The Sultan of sokoto and Co-chairman of Nigerian Inter-religious Council (NIREC), H.E. Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, on Monday openly disagreed sharply on the continued violence being unleashed on parts of the country by the Boko Haram sect.
While Abubakar said Islamic leaders have “tried so much” to preach against the activities of the sect, Oritsejafor said they have not done enough in reaching out to the insurgents and presenting the true teachings of Islam to them.
The two religious leaders spoke at a roundtable meeting with special advisers on religious affairs from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The programme, which was declared open by Vice President Namadi Sambo, was organised by the Offices of the Senior Special Assistants to the President on Islamic and Christian matters and had as its theme: “Toward synergising and interfacing in the religious sector for national development”.
Abubakar had in his remarks said there was no problem between Islam and Christianity, saying that if there was any problem between Christians and Muslims, such matter should be dealt with at that level.
He heaped the blame on what he described as lack of education about religions, which breeds lack of trust and sincerity.
He regretted that while Islamic leaders have continued to condemn the insurgents, they are still being accused of not doing enough. This, he said, was not fair to the religious leaders.
In his quest for peaceful relationship between adherents of the two religions, the Sultan said he had written two separate lengthy letters to the Catholic Pope and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He said when people were asking Islamic leaders to sit with insurgents and discuss, they fail to note that the current situation could not be compared to the activities of militants in the Niger Delta.
Abubakar said, “In a situation where Muslim leaders condemn insurgents and they will still be told they have not done enough. That is not fair. We don’t tell ourselves the truth.”.
“Muslim leaders have tried so much. I have gone across the globe to say that there is no problem between Islam and Christianity.
The Sultan said he and Oritsejafor had written a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan on how to end the scourge about two years ago.
He said he again called the President’s attention to the letter when they were invited recently to an expanded meeting of the Security Council.
The Sultan also blamed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, for frustrating the group from holding periodic meeting to address the myriads of the nation’s challenges including insecurity and terrorism.
He noted that, “The best platform we have used is the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council. We have not met in one and half years because the funds were not released to us by the SGF and this needed to be cleared to clear the doubts that we do not want to meet.”
He however added that some amount of money was released for the NIREC meeting to hold only after he had complained to President Goodluck Jonathan in the presence of the SGF recently
Pastor Oritsejafor on his part charged all Islamic leaders in the country to caution the Boko Haram insurgents against attacks on innocent citizens across the country by teaching them the true tenets of Islam as he submitted that they may have been misguided and disorientated.
His word’s, “It is true your Eminence that Christianity and Islam have no problem but I’m glad you say, there could be problem between Christians and Muslims and the reason is because probably we are not going deep enough.”
He continued “His Eminence said he wrote a letter to ISIS. I have to truly congratulate you for that because that was a very good move. I didn’t know about it until today and I am so glad it happened. But I want to appeal that you also write to Boko Haram because Boko Haram is worst than ISIS. They have killed more people than ISIS, they have caused more atrocities than ISIS; they need to be written to as well. It is very important; it will help.”
He urged the religious leaders to reach out to the insurgents in order to correct their misconceptions about Islam.