Don’t politicise religion, Buhari implores Nigerians

Buhari to Nigerians: Don’t politicise religion

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Terhemba Daka, Abuja

• Urges Citizens To Be Wary Of Those Seeking To Divide Country For Their Advantage
• Says Osinbajo Wrongly Accused Of Selling Out Christianity
• I’ve Been Accused Of Trying To Islamise Nigeria, He Laments
President Muhammadu Buhari has warned against politicising religion in Nigeria, saying Muslims and Christians can flourish together.This is contained in an opinion piece written by the President on religion published in the Church Times, UK’s largest Anglican newspaper and made available to newsmen in Abuja yesterday.

President Buhari, who described himself as a descendant of Abraham, said in 1844, the Rev Samuel Ajayi Crowther returned home to Yorubaland (now part of modern-day Nigeria). Twenty years earlier, he said Crowther had been kidnapped and sold to European slave traders who were bound for the Americas. He was freed by an abolitionist naval patrol and received by the Church Missionary Society where he found his calling.

According to him, Crowther made his voyage home to establish the first Anglican mission in Yoruba land adding that he came with the first Bibles translated into Yoruba and Hausa languages. Buhari recalled that he opened dialogue and discussion with those of other faiths and his mission was a success. Crowther later became the first African Anglican Bishop in Africa.

Today, the president noted that Nigeria has the largest Christian population on the continent pointing out that the messages and teachings of Christianity are part of the fabric of each person’s life.He said: “Along with the millions of Christians in Nigeria today, I believe in peace, tolerance and reconciliation; in the institution of the family, the sanctity of marriage, and the honour of fidelity; in hope, compassion, and Divine revelation.

“Like Bishop Crowther, I am a descendant of Abraham; unlike him, I am a Muslim. I believe our two great religions can, not only peacefully coexist, but also flourish together. But Muslims and Christians must first turn to one another in compassion. For, as it says in Amos 3.3: “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”

“As they are People of the Book, I believe that there is far more that unites Muslims and Christians than divides them. In fact, I believe that the messages of the Bible are universal, available for anyone to exercise, and instructive to all.“We must resist the temptation to retreat into our communities, because, if we do, we can only look inwards. It is only when we mix that we can reach new and greater possibilities.

“Whichever religion or religious denomination they choose to follow, Nigerians are devout. Anything that Nigerians believe will place impositions on their practice and belief is, therefore, sure to cause widespread alarm.

The president lamented that there are those who seek to divide Nigerians and two great religions, and to do so for their own advantage.“I stand accused-paradoxically- of trying to Islamise Nigeria while also being accused by Boko Haram terrorists of being against Islam. My Vice President is a devout man, a Christian pastor. He, too, is accused of selling out his religion, because of his support for me.

“This is not the first time that I nor, indeed, my Christian-Muslim evenly split cabinet have been the subject of such nonsense. Fortunately, the facts speak differently from the words of those who seek to divide us from one another.“Since my administration has been in power, Boko Haram has been significantly and fatally degraded; I have befriended church leaders and church groups both within and outside our country; my Vice-President has addressed and opened dialogue with Muslims up and down our land.

He further explained that “In all things, we seek that which all well-meaning Christians and well-meaning Muslims must seek: to unite, respect, and never to divide. Does it not say, “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2.256)? Does it not say, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9.50)? This, surely, is the path that followers of both our two great religions must walk.

“Unfortunately, those who wish us all to walk apart have recently found another focus for their efforts: the tragic clashes between nomadic herdsmen and settled farmers in the central regions of Nigeria.”For generations, Buhari said herders have driven their cattle from the north to the centre of our country; they tend to be predominantly Muslim, although not exclusively. The farmers, in certain areas of central Nigeria, are predominantly Christian.

According to him, the causes of this conflict are not religious or theological, but temporal noting that at the heart of this discord is access to rural land, exacerbated both by climate change and population growth.The President regretted that there were some who seek to play fast and lose and so make others believe that these are not the facts. When religion is claimed as the cause , and by those who know that it is not, it only makes finding a resolution more difficult.

“The government has taken action to mediate, to bring the two groups together in peace and unity. But we also need all parties to follow the teachings of the scriptures, and encourage reconciliation rather than cause division. As it is said: “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” (Mark 8.18).

“As our constitution codifies, politicising religion has no place in Nigeria; for it makes us turn away from one another; it makes us retreat into our communities and walk different paths.“I believe that there is a better way. To those who seek to divide, I still hold my hand out in brotherhood and forgiveness. I ask only that they stop, and instead encourage us to turn towards one another in love and compassion. Nigeria belongs to all of us. This is what I believe,” he stated.

Credit: The Guardian

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