From Fred Ezeh, Abuja, Gyang Bere, Jos, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi and Timothy Olanrewaju Maiduguri
Christians nationwide held a peaceful protest, yesterday, to register their displeasure with the gruesome murder of Deborah Samuel, 200 level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State and the maltreatment of faithful in the north.
The action was in compliance with the directive of the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that peaceful protests be held across the churches to raise global consciousness to the plight of Christians, especially in the north.
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CAN President, Rev. Samson Olasupo, had in a statement last week, asked all CAN bloc leaders, zonal chairmen, state chairmen, local coordinators, denominational and church leaders to prepare their members for the protest.
He, however, demanded that it should not take place on the streets, but at CAN secretariats, and those without secretariats should use any church with big premises.
The protest, however, took different shapes and styles across different churches in Abuja. At Redeemed Christian Church of God, Wuse 2, Abuja, worshippers moved around the church premises with placards bearing different inscriptions. Unlike other places, they sealed their mouth which, perhaps, signified torture.
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Olasupo had asked church leaders and their members to hold placards with some succinct messages like: “We demand justice for Deborah”, “No more killing in God’s name”, “Enough is enough”, “Police stop unprovoked killings in Nigeria”, “Christians are not second class citizens”, “Killers of Deborah must be prosecuted,” “We condemn religious killings,” “We say no to Islamic extremists.”
There was also total compliance at the All Christian Fellowship Mission, Maitama, Abuja as worshippers, led by the leaders held procession within the church premises.
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The story was not different at the University Baptist Church, Gwagwalada, Abuja. The Pastor, Bayo Oladeji, told Daily Sun that 30 minutes was dedicated to the protest.
“We prayed for the church in Nigeria that is obviously under siege; we prayed for the soul of late Deborah and her family, and finally, we prayed for Nigeria,” he said.
At First Baptist Church, Garki, Abuja, worshippers observed the peaceful protest with placards bearing several inscriptions.
In Plateau State, Christians also joined in the protest. The protest was led by the state CAN chairman, Rev. Fr. Polycarp Lubo and had other church leaders in attendance. They converged at the CAN secretariat and urged Federal Government and security agencies to ensure those who perpetrated the act were fished out and prosecuted. They condemned the trend where some individuals were taking advantage of the social media to mobilise others to kill innocent persons. Lubo called on Nigerians to exhibit religious tolerance to ensure peace and national cohesion.
“It is pathetic that Deborah found herself in a situation where she could not help herself, she was stoned and burnt to death. Her death was uncalled for; it was barbaric and her death is condemnable.
“We are here to condemn this act in totality. As christians, we have been called not to kill nor shed blood because if we are to act the way these people acted, Nigeria will not be in peace and there will be no mutual co-existence among us but that is not our way of life as christians.”
Lubo lamented that a lot of Nigerians have taken the law into their hands, perpetrating evil against fellow citizens. He called on the Federal Government to ensure that laws governing the country were properly put to use to checkmate criminality.
He said no matter the gravity of the offence committed by Deborah, she did not deserve to be killed in that manner as it was against the doctrine of God Almighty.
During the protest, the women sang songs of praises and called on God’s intervention and vengeance for Deborah’s death. Prayers of comfort were also offered to her family and relations.
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Benue State chapter also complied with the national directive. During the rally held at the premises of NKST Church, Iyortyer in Makurdi, the association called on relevant authorities to ensure justice is served on all those who partook in the stoning and burning of Deborah.
Addressing faithful in Makurdi, the chairman, Rev. Akpen Leva, lamented the gruesome murder of the promising young girl positing that all Christian community in the country were curiously watching to see what would eventually happen in respect to her murder.
“Enough is enough of the killing of christians in Nigeria. Christians are not second class citizens in Nigeria and the church would no longer tolerate this mindless killings,” Leva stated.
He wondered why the arrest of some of the religious extremists degenerated into tension that led to violent protest that resulted in the destruction of worship centres in Sokoto and other parts of the country.
In Kaduna, shortly after the prayer session, CAN Vice Chairman, Rev. Father Chris Annger, blamed politicians and religious extremists for the attacks.
“A situation where individuals will take laws into their hands to waste life that’s given by God previously, is what the Kaduna State chapter of the CAN is gathered here to say it’s not acceptable; it’s not right and should be condemned by every right thinking Nigerians on the face of the Earth. That is why we are here.”
On the attack on a Catholic Church in Sokoto and the safety of Bishop Kukah, he said: “When we learnt that a Catholic church is attacked in Sokoto, it’s very clear that attack was on Bishop Matthew Kukah because he’s the one who’s like a voice to the voiceless in this country.
“He’s speaking truth to power everyday. So, that attack was directly or indirectly on him. So, people coming out to condemn him or his speech and things like that, probably, you will know that it’s something that has been conceived. It’s just given birth on account of this incident otherwise it is something that people have within themselves about Kukah because of the way and the manner he has been approaching issues in the country.
“So, the attack on the church was to a large extent an attack on Bishop Kukah. We are calling on the Nigeria government to charge those in charge of carrying guns or agencies responsible for taking care of us, to be up and doing and protect the life of Kukah and every believer as well as every Nigerian to be protected from this menace.
Anxiety in Borno over planned protests
Fear and anxiety gripped Maiduguri and some towns in Borno State over the weekend following plans by some youths to hold protests for and against the killing Deborah Samuel, following her gruesome murder for alleged blasphemy of Islam.
Daily Sun gathered that the planned protest by some youths on Saturday against Deborah’s murder was met by the announcement by another set of youths to stage a counter-protest.
Most residents feared the development could snowball into a conflict of bigger dimension in a state still battling to curtail 13 years of insurgency.
“There is actually fears in the city because of the plan to demonstrate and another plan to counter the demonstrate by youths,,” a source said.
Daily Sun went round the Maiduguri and reports that dozens of policemen and security personnel were seen patrolling, with some stationed in strategic places. Sunday services in most churches in the Maiduguri metropolis were also held under security watch.
Last week, a reply to a comment on the alleged Deborah’s blasphemy on Facebook by a lady in Maiduguri, had ignited anger in some youths as someone volunteered information about her location in the city. Security, acting on tip off quickly evacuated her and the family to a safer place.