4 February 2013

Nigeria: CAN Warns El-Rufai Again Over Controversial 'Jesus' Joke Retweet

The Christian Association of Nigeria has confirmed that it indeed issued a statement on Sunday warning former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nasir El-Rufai, to desist from making any statement that would disparage the Christian faith.

The National General Secretary of the Association, Musa Asake, had in the statement threatened to let go of its members' anger at Mr. El-Rufai, if he does not desist from statements that are inciting and contemptuous of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Asake expressed concern over Mr. El-Rufai's "unrepentant and unremorseful conduct", saying they cannot guarantee any restraint by Christians against him the "next time he makes any other explosive statement that impugns on the Person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ."

When PREMIUM TIMES called the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Secretariat to confirm if the statement did originate from there, a male official who identified himself as an aide to the General Secretary said the latter was busy on official duty. He said the statement did come from Mr. Asake.

According to Mr. Asake, in the statement, in spite of warnings for Mr. El-Rufai to stop such provocative and disrespectful comments that carry chains of implications, the latter had gone ahead to post a response considered insulting to the Christian faith.

The former Minister stirred the anger of some Christians on Twitter penultimate Sunday when he re-tweeted an analogy that appeared offensive to Jesus Christ. The former minister said it was intended to be a criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan's insensitivity to criticisms of his administration's policies.

Though he later posted a statement on his Facebook page apologising to those that saw the tweet as offensive, his explanation that he did not mean the statement to come across as an insult to the Christian faith, inflamed the passion among some followers of the faith

"I must say I am taken aback by the extent of desperate misrepresentation of what was an innocuous attempt to show the godlessness of the Jonathanians to denigrate anyone that dares to ask them to be accountable," Mr. El-Rufai had said in his reaction.

"To those who were genuinely offended by the retweet, I apologize. I did not mean to offend anyone. Jesus or Isa Alaihis Salaam is a respected prophet of Islam. Every Muslim accepts this in addition to his miraculous virgin birth. It is therefore absurd for any Muslim believer to disrespect Jesus Christ," he added.

But the CAN scribe said there was a portion of the response that insulted the Christian faith, pointing out that the association is convinced Mr. El-Rufai is set on a war path with Christians in Nigeria.

"We must state that unlike others, Christians do not shed blood, take life, kill or maim others at the slightest provocation. Nevertheless, we must warn El-Rufai not to take Christians for granted and to inform him that it is with great difficulty that we have had to restrain our youths from taking the law into their hands; which by extension means bringing El-Rufai to justice on account of his incitement and insult against the Christian faith.

"We may not be able to guarantee this restraint the next time he makes any other explosive statement that impugns on the Person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is, again, warned to desist from playing this dangerous and deadly game of Russian roulette. A word, they say, is enough for the wise," CAN said.

Fiery Lagos Pastor and political ally of Mr. El-Rufai, Tunde Bakare, has spoken in staunch defense of the former minister saying Mr. El-Rufai is a lover of Christians and had worshipped in his church.

Mr. El-Rufai is one of the harshest critics of President Goodluck Jonathan and has used every opportunity to describe the administration as inept and corrupt. He is currently being prosecuted for crimes he allegedly committed while being a minister including allegations of converting government land in Abuja to those of his family members.

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