By Luminous Jannamike – Abuja
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on Thursday welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement in which he said Bishop Matthew Kukah should be allowed to practice his faith and politics.
However, in reaction to the statement signed by Garba Shehu, the Chief Special Assistant for Media and Publicity to the President, CAN, said that the Presidency must back up his words with actions ensuring that the Catholic bishop does not suffer any harm.
Buhari had also said that Bishop Kukah greatly offended many with his controversial comments against the government and the person of the president, and some even accused him of expressing anti-Islamic rhetoric, but that the country’s leaders would act with restraint.
However, the umbrella Christian body noted in a statement from its Secretary General, Barr. Joseph Daramola, that it was not enough for the president to condemn the Muslim group’s ultimatum asking Bishop Kukah to offer an unreserved apology to the entire Muslim Ummah or to quietly and quickly leave the Sokoto without increasing security around the bishop.
In that context, the CAN advised President Buhari to go beyond lip service and urge the security agencies to assume their constitutional responsibilities and ensure that nothing adverse happens to the Sokoto cleric.
The statement reads in part: “We have been watching the scene since Bishop Kukah spoke his mind about the state of the nation in his Christmas homily and how some groups of people have been threatening him with fire and brimstone while all agencies Relevant security guards pretend as if nothing is out of the ordinary.
“We wonder if those who threaten the Catholic bishop of Sokoto are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country.
“The papacy sent Bishop Kukah to serve in Sokoto and threatening him to leave is a global threat to Christianity.
“If the criticism against a Muslim president today is incitement to violence against Islam, then it means that those who were criticizing the duo of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan when they were in power were attacking Christianity.
“In this same country, we have a Catholic priest whose name is synonymous with President Muhammadu Buhari, but the Catholic Church has not seen fit to sanction him because freedom of expression and association is not only a constitutional but a pious matter.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and all security agencies to ensure that no harm occurs to the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah.
“As far as the Nigerian Christian Association (CAN) is concerned, what they said in their Christmas Homily was still within the purview of the law.
“It is time for those who hide under religious sentiments to promote violence and crises to stop doing so if we want this country to progress.
“We have already had enough bloodshed in the country and we call on the security agencies to assume their constitutional responsibilities. Nothing must happen to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. “