parentage, adding that if that is truly the case, “why are we being denied our legitimate inheritance?”
“Muslims make the same claims but the solution is not an exchange of excuses, but a determination to build harmony. The answer is to create an opportunity to hear out one another in forums such as this. The rights to practice our faiths should be adequately protected.
“Christians feel quite insulted when, as we have here in Kano, land allocation forms that say that the land cannot be used for a Church or a brothel! This is not only an insult, but humiliating to Christians. We should openly show these wounds so they can be washed and treated.
“I hear Muslims say that in his days, the Prophet allowed Christians to pray in his mosque or that Muslims found refuge with a kind king in Abyssinia. I also hear quotations from the Koran to the effect that there is no compulsion in religion or that if God had wanted us to worship him in one way only, he would have made us one.
“So, who are those standing in the way of God today by denying other people their rights on the basis of religions? We are not asking you to give us your mosques, but by God, give us land to build our Churches, rebuild them when they are burnt and do not merely say that the criminals are merely miscreants.
“These miscreants are not spirits, they have parents and they have addresses even if they are on the streets. Our Governors should lead by example and do the right thing. When you stand with the victim, you point at a higher ideal about the future and you shame the extremist. Wherever a place of worship is desecrated, anywhere and any religion, we human beings are diminished and God is not pleased by this no matter where and when it happens.”