The Christian Association of Nigeria has supported the decision of the United States of America to place Nigeria on a religious freedom blacklist, saying it was painful but true.
The Christian body noted that the only reason why the Boko Haram fighters are still holding Leah Sharibu captive is that she is a Christian and not a few Pastors and Christians have been attacked by the insurgents.
Leah, a Christian schoolgirl aged fourteen at the time of her capture, is the only remaining Dapchi schoolgirl still held hostage by the sect.
Speaking with Basehitz Media on Tuesday, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, the Spokesman for the CAN President, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle, said that the body was not happy with the development but at the same time glad that it had caught the world leaders’ attention.
He said, “The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria is not happy that the US has placed Nigeria on a religious freedom blacķlist because of the implications, which include possible sanctions if it does not improve its record.
“But at the same time, we are encouraged that the world is aware of what is happening in the country. Although there is religious freedom in the country here, there is a lot of religious persecution in most of the states of the federation, especially in the northern part of the country.”
Highlighting the issues faced by Christians in parts of the country, the spokesperson said that in many states like Kano and Jigawa, Christians are denied the Certificate of Occupancy, churches are not allowed to purchase lands. They have to go through individuals to buy lands.
He added that some states in the North do not allow churches to be built within the towns and cities but rather to be situated in locations far away from the city.
“In towns like Zaria, there are no churches within the city. Bible Knowledge is not being taught in most of the states in the North. Those state governments have forgotten that there are indigenous citizens who are Christians. Are these Christians not free to practise their religion if you said no to their quest for the Certificate of Occupancy?
“All these discriminatory policies are nothing but religious persecutions. If you ask them, mosques are built wherever they desire, and no government dare to ask for their Certificates of Occupancy. Recently in Jigawa State, churches were pulled down for not having the Certificate of Occupancy, and nobody dares touch the mosque in the same areas.”
Oladeji said that Christians are not allowed to study courses like Medicine and Law in some universities in the North.
This, according to him, also affects Christian staff in the universities who are not allowed to hold the position of Vice-Chancellor even when they are qualified.
“This happens even in federal-owned universities,” he said. “A good example is the University of Ilorin, where in the last 25 years or more, no Christian has been allowed to be its Vice-Chancellor. This is nothing but persecution.”
Oladeji pointed out that the Christian body had cried out to the President several times to correct the lopsided appointments in some critical sectors of the polity like security.
He claims that about 95 per cent of heads of security agencies share the same faith with the President.
He said, “This country belongs to every citizen irrespective of their religious affiliations, but the government is not interested. The killings in the North-East part of the country by the terrorists are being done in the name of Allah even though many Muslims are disowning them, but the terrorists are claiming to be Muslims.
“The only reason why they are still holding Leah Sharibu captive is that she is a Christian, and they have attacked not a few pastors and Christians.
“Recently, a CAN chairman in a local government in Adamawa State, Rev Lawan Andimi, was abducted and killed, because of his religion. In Kaduna State, pastors and their families are under attacks by the terrorists and herdsmen. The terrorists have been consistently saying that Muslims are not their targets but Christians.
“This is why CAN has always been calling on the government to fix the security challenges before too late. The Fulani herdsmen are killing in the Northcentral, which has predominantly Christian communities.
“Churches are being burnt and destroyed. They are taking over farms and communities. We call on the International community to help our government to wipe out these terrorists.”