The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Saturday queried the rationale used by the United States government in arriving at delisting Nigeria from the list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ (CPC) on the issue of freedom of religion.
CAN expressed displeasure that the US government did not communicate with the religious body when they were listing Nigeria among the CPC countries on religious freedom, nor did they seek their opinion before removing Nigeria from the list.
Its leadership said in a statement that it would have been able to compare the statistics then and now on the issue of freedom of religion in Nigeria if the US government had contacted it.
CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle said: “Whatever may be the data they used, our prayer is that Nigeria would be a country where no religious group is discriminated against or persecuted and that our government would see to it that all religiously biased policies are discontinued”.
Ayokunle emphasised that Christians had faced and are still facing persecution from ISWAP and the Boko Haram Islamic group.
He said: “These are the people who said their agenda was 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. That agenda with the killing of Christians has not stopped till today and Nigerians are living witnesses.
“The bandits have joined other militant Islamic groups to ferociously attack churches, killing worshippers and kidnapping for ransom. The herdsmen are equally wreaking their havoc. We have lost many people and places of worship to their assault, especially in the Northcentral part of the country and the Northeast.
“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 a 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”.
He said CAN has been shouting at the top of its voice that government policies should be religiously neutral enough so that no religious group would be seen as being favoured or discriminated against.
Ayokunle added: “For example, for almost a year now, some of our churches have been finding it difficult with the Ministry of Interior to get new marriage certificate booklets after they had exhausted the ones they were using. Some had applied for new supply as far back as January this year without any response from the Ministry of Interior till now.