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Shiite, Saudi Conflict: Christian Elders Want Nigeria to be Neutral

By Ayo Balogun

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Following the repeated clashes between the Nigerian Shiites and soldiers, as well as its emerging international dimensions, the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to drag the country into the Saudi Arabia led Muslim/Arab coalition against ISIS.

While noting that Nigeria is neither an Islamic nor an Arab nation, the Christian elders reminded Mr. President about his promise to 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”. The elders stressed if Nigeria should participate in the Saudi Arabia led coalition; it would be a negation of all that “the President promised before his election, stating that such “a denial would be a terrible betrayal of the trust that Nigerians from all over the country reposed” in him.

In a statement signed by its Chairman, Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN) the Forum said it was 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 the Shiites in Nigeria.

It counseled: “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 by Sheik El-Zakzaky”.

On speculated connivance by the Christians with others to launch offensives on the Nigerian Shiat sect, the Forum refuted the allegation and denied there was 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” comprising of the Nigerian Army, Boko Haram, and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to destroy Shiites 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.

“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” the body demanded.

Still, the Forum indicated that it was greatly encouraged with the President Buhari’s recent statement, which it recalled, was widely broadcast on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) on December 16, 2015, 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 Nigeria.

Similarly, the Forum which commiserated with the governments, the people of Northern Nigeria, in particular the surviving victims and families that have been affected in the various violence and destruction that have afflicted the country, in particular, the Northern part, called on all Christians to 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” NCEF stated.

NCEF insisted that the traditional, political, religious, academic, and commercial leadership of Northern Nigeria were under obligation to ensure that religious intolerance, which it alleged has become the bane of the North, is eradicated, restating that lasting peace could only exist in an environment where justice, equality, and fairness reign.

“The current crisis between the Nigerian Army and the Shiites occurred as a result 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” the group alleged.

The Forum however appealed for calm so that the present security challenges did not degenerate into a Sunni versus Shiite conflict in Nigeria, demanding that every effort should be made to ensure that (Shiite) Iran did not ‘enter into the conflict under its global contention with (Sunni) Saudi Arabia”.


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