CAN, Loud Silence And Despicable Killings In Nigeria, By Louis Azige
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) popularly referred to as the “umbrella body for Christians” was established in 1976 to provide a forum for Church Leaders to meet regularly and take joint actions on vital issues, especially those that affect the Christian faith and welfare of the generality of Nigerians.
Church Leaders whether as individuals or as a group under the auspices of CAN have at various times contributed to the formulation of public policies for effective administration of Nigeria. They have at some points, played vital roles in peace, security and overall development of Nigeria.
However, events leading to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria brought a lot of criticisms to the Christian body. Even though politicians at all levels and divides in Nigeria manipulate religion for political success, the involvement of Church Leaders in the manipulation of religion for political success was obvious to the point that they were accused by Pastor Kallamu Musa Dikwa of being bribed by former President Goodluck Jonathan with N6 billion during the 2015 general election.
The open criticism of the then APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari by the then CAN Chairman, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and the alleged involvement of his jet in a controversial ferrying of huge cash for arms in South Africa brought disrepute to the Christian body.
Many people had thought that the new leadership of the association under Dr. Supo Ayokunle will bring sanity to the association and redirect her to take her rightful position in the society and ensure that the welfare of all Nigerians is taken seriously at all levels and sections of the country. Sadly, comments from Church Leaders under the new leadership on various issues especially as they affect crimes in Nigeria were demeaning of individuals that should live like Christ.
For instance, CAN’s Secretary General, Rev. Musa Asake attributed the murder of a female Christian preacher, Mrs. Eunice Elisha in Kubwa, Abuja by suspected fanatics; the murder of Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme in in Kano; the murder of Rev. Zakariya of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Obi, Nasarawa State to “religious hatred.” He went further to say that all these were “discrimination against non-Muslims in Nigeria under the Buhari administration.”
Attacks on Nigerians across various states who profess the Christian faith are by far, more than those mentioned above. The killings have been painful, provoking and unwarranted. But the Christian body have reacted in a way that suggests that it is obsessed with Muslims while paying less attention on insisting that authorities responsible for the protection of lives and property should ensure that all citizens are protected and save to practice whatever religion they believe in while doing their businesses across all sections of the country.
Between July 14 and 20, 2017, a Catholic Priest, Fr. Raphael Pankyes was kidnapped and murdered in Pankshin, Plateau State with the police arresting three suspects (Alex Bala, David Bala and Dasen Bala). On August 6, 2017, at least 11 individuals were killed with more than 20 others sustaining various degrees of injury in a Catholic Church during a Sunday morning Mass. The police said preliminary investigations showed that the attack was as a result of a feud between two individuals from the same community who reside outside Nigeria.
In addition, on Friday September 1, 2017, a Catholic Priest, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was abducted at Banana junction in Orlu, Imo State and later murdered. A week later, a gang of assailants who also posed as worshippers and took part in the rituals of the Holy Mass shot and injured a Catholic Priest, Fr. Daniel Nwankwo after morning Mass at St. Thomas Catholic Church Ikeji, Lagos State.
In all of these, Church Leaders under the auspices of CAN are yet to come out publicly to condemn these murderous acts like they have done previously in some cases, and hold public institutions accountable for gruesome murder of Christians even in the presence of the Lord. This raises concern as to why CAN appear to be selective in reacting to killings of those who profess the Christian faith in different parts of Nigeria.
It suggests that CAN is quick to rush to the media and react when Christians in Northern Nigeria are killed or attacked and to disparage Islam and reawaken the propagandistic “Islamic Agenda” but look the other way in silence when such occurs, and is suspected to be masterminded by individuals believed to be “Christians.” Or should it be taken that Church Leaders are not pained by the killing of Christians by fellow “Christians” as much as they are when their members are killed by non-members?
It is worthy of note that there are evil men hovering all over the country looking for who to devour and take advantage of. It will therefore, be out of place to be more concerned about the religious, cultural or geographical identity of those who perpetuate evil above the need to ensure that the dignity of human life is respected irrespective of the religious believe of the attacked or attacker.
Azige, Louis Machue