, 15 January, 2021 / 11:20 PM
Christian leaders in Nigeria are calling on the President to protect Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah whose Christmas message sparked controversies in the West African nation with some quarters accusing him of “very serious crimes.”
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that no harm befalls the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Kukah,” the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) says in a Thursday, January 14 message seen by ACI Africa.
The officials of CAN add, “We have had enough of bloodshed in the country and we call on the security agencies to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities. Nothing must happen to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah!”
In his five-page Christmas Message issued December 25, Bishop Kukah is critical of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government amid multiple cases of insecurity in parts of Africa’s most populous nation characterized by abductions and killings.
Circulated under the title “A Nation in Search of Vindication,” Bishop Kukah, in the nine-point message, stated, “President Buhari deliberately sacrificed the dreams of those who voted for him to what seemed like a program to stratify and institutionalize northern hegemony by reducing others in public life to second class status.”
Following the message, Bishop Kukah has come under fire from various quarters, with the Islamic group, Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), alleging that the Christmas message was an attack on Islam.
On Tuesday, January 12, the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), asked Bishop Kukah to tender an “unreserved apology” to the entire Muslim Ummah over his recent “malicious comments” against Islam.
“We call on Kukah to immediately stop his malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims and tender unreserved apology to the Muslim Ummah or else quickly and quietly leave the seat of the Caliphate,” the acting Chairman of the Forum, Professor Isa Muhammad Maishanu, said at a press conference January 12.
In response, the Bishop of Sokoto sought clarifications about his specific faults saying, “I'm ready to apologize if shown where l insulted Islam.”
“In all of my writings over the last forty or more years, I have never written a single paper or article on Islam as a religion. If there is any scholar anywhere who knows, let him or her say so,” Bishop Kukah has been quoted as saying Wednesday, January 13 in an interview.
In their January 14 statement signed by CAN’s General Secretary, Joseph Daramola, the Christian leaders note what Bishop Kukah said in his Christmas Homily “was still within the ambience of the law.”
“We have studied the whole Christmas message of Bishop Kukah and we are yet to see any incitement against Islam or non-Christians,” the officials of CAN say and add, “We see nothing wrong in his message to the nation that has been under the siege of terrorists, herdsmen killers, bandits and kidnappers as if there was no government in place.”
Further, the officials of the interdenominational forum whose members include the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) say they see “nothing wrong in telling a government whose lopsided appointments are against Christians the whole truth.”
“When has it become an offence to speak the truth to power? When has it become a crime to criticize a government in the country? When did the lawful fundamental of human rights suspend in the country? When did some sections of the Constitution suspended without the awareness of the public?” the Christian leaders probe in their statement.
They continue, “If criticism against a Muslim President today, is an incitement to violence against Islam, it then means those who were criticizing the duo of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan when they were in power were actually attacking Christianity.”
In their statement, the faith leaders wonder, “If those Muslim groups who are threatening to deal with Bishop Kukah get equal response from their Christian counterparts, aren’t we going to set the country on ﬁre?”
The Christian leaders decry what they say is some groups threatening Bishop Kukah “with ﬁre and brimstone while all relevant security agencies are pretending as if nothing unusual is happening” and wonder whether such individuals “are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country.”
They probe, “When did the Police and the Directorate of the State Security Services lose their power to miscreants and lawless people who are making boast of their lawlessness without a challenge?”
“Bishop Kukah was posted to serve in Sokoto by the Papacy and threatening him to leave is a global threat to Christianity,” the Christian leaders say and add, “It is high time those hiding under religious sentiments to promote violence and crises stopped doing so if we want this country to progress.”
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa