The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, on Saturday said many Nigerians were now using the recent herdsmen attacks to fan embers of religious battle, discord and hatred among fellow citizens.
Onaiyekan stated this while unveiling a N300 million skill acquisitions and humanitarian centre, tagged Marian Soup Kitchen in Abuja. The centre was initiated by the priest of the Holy Cross Catholic Church Gwarinpa, Rev. Dr. Willy Ojukwu.
The Cardinal told the gathering that the rise of herdsmen attacks had continued to fuel division, hatred and religious tension in the country, with severe consequences for the nation.
“There is a terrible wind blowing around our country right now. There are so many people who are fanning the flames of discord and of hatred and it is becoming very difficult to preach unity and mutual natural love and there are those who are already envisaging a clash between Christians and Muslims.
“There are those who are interpreting the clash between herdsmen and farmers as the front line of this battle. Some are sharpening their cutlasses getting ready for the big battle,” Onaiyekan said.
He said: “Concerning the herdsmen, everybody knows what government should do because one of the primary duties of government is to ensure security of life and property of all Nigerians; which means that where you have any group of people, whether they are herdsmen or kidnappers, or armed robbers, government should device ways of effectively checkmating them.”
He explained that even in the midst of this quagmire, there are still exceptional cases. “Thanks be to God there are many Nigerians who believe that we are not doomed to kill one another and that there is hope for us to live together as fellow Nigerians.
“We have done it for many years. Despite the civil war, we have lived together and the civil war in any case was not a war between Christians and Muslims. We have proved to the whole world that we can live together,” Onaiyekan added.
He further stated, “I will go all over the world boasting of this, telling them that in Nigeria, we have not less than 80 million Christians, 80 million Muslims, living side by side, day by day at every level of our lives, from the Executive Council meetings in Aso Villa down to the women in Wuse market. We must live together because nobody has anything to gain in conflicts, confusion and differences. Despite our differences, there is something common that we share.
“What the Sultan and I have been preaching all along is that the things that we have in common are much more important than the things that divide us. Even in doctrine, to believe that there is one God, that is something great. Only a few mad people will tell us that the God of Christians is different from the God of the Muslims.
“To believe in this one God, that is something great. When we suffered Ebola disease outbreak in Nigeria, there was no Christian Ebola or Muslim Ebola. We all faced it together. When we suffered from corruption and bad government, is it as if Christians are not concerned, only Muslim? Or, Muslims are not concerned, only Christians?
“Among the thieves, there are Christians and Muslims. And among all of us who are suffering it are Christians and Muslims. We have a common task to insist on good government, to insist also on honesty in government. To do this, we must come together and fix our common challenges”, he added.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, represented by the Executive Secretary, Abuja National Mosque Management Board, Alhaji Ibrahim Jega, said government should do more for the less privileged, adding that Islam will never teach violence, insurgency and wanton killings.
Jega urged the youth to shun violence and stick to the teachings of both faiths. He further encouraged the youths to make good use of the centre and also appealed to the management of Marian Soup Kitchen to make the centre as active and accessible as possible to the less privileged which is the core purpose for setting up the centre.
On his part, Ojukwu contended that “religion should not separate but unite us, hence, the promotion of inter-religious harmony from the grassroots. We should be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, hence the feeding of the hungry, counseling the downtrodden and giving hope to the hopeless from all segments of the society”.