Opinion: Is it sane to be a Christian in today’s Nigeria?

by Henry Chukwuemeka Onyeoma

Cross-at-Sunset3

Why are the Northern leaders, in actions (forget words) not creating an equal society for all their people? What is it that fuels such hatred for Christians? And let nobody blame poverty and economic downturns. They exist in the South but there are no organized efforts to wipe out Muslims because of that.

Ever since I read the study about Christians in Northern Nigeria in the January 12 2014 edition of SUNDAY VANGUARD I have been deeply troubled. For those who did not see the study which is on page 43 of the newspaper, here are some relevant quotes:
‘WASHINGTON- A study by a United States-based human rights organization had come up the finding made available to Sunday Vanguard that more Christians were killed in Northern Nigeria last year than in the rest of the world combined. Ann Buwalda, executive director of the Jubilee Campaign, told The Christian Post recently that an estimated 1,200 Christians were killed for their faith in Northern Nigeria .  ‘‘We documented 1,200 Nigerian Christians in the North of Nigeria who were killed, some by Boko Haram, some by Fulani herdsmen.’’ The study gives Nigeria the ‘honour’ of producing sixty percent of all Christians killed for their faith in the world last year.
Before I go on, some qualifiers. The antecedents of those who produced this study are unknown to me so judging their bias is not easy. If they are a pro-Christian organization then the issue of neutrality arises. But these issues pale beside the more fundamental question: what is the worth of the life and well-being of anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ in today’s Nigeria , especially the North?
The truth is that the problems of Christians in Northern Nigeria long predate the birth of Boko Haram. I do not want to take up pages with citing the various orgies of bloodshed and official, yes, official policies in the North that show the Christians that they are less than human in the North. It is easy to conclude that only people from the Middle Belt are indigenous Northern Nigerian Christians but there are Fulani, Kanuri and Hausa Christian minorities who are going through hell. My heart bled when I read the interview SUNDAY VANGUARD had with Pastor Oritsejafor; the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (published in December 29 2013 edition). Why, I asked myself.
 Christianity and Islam have been in fierce competition for global domination for centuries. The leaders of both faiths, post Lord Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him), have turned the faiths into avenues for power acquisition and other gains that have nothing to do with salvation. Those who brought us the faiths fared no better. Human nature being what it is, anything we do not understand or seems ‘foreign’ is regarded as a threat. Hence those brokers of power in Northern Nigeria , after the birth of Uthman Dan Fodio’s Islamic empire there, refused to allow the incursion of Christian missionaries. The British imperialists, anxious to maintain their hold on that area, allowed the rulers to have their way. But it was not totally successful hence the birth of Northern Christian minorities who were nourished by the flood of Southern Christian immigrants seeking a better life. Tensions resulted and the birth of extremist movements like the Maitatasine of the 1980s worsened matters. The formal introduction of a highly politicized Sharia legal system in Zamfara State was the turning point for the new wave of fundamentalist onslaught on Northern Christianity in the 21st century.
In my opinion, the current politicking for 2015 and the religious perceptions being created may only fuel an extremist movement. President Jonathan is not my flavor of the month and I will not vote for him but what if he wins fair and square? What is the opposition APC doing to remove the tag of Islamization? Agreed, it is all politics but the fact is that perception and reality are often hard to separate from each other in Nigeria . Why are the Northern leaders, in actions (forget words) not creating an equal society for all their people? What is it that fuels such hatred for Christians? And let nobody blame poverty and economic downturns. They exist in the South but there are no organized efforts to wipe out Muslims because of that.
Finally, a word to my fellow Christians on both sides of the River Niger. It is time we go back to our God in all sincerity. How did our predecessors deal with persecution? The Bible and history are there to guide us. It is time, especially those in the South, to say no to the charlatans, prosperity-hunters, fake leaders and wolves who focus on Mammon and are ready to sell the church for a helping of Lucifer’s porridge. We must throw off this ‘I-DO-NOT-CARE’ ATTITUDE.’ It could be us, God forbid. Such lassiez-faire attitude cost the church the Middle East . We must reach out to our brothers with all the help we can provide. Those Muslim leaders who honestly stand against this blot on their faith by misguided folk must be encouraged. They are taking risks which few Southern leaders may comprehend. Finally, the best thing all leaders should do on both sides of the Niger is: keep religion out of politics; be evenhanded in dealing with all faiths; fight the fanatics who are a vocal minority with both the carrot and stick. They should check up on themselves for in their councils sit leaders who back the extremists. Finally, it is time to define Nigeria . That is why a National conference is vital; some areas may aspire to theocracy; others secularism. How to determine these issues should be addressed so that innocent people can live their God-given lives to the full.
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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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