The Oasis Reporters
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Extract from an Interview his Lordship, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Catholic bishop of Sokoto diocese granted to Punchng.com in 2013, but still remains relevant today in the face of continuous killings of Christians in the north by alleged Fulani herdsmen terrorists.
PUNCH: Many feel that the Boko Haram insurgency is all about eliminating Christians in the North. What do you feel?
MATHEW KUKAH: This is a tough question and it is the subject of a book or a Ph.D thesis. I will try and summarise my views for you. Please, be patient because I will give you a very long, short answer. Those of us who are far away from the scene can be romantic about our theories, but Muslims in Nigeria have to deal with many problems themselves. They have to address questions about perception of their religion and how they left the door open. They have to deal with the level of honesty about their relations with Christians or, should I say, non-Muslims beyond the moral platitudes.
As we are talking now, it has been reported by the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri that about 185 churches have been burnt by Boko Haram. I am in touch and know the painful stories of the church under crucifixion. The question is not how many mosques, if any, have been burnt. So, how else can we remove a religious dimension to this? But this is only half of the story because it raises other questions:
Why is this happening only in northern Nigeria?
Muslims in the South-West of Nigeria have not gone around burning churches and killing people or destroying the properties of Christians. Northern Muslims must answer why this ugliness is peculiar to their region and their version of Islam.
There are immediate, short- and medium-term explanations and I may not be correct, even in my analysis. However, I believe that there has been too much hypocrisy in northern Islam, based on how the elite have used the religion to deceive, belittle even their own people. Secondly, some of their leaders have thrived in pretending to place Islam over and above their nation, not to talk of other minorities within their enclaves. When you deny Christians chances to go on pilgrimages; when you build hundreds of mosques and deny Christians lands; when you deny non-Muslims places in the bureaucracy or in public life, what are you saying to your children?
When you privilege one group and make the other feel inferior, you are opening the window and the young people growing up can see the difference between Cain and Abel.
When you pretend that we are children of the same father, and you openly discriminate against me, one of us must be a bastard.
Years of this apartheid have sown the seeds of a feeling of superiority and that is why these youths treat Christians and properties with seeming contempt. When our churches became objects of target practice, all these years, the leaders merely looked the other way or stayed in silence or fear.
The children of Boko Haram have been fed by this sour broth of hate. This is what has bred the bitterness that the northern Christian minorities feel, and time is running out. There is need to discuss these issues for the survival of the region.