Religious leaders differ over US’ delisting of Nigeria from religious blacklist

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The opinion of leaders from across the two major religions in Nigeria has continued to differ over the delisting of Nigeria from nations accused of violating religious freedom by the United States government. 

Last Wednesday, the US government announced names of countries in 2021 alleged to be violating religious freedom, ahead of the visit of the US Secretary of state, Anthony Blinken to Nigeria. 

However, this development does not go down well with some Christian leaders in Nigeria, who alleged that Christian rights and freedom to worship were still infringed upon in some parts of the country.

According to the Christians, the US did not get genuine information before making that decision, as to date, there were cases of violation of religious freedom in Nigeria. 

But some Muslim leaders told the BBC Hausa that the development deserved commendation as it’s appropriate because, authoritatively, cases of violation of religious freedom due to a person’s religious ideology, are rare. 

Reverend Murtala Mati Dangora, Vice Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kano state, said Christians in some parts of the country are still faced with issues of violation of their religious freedom, especially when it comes to the building of churches. 

According to him, if the US has delisted Nigeria, “it’s not surprising they must’ve gotten the wrong information because there is still a violation of religious freedom as some things are not allowed to be done”.

On his part, a Muslim leader and member of a committee on inter-religious harmony, Muhammad Nurul Khaleed, said looking at steps taken by the Federal Government, cases of violation of religious freedom or impunity against certain groups of believers, are not always frequent.

” If you look at it authoritatively, there is no cases of violation of religious freedom, even though there are pockets of complaints. But such cases could be found at the state level, ” he said.

But, according to Reverend Murtala, it is imperative that government should accord every citizen the freedom to practice his religion. ” Christians should be allowed to build churches or gain employment. These rights should be enjoyed without any religious consideration, ” he said.

Malam Nura Khaleed said peace and harmony can only be possible when adherents of various religions respect the various religions.” Religious leaders and clergy should unite and discuss ways of resolving matters and their problems, ” he said. 

” This is the only solution to our unity and progress,” he said. 

The government has said that enlisting Nigeria among countries that are violating religious freedom, initially, was due to the mischief of those seeking for the break up of Nigeria because of the Boko Haram crisis. 

The government said it was the problems associated with the Boko Haram crisis that such elements harped on to enlist Nigeria, saying the attacks of insurgents were only directed on the Christians. 

According to Malam Garba Shehu, Presidential spokesperson, it is widely known that the Boko Haram attack never spared the Muslims or the Christians. 

He said the government has never remained aloof or complacent in taking measures against it.

However, the religious leaders are of the view that the Federal Government has a long way to go in ensuring that there is absolute religious freedom, especially at the states level. 

They said enhancing religious freedom without any form of impunity will certainly promote peaceful coexistence, harmony and a lasting mutual coexistence between adherents of a different faith. 

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