The National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to maintain the country’s non-aligned status in international politics, ideologies or religion.
The Forum made the call on the heels of allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari has concluded plans to drag Nigeria into the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Islamic State (ISIS).
The NCEF in a statement signed by its Chairman, Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN) in Abuja, explained that aligning with the coalition could encourage the current security challenges to degenerate into a Sunni versus Shiite conflict in Nigeria.
According to the statement, “we are fully aware that contention between these two groups contributed in no small measure to the terrible escalation of the Syrian crisis. Every effort should be made to ensure that (Shiite) Iran does not enter into this conflict under its global contention with (Sunni) Saudi Arabia. These nations have a habit of exporting their conflicts into foreign lands which then becomes the battleground.
“The National Christian Elders Forum is calling on President Muhammadu Buhari not to drag Nigeria into the Saudi Arabia-led Muslim/Arab coalition against ISIS. Nigeria is neither an Islamic nor an Arab nation.
“The President promised Nigerians before his election that he is now a democrat and has no intention of imposing Sharia or any form of religious domination on the nation.
“If Nigeria should participate in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, it would be a negation of all that the President promised before his election. Such a denial would be a terrible betrayal of the trust that Nigerians from all over the country reposed in President Buhari.
“The National Christian Elders Forum is persuaded that if Nigeria should identify in any way with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, it would send provocative signal to Iran, the main backer of Shiites, that Nigeria has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia (Sunni) to the detriment of the Shiites in Nigeria.
“It is imperative that Nigeria maintains its neutral, non-aligned status on internationally contentious issues, whether it is politics, ideologies, or religion. Nigeria should maintain its non-aligned status. Already, statements that cause concern are emanating from Iran concerning the conflict between the Nigerian Army and the Shiites led by Sheik El-Zakzaky”.
In a related development, the Christian elders described as falsehood, the recent allegation of a conspiracy between the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the Boko Haram sect and the Nigerian Army military to destroy Shiites in the country.
The forum described the allegation by an analyst on Iran’s Press TV as sheer absurdity aimed at sparking a war between Christians and Shiite Muslims in Nigeria.
It said: “The Forum wishes to refute publicly and stridently that there is no iota of truth in a video report credited to an Iranian television station in which an Iranian lecturer posited that a ‘triangle of evil’ composing of the Nigerian Army, Boko Haram, and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have combined to destroy Shiites in Nigeria. We wonder under which ideology would CAN team up with Boko Haram to destroy an Islamic sect.
“Apart from its sheer absurdity, this dangerous statement should not be dismissed because it is calculated to beat the drums of war in faraway Iran to mobilise Muslim Shiites to attack Nigerian Christians.
“The Nigerian Church has suffered tremendously under Sunni Boko Haram; the emergence of Shiite backed insurgency in Nigeria must be avoided at all costs”.
To find lasting solutions to insecurity, especially in the North, the forum recommended that: “The traditional, political, religious, academic, and commercial leadership of northern Nigeria are under obligation to ensure that religious intolerance, which has become the bane of the North, is eradicated.
“Lasting peace can only exist in an environment where justice, equality, and fairness reign. Northern Nigeria has to imbibe the spirit and the letter of Section 38 (1) of the 1999 Constitution that guarantees freedom of religious belief”.