Posted by News Express | 4 March 2018 | 1,672 times
Rights activists in the South-East have condemned “the indiscriminate attacks and widespread violence directed at members and institutions of the Traditional Religions and their sacred places of worship by radical elements within the trios of Catholic Church, Anglican Church and Pentecostal churches in Southeast Nigeria.”
According to a detailed study by the activists, under the umbrella of the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights & Good Governance Organizations (SBCHROs), “There have been systematic, well coordinated and unprovoked Christian violence against Traditional Religionists and their sacred places of worship in recent times in Nigeria particularly in the Southeast. These attacks and violence are executed especially during “Christmas and Easter Crusades” and similar activities. They are executed or carried out particularly at late night during the said “crusades”.
“During the attacks, sacred places of worship belonging to the Traditional Worshippers and their symbols of worship including sacred altars, artifacts and diviners’ objects are targeted for burning, destruction or confiscation; under stigmatisation and false labeling of all traditional religions, their worshippers and sacred places of worship as “Satanism and evil doers”.
SBCHROs comprises Intersociety; CLO, Southeast Zone; Centre for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy; Human Rights Organization of Nigeria; Society Watch & Advocacy Project of Intersociety; Anambra Human Rights Forum; Southeast Good Governance Forum; Int’l Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative; Igbo Ekunie Initiative; Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch; Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy & Dev; Society for Economic Rights & Social Justice; Innocent Initiative for Ideal Dev & Emancipatory Leadership in Nigeria; Igbo National Council; Forum for Promotion of National Ethos & Values; Easy Life Initiative for Rural Youths; and Voice of the Voiceless Int’l.
The relevant section of the 22-page SBCHROs report said: “A clear case in point was the attack and violence directed at the said worshippers and their sacred institutions in Igboukwu, Ekwulobia and other communities in Anambra State during the 2017 Christmas season.
“At Igboukwu Community, Aguata, Anambra State, despite an early warning letter written to the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Rev Fr. Christopher Azolibe by the Otu Odinani Igbo Organization led by Priest Okwudili Ezeife and Chukwudinka Ezeatueyi; alerting him of planned attacks and violence by members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement in Igboukwu led by Elder Polycarp Okonkwo and Innocent Okeke using their midnight crusade of 29th December 2017; the said Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement reportedly in conjunction with Rev Fr Chibuzor Emmanuel Obimma (Father Ebube Muonso) reportedly went gone ahead, attacked and destroyed sixteen (16) sacred temples of worship of the Igboukwu Traditional Religionists within the Igboukwu Community.
“The attacks which took place between 1am and 4.30am; affected properties, artifacts, walls and roofing belonging to the sixteen traditional sacred places of worship. During the attacks, the National Museum at Igboukwu was also targeted for destruction but for eleventh hour pressures and calls from concerned quarters; forcing the attackers to retreat from torching the National Museum.
“The attacking church youths reportedly backed down after much pressure but threatened not to spare the “evil Museum” during their next crusade in 2018. Youths loyal to the Igboukwu Traditional Religionists also regrouped and made their way to burn down some churches but were prevailed upon by some notable leaders of the Igboukwu traditional institutions. The angry youths retreated but vowed not to spare any church if such attacks happened anywhere in Igboukwu again.
“Apart from right to freedom of religion and worship clearly provided in Section 38 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, Section 10 of the same Constitution also forbids the Federal Government or any State Government from adopting any religion as a State Religion in Nigeria. The Constitution also tasks Federal and State Governments and heads of security agencies to ensure that every citizen is allowed to worship and profess religion of his or her choice within the confines of the law and without threat or molestation from any quarter.
Right to Freedom of Religion and Worship was the first human right proclaimed in the Fourth Century AD by Emperor Constantine De Great (AD306-337) during the Christian Roman Empire. See the Edict of Milan of AD313 or decriminalisation of Christian worship, which started in April 311 with the enactment of the Edict of Toleration.
“Under Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and other body of laws, no religious body or person is allowed to launch an on attack or destruction of any form against another religion or its sacred place of worship or symbol or artifact. The law empowers Government or its security agency (not alternative religious body or person) to visit the wrath or long arm of the law against any violent religionist or a religious practitioner that engages in religious practices that are unknown to God, Man and Law including religious violence and Satanism.
“The court death sentence handed down to Rev Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (a.k.a. Rev King); General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly (CPA) over his intra denominational satanic religious practices is a clear case in point.
“Godly religious faith anywhere in the world including Nigeria and its Southeast part is not practiced or professed by violence but through persuasion, good manners, emulative lifestyle and conviction. Christians are therefore be reminded that Christianity in Nigeria particularly in Igbo Land did not start or come with violence. A clear case in point was the first encounter between Rev Father Duhaze of Portuguese Catholic Missionary and Eze Nri Obalike of Nri Kingdom in 1906. As a matter of fact too, traditional religions are the forefathers of Christianity in Igbo Land just as Judaism gave birth or founded Christianity in the Middle East where it originated; as clearly noted in the Holy Scripture.
“We hereby call on the national and regional leaderships of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Christian Association of Nigeria, Anglican Communion in Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and leaders of other Christian bodies to call their followers and radical elements within their clergy to order and prevail on them to desist from taking laws into their hands by visiting unprovoked and unwarranted attacks and violence against members and institutions of alternative religions especially the Traditional Religions in Nigeria particularly in the Southeast or any of its part thereof; all in the name of “crusades” or attack on Satan in his citadel. There must be an end to religious radicalism and extreme religious practices in the Zone.
“The Governors of the Southeast Geopolitical Zone are specifically called upon to rise up to the occasion particularly against this new round of Christian violence and protect the traditional institutions in Igbo Land including freedom of every citizen to practice and worship religion of their choice without fear, threat or molestation.
“Signs are obvious that the victim religious bodies and their supporters may most likely resort to self defense and other self help mechanisms including burning of churches and other Christian sacred places of worship in retaliation if nothing was done to stop the attacks and violence against the traditional religionists and their sacred places of worship. The Southeast Governors must not allow this ugly situation to further degenerate in the entire Zone or any of its part thereof.”
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