… says churches find it difficult to obtain marriage certificate booklets
- Northern states still deny churches Cof O
- CRS not taught in northern schools
Despite the delisting of Nigeria by the United State from Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on the issue of freedom of religion, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has said Christians in the country are still facing persecution.
CAN president, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, in a statement said the association did not know the statistics used by the US government in delisting Nigeria from the list, even though CAN was not contacted when the country was listed among the countries of particular concern on religious freedom.
Ayokunle noted that nothing has changed between the time Nigeria was listed among countries of concern and now “because all those factors that put Nigeria on the CPC list for the first time in 2020 are still there.”
The CAN president explained that Nigerian Christians are facing persecution both from the terrorist groups operating in the country and the Nigerian government. According to him, while the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram have continued to unleash terror on the Christian community, the Nigerian government has denied churches license to conduct weddings and certification booklets.
He stated that ISWAP and Boko Haram have continued to prosecute their agenda “to wipe away Christianity from Nigeria and to plant Islam as the only religion from the North down to the Atlantic Ocean in the South. “The bandits have joined other militant Islamic groups to ferociously attack churches, killing worshippers and kidnapping for ransom.
“The herdsmen are equally doing their havoc. We have lost many people and places of worship to their assault, especially in the North Central part of the country and the North-East. “Though, the madness has grown now and those who are not Christians are being attacked, killed and kidnapped, this is because these criminal acts have become lucrative business and it is whoever you can kidnap for money! “If the government had responded appropriately when this criminal madness began and subdued these evil groups immediately, we wouldn’t be where we are now!”
On the denial of marriage certificate booklet to churches, Rev. Ayokunle said the churches have been finding it difficult to obtain the booklet from the Ministry of Interior for almost a year now. He explained that some churches applied for new supply as far back as January this year without any response from the Ministry of Interior for the delay.
“This means that such churches licensed to conduct weddings were denied the right to do so for no cogent reason from the government! “It is not only in Nigeria that churches are allowed to conduct weddings once they are licensed to do so. Why are the churches being denied the right to do so now in Nigeria?
“If there is nothing to hide by the government and it is not a subtle religious discrimination, why didn’t the ministry in a written form or verbally explain to the churches that needed new marriage certificate booklet why the supply is delayed?” he wondered.
The CAN president also added that many states in the North were yet to reverse the policy of denying Christians the certificate of occupancy to build churches while some do not allow Christian students to study Christian Religious Studies in the public schools because it is not made available in their curriculum. “In a similar vein, Christian students had and are still complaining that they are denied admission to government owned universities in the North to study courses like Law and Medicine, among others.
“Christian students such as Leah Sharibu and students kidnapped from Bethel Baptist High School were left with the kidnappers without any purposeful rescue mission organised for them. “The relatives and churches of the kidnapped people were forced and are being forced to pay ransom worth millions of naira to secure their people or children!
“Up till now, the Federal Government refused to see banditry as terrorism and has therefore refused to label them as terrorists. “Similarly, ISWAP and other Islamic terrorists that surrendered or were captured were not allowed to face the wrath of the law but rather, unlike other criminals, are being slated for a programme of de-radicalization or rehabilitation!
“These are people who had sent many people to early graves! Is this action of the government fair to the people they killed and the rest of us whom these people traumatised and put in sadness over our property or relatives they killed? Why were the armed robbers not de-radicalized?
What becomes of our criminal justice system if this kind of anomaly is allowed to stay?
“Up till today, our government is still funding the membership of Nigeria in all the International Islamic organisations like OIC and its allies without being part of any international Christian organization,” he added