Bishop in Nigeria Says “religious undertones” among Causes of Violence, Urges Dialogue

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese. Credit: Sokoto Diocese

The Bishop of Nigeria's Catholic Diocese of Sokoto has, in his Easter 2022 Message, highlighted “religious undertones” as being among issues that have contributed to the current instability in the West African nation. 

In his Easter Message, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah who accused the government of propagating religious and ethnic stereotypes says there is need to embrace interreligious dialogue in seeking solutions to the cycle of violence in Nigeria.

“We cannot continue to pretend that there are no religious undertones to the violence in the name of God that has given our religions a bad name,” Bishop Kukah says in his Easter Sunday, April 17 message. 

The Nigerian Catholic Bishop says that President Muhammadu Buhari-led government “has divided our people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and region, in a way that we have never witnessed in our history.”

“This carefully choreographed agenda has made Nigerians vulnerable and ignited the most divisive form of identity consciousness among our people,” he says, and adds that the prejudices have destroyed friendships and collaborations that have been built over time. 


In spite of the challenges, the Bishop of Sokoto says religious leaders “must recover and deploy their moral authority and avoid falling victim to the schemes of politicians and their material enticements.”

“We must be ready to embrace modernity and work out how to preserve our religions and cultures without turning religion into a tool for tyranny, exclusion, and oppression,” Bishop Kukah says.

He further says, “Religious leaders must face the reality that here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam.”

“While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members are becoming atheists but we prefer to pretend that we do not see this,” Bishop Kukah says.

He notes that Nigerians “cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful who are marching away into atheism and secularism.”

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“No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts,” says the 69-year-old Nigerian Bishop.

He adds, “Leaders of religion, Christianity and Islam, need to truthfully face the role of religion in the survival of our country.” 

“Today, the values of Interfaith dialogue have come under severe strain and pressure with extremists from both sides of our faiths denigrating the idea of dialogue with their counterparts of other faiths,” the Local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese says in his April 17 message.

“Ignorance and miseducation have combined with prejudice to create the falsehood that somehow, one religion is superior to the others. With so many ill-equipped fraudsters posing as religious leaders, there is an obsession with defaming others and widening our differences,” says the Bishop who has faced criticism several times for challenging the government’s stance on insecurity. 

He further says that his messages on the state of Nigeria “have been borne out of a sense of moral revulsion over how life has been destroyed in my country.”


“No country anywhere in the world is undergoing these self-inflicted wounds, citizens randomly murdering innocent citizens and getting away with it,” Bishop Kukah says, and adds, “As a Christian, there is a minimum threshold of human indignity that I can live with because the reason why Jesus came is so that all of us will have life and have it to the full.”

In his April 17 Easter Message, Bishop Kukah goes on to urge Nigerians to “shout at what diminishes any and every life in our society.”

“Once human dignity is respected and restored, we will change our tone, but for now, our voice must have a sense of urgency,” says the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.