LET PEACE REIGN
The National Christian Elders Forum wishes to express grave regret and great sadness at the recurring decimal of violence and destruction that seem to, presently,define the northern region of Nigeria. Rather than diminish, this cycle of violence and destruction escalates and expresses itself in differing modes and formats.
The National Christian Elders Forum commiserates with the governments, the people of northern Nigeria, and in particular the surviving victims and families that have been affected in the various orgies of violence and destruction that have afflicted Nigeria in general and northern Nigeria in particular.
In view of the need to find lasting solutions to these crisis, the National ChristianElders Forum wishes to recommend as follows:
1. The traditional, political, religious, academic, and commercial leadership of northern Nigeria are under obligation to ensure that religious intolerance, which has become the bane of the North, is eradicated. Lasting peace can only exist in an environment where justice, equality, and fairness reign. Northern Nigeria has to imbibe the spirit and the letter of Section38 (1) of the 1999 Constitution that guarantees freedom of religious belief.The current crisis between the Nigerian Army and the Shiites occurred as aresult of religious tension. Before now, Muslims in the North have consistently waged destructive attacks on Christians and we pray that this current violence will not deteriorate into another Islamic insurgency.
2. The National Christian Elders Forum appeals for calm so that the present security challenges do not degenerate into a Sunni versus Shiite conflict in Nigeria. We are fully aware that contention between these two groups contributed in no small measure to the terrible escalation of theSyrian crisis. Every effort should be made to ensure that (Shiite) Iran doesnot enter into this conflict under its global contention with (Sunni) SaudiArabia. These nations have a habit of exporting their conflicts into foreign lands which then becomes the battleground.
3. The National Christian Elders Forum is calling on President Muhammadu Buhari not to drag Nigeria into the Saudi Arabia led Muslim/Arab coalition against ISIS. Nigeria is neither an Islamic nor an Arab nation.The President promised Nigerians before his election that he is now a democrat and has no intention of imposing Sharia or any form of religious domination on the nation. If Nigeria should participate in the Saudi Arabia led coalition, it would be a negation of all that the President promised before his election. Such a denial would be a terrible betrayal of the trust that Nigerians from all over the country reposed in President Buhari.
4. The National Christian Elders Forum is persuaded that if Nigeria should identify in any way with the Saudi Arabia led coalition, it would send provocative signal to Iran, the main backer of Shiites that Nigeria has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia (Sunni) to the detriment of theShiites in Nigeria. It is imperative that Nigeria maintains its neutral, non-aligned status on internationally contentious issues, whether it is politics, ideologies, or religion. Nigeria should maintain its non-aligned status. Already, statements that cause concern are emanating from Iran concerning the conflict between the Nigerian Army and the Shiites led bySheik El-Zakzaky.
5. The National Christian Elders Forum wishes to refute publicly and stridently that there is no iota of truth in a video report credited to an Iranian television station in which an Iranian lecturer posited that a "triangle of evil" composing of the Nigerian Army, Boko Haram, and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have combined to destroyShiites in Nigeria! We wonder under which ideology would CAN team up with Boko Haram to destroy an Islamic sect. Apart from its sheer absurdity, this dangerous statement should not be dismissed because it is calculated to beat the drums of war in far away Iran to mobilize Muslim Shiites to attack Nigerian Christians. The Nigerian Church has suffered tremendously under Sunni Boko Haram; the emergence of Shiite backed insurgency in Nigeria must be avoided at all costs.
6. The National Christian Elders Forum appeals to President Buhari to take urgent steps to strengthen Liberal Democracy in Nigeria through the implementation of the National Conference Report and heed the call of Nigerians for a new Constitution for the nation. We feel greatly encouraged with the President's recent statement, widely published on NTA 16/12/15, that "strengthening the Nation's Democracy and Security for all remains his greatest passion while the war against corruption is an effort towards a better Nigeria", and wish to encourage him to remain firmly on this path, as this is the only way of survival for a densely religiously plural society such as ours.
7. The National Christian Elders Forum calls on all Christiansto remain prayerful, peaceful and law abiding. Christians in Nigeria shall remain committed to peaceful co-existence of all the divergent groups (tribes, ethnic nationalities, religions, and so on) in the nation and we call on all the other groups to reciprocate.
God bless Nigeria.
National Christian Elders Forum
18th December, 2015