Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, has written to the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Religious Freedom and alleged the persecution of Christians in Nigeria based on their faith and not crimes.
Kukah said the faith-based harassment of Christians posed one of the greatest threats to the country’s existence and common humanity. He said the challenge of rebuilding the country and moving it away from the brink required the collective effort of all Nigerians.
The Catholic priest has come under threat and verbal attack from Muslims and other non-Christians lately for his views on the state of the nation.
In the statement to the US House Committee, Kukah urged International Aid Organisations to reset the templates of their engagements with countries in conflict. He stated that Nigeria currently needed support for education, orphans, widows, and other victims of violence.
Speaking to the conscience of Muslims, Kukah said good Muslims must rise in defence of their religion by reversing the rising perception of Islam as inhuman.
He said Nigeria had remained volatile since independence, stressing that with over 500 languages, the country is one of the most perplexing works of Creation.
Kukah accused President Muhammadu Buhari of running a nepotic administration, saying, “The challenge of rebuilding our country, moving it away from the brink requires collective efforts on our part. However, the policy choices of this government have reversed the gains we made in the area of peaceful coexistence and dialogue. We cannot give up. We must renew our commitment to creating a just society.”
Kukah alleged the stifling of religious freedoms under the Buhari government. He said the experience of the Christian community in Nigeria had been that of a tragic culture of persecution and death, recounting an incident in January last year, when four Seminarians were kidnapped inside the Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kaduna.
According to Kukah, “After prolonged negotiations and the payment of ransom, three of them were released while one, Michael Nnadi, from the Diocese of Sokoto, was brutally murdered.
“There have been dastardly actions directed at Christians, because of their faith. We have cases of Pastoral agents, such as Priests and Nuns, who have been kidnapped, released after the payment of ransom or brutally murdered. Churches, medical facilities, presbyteries have been razed to the ground with no provocations from the communities.”
He urged the international community to rise in defence of the freedom of Christians everywhere in the world to live and practise their faith without persecution.
The priest lamented the inability of the government to harness and maximise the rich diversity of the country for national progress.
He said, “With over 500 tongues, Nigeria remains one of the most enigmatic pieces of God’s real estate on earth. Running, stumbling but never fatally falling, except for a brief civil war. She is home to one out of five black people on earth.
“Highly resourced, but endemically corrupt, a combination of serious governance missteps, series of military coups, years of maladministration, a culture of violence have seriously slowed down what should have been one of the greatest nations on earth. It has left its people vulnerable to poverty, disease, violence and death.”
Kukah further told the public hearing that the most critical needs of many Nigerian victims of violence were education for orphans as well as support for widows and other victims of violence. He said bringing succour to these suffering citizens required not only huge financing but also a better approach to meeting such needs.
“My appeal, therefore, is that Aid Agencies consider more practical ways of engaging Church structures to alleviate the sufferings of the victims of persecution by way of granting scholarships to vulnerable children,” Kukah stated.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja