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We Have Tried Our Best as Religious Leaders –Sultan

…….. No You Have Not Tried Your Best – Oritsejafor Disagrees

There were moments of open disagreement between the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, on Monday on the sustained violence being perpetrated by the dreaded Boko Haram sect in the northeastern part of Nigeria.

In his own submission, the Sultan said Islamic leaders had “tried so much” to preach against the activities of the sect while Oritsejafor rejected the Sultan’s statement by saying  they had not done enough in reaching out to the insurgents and making them understand the true teachings of Islam.

The two religious leaders spoke at a round-table meeting with special advisers on religious affairs from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory in the Presidential Villa, Abuja which was organised by the Offices of the Senior Special Assistants to the President on Islamic and Christian matters and declared open by Vice-President Namadi Sambo,

It had “Toward synergising and interfacing in the religious sector for national development” as its theme.

Abubakar, who is also the leader of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, had in his remarks said there was no problem between Islam and Christianity. He argued that if there was   any problem between Christians and Muslims, such matter should be dealt with at that level.

Abubakar said, “In a situation where Muslim leaders condemn insurgents and they will still be told they have not done enough. That is not fair.

“We don’t tell ourselves the truth. Followers are not telling the leaders the truth, and the leaders will think they are doing the right things.

“If the governor in Sokoto is told that he should sponsor four people to Christian pilgrimage, so be it. It is government’s fund. If a land is needed in Kano for a church, they should get it after following the due process.

“Muslim leaders have tried so much. I have gone across the globe to say that there is no problem between Islam and Christianity.

“We wrote to the Pope, the document is titled the Common World – published in 2010. He replied us and since that time, we have been having meetings.

“We also wrote to the ISIS to tell them that they should not continue to do what they are doing in the name of Islam. If we read those documents we must trust what we have said.

“If we don’t trust one another, we cannot move forward. If we say one thing here and go back to our states to do other things, we have wasted our time and resources.”

The monarch explained that he had told the President that they had done their best because they could only advise the government.

He said, “Followers should stop telling the leaders what they want to hear. We wrote a letter to the President on what to do to end the scourge about two years ago.”

Abubakar also noted that religious leaders under the auspices of the Nigeria Inter Religious Council had been meeting and going round the country to interact.

He said members of the council had not been able to meet in the last one and a half years because of insecurity.

Oritsejafor, in his reaction, commended Abubakar for writing the ISIS, saying he had not heard about the letter before.

He however called on the Sultan to also write another letter to the Boko Haram, which according to him, had killed more people than the ISIS.

The CAN President said since Boko Haram members have clerics they listen to, Islamic leaders must find a way of reaching out to them and present the teachings of true Islam to them.

Oritsejafor said the insurgents would not listen to him but would rather kill him fast if he dared to reach out to them.

He said, “His Eminence said he wrote a letter to the   ISIS. I have to truly congratulate you for that because that was a very good move. I didn’t know about it until now and I am so glad it happened.

“But I want to appeal that you also write to Boko Haram because Boko Haram is worse than the ISIS. They have killed more people than the ISIS, they have caused more atrocities than the ISIS, they need to be written to as well, it is very important; it will help.

“I have made an appeal several times that there are some of our leaders who must come together: religious, political and traditional. They must come and discuss.

“I have been told that Boko Haram members, to a very large extent, are very vast in scriptures. What scriptures do they use?

“There are still religious clerics that they respect. If these people are not presenting the right thing and are misrepresenting Islam, which I agree it is so to a very large extent, we agree that our brothers should reach out to them so that the real Islam can be presented to them.

“They won’t listen to me, in fact, they will kill me faster than anything else if I go to them, oh yes, that is the truth.   I am aware of that. In fact, as I speak, I know what is going on around me all the time, so I know.”

While admitting that insurgents also kill Muslims, Oritsejafor said Muslims fall victims to the sect for two reasons.

According to him, Muslims who are killed are those who disagree with the sect’s ideology or those who refuse to work with them by giving information.

He described as painful and disheartening, a situation where all churches in Mubi in Adamawa State and other places had been levelled.

He also decried a situation where a state governor would vow that he would not use government money to sponsor adherents of a particular religion on pilgrimage.

The CAN leader said it was not enough for religious leaders to say sweet things, they must   match their words with actions.

He continued, “The problem with gatherings like this is that if we are not careful, it becomes an occasion for good photographs, shaking of hands and   talking very nicely.

“We don’t want to offend each other. Please let us offend each other, we need to. Because if we don’t offend each other, we will not tell each other the truth and that is part of Nigeria’s problems.

“If you come out to say certain things, there are those who feel you are rocking the boat but God is in the boat, the boat will not sink.

“Let us talk to each other, let us tell the truth to each other, let us not sweep it under the carpet.

“It is true that Islam and Christianity have no problem. I am glad you (Sultan) said there could be problem between Christians and Muslims.

“Why should a church in the North for the past 30 years not get a Certificate of Occupancy? Any mosque or church in any part of the country should be able to get C of O.

“Why is it that people will want to build a place of worship in a particular part of the country and they will not get land?

“We must create a level playing field for everybody; we   must deal with everybody equally.’’

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