21 January 2010

Nigeria: Oritsejafor Proffers Solutions On Religious Crisis

Lagos — FOLLOWING the escalation of violence in the Plateau State capital which necessitated the imposition of a curfew in the state, the National Assembly has been urged to rise up to its legislative challenge by enacting laws that will empower governors to prosecute perpetrators of religious crises in any part of the country.

In his reaction to the sectarian crisis that erupted on Sunday, the National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, (PFN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who flew in from the United States of America after his missionary journey, proposed a 3-point solution to the perennial religious crises in different parts of the country, reiterating his call on christians to always defend themselves whenever they were attacked.

Oritsejafor also took a swipe on the nation's media, accusing them of collusion while arguing that they do so in the interest of peace in the nation. According to him, "what interest is the media serving when innocent christians are being mauled down every now and then for the flimsiest excuses? I think the media owes this nation a responsibility to preserve the unity of the nation by publishing the truth always."

Addressing newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos on his way to Port Harcourt Oritsejafor enumerated his 3-point proposal to include an appeal to the Christian Community in the North to always defend themselves in the event of any unwarranted violent attack by opponents of the religion.

Decrying the latest crisis, he also proposed a political solution which will involve the 17 southern state governors whose citizens are at the receiving end all the time, engaging their 19 northern state counterparts in a once and for all dialogue with a view to finding a way to protect persons and property in every part of the country.

According to him, the National Assembly also has an onerous responsibility to enact laws that will empower state governors in the country to prosecute the brains behind most of the ethno-religious crises in parts of the nation.

Oritsejafor, who was very bitter over reports of another crisis in Jos despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew, a little over two years after a major violent disturbance in November 2008, warned the federal government to take urgent steps to implement these recommendations or risk a major religious war.

He pointed out that a religious war is much more devastating than an ethnic war, adding "the nation, as it is now, can ill afford any war talk less a religious one. No nation, known to man, has ever survived a religious war. Therefore, the authorities must move fast to stem the growing tide of religious intolerance in the country."

Oritsejafor, who was away when the latest sectarian crisis broke out, said as a people "we cannot continue like this and pretend that we belong to one nation where persons cannot express their inalienable fundamental human rights of worship openly.

"Why are our leaders protesting that the US is unfair to us in placing Nigeria on the terrorist watch list because of the activity of one young Nigerian young man, if we cannot guarantee the safety of innocent fellow citizens because of religious differences? By the current crisis in Jos, have we not inadvertently demonstrated to the international community that we harbour terrorists here?" the fiery preacher kept asking rhetorical questions.

Short of saying that the National Assembly has failed in its oversight function, Oritsejafor said there are several unresolved religious issues that needed the attention of the nation's legislators.

"There are issues that must be confronted by the National Assembly because whenever it is convenient Muslims in the North shout marginalisation but over 40 years of independence, Christians still cannot get Certificate of Occupancy to build churches in parts of the North.

"For how long will this kind of thing continue in a nation, where every citizen is supposed to be equal before the law? A Christian friend from Borno State, residing in Kano, once confronted me, saying that his daughter could not register for a particular education programme in Kano because of her faith. Can you imagine that!" he said.

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