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Church Leader Urges Nigerians to Ignore Latest Militant Threat

  • James Butty

Onlookers gather around a car destroyed in a blast next to St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Nigeria, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. An explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital Sunday, killing scores of people,

Onlookers gather around a car destroyed in a blast next to St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Nigeria, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. An explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria's capital Sunday, killing scores of people,

Archbishop John Onaiyekan says Boko Haram does not speak for all Nigerian Muslims, let alone all Nigerians.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is calling on Nigerians to ignore the latest threat of the militant group Boko Haram.

The Islamist group has reportedly given a three-day ultimatum to southerners to leave the country’s north.

Archbishop John Onaiyekan said, while Boko Haram might have succeeded so far in instilling fear, the group does not speak for all Nigerian Muslims, let alone all Nigerians.

“As for the reported ultimatum that was issued by somebody who is claiming to be speaking on behalf of Boko Haram, most Nigerians are not taking them seriously because, in the first place, it doesn’t seem to make sense.

Where is the north and where is the south? There are Christians all over and there are Muslims all over,” he said.

Onaiyekan hopes better heads will prevail and all Nigerians will join hands to defeat Boko Haram.

He expressed regret that the media has given so much coverage to the purported Boko Haram ultimatum.

Onaiyekan said, while Boko Haram might have succeeded so far in instilling fear in Nigerians, especially with the Christmas Day bombings of Christian churches in which more than 40 people were killed, the group does not speak for all Nigerian Muslims, let alone all Nigerians.

“First of all, I think I will be right to say that Boko Haram does not represent the authentic voice of the Muslims of Nigeria. The leaders of Islam in Nigeria have clearly disowned them. So, I do not know what has given them the feelings that they can speak on behalf of all Nigerian Muslims, or northern Muslims, let alone giving instructions to them to do anything,” he said.

The archbishop said the families of those killed and wounded in the Christmas Day church bombings, and Christian communities as a whole in Nigeria, have yet to overcome the shock of the attacks.

But, he said if the intended purpose of the attacks was to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, it has actually brought the groups even closer.

“I believe firmly that, whatever desire to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims may be, the fact is that the attack has rather brought us together since Muslims have been showing us expressions of condolences and sympathy, and they have been condemning what has happened,” Onaiyekan said.

The church leader said many Nigerians want their government to do more to assure them that it is protecting them from Boko Haram’s threats, which he said are making Nigerians angry, insecure and unsure.

“That is why we challenge [the] government to do all that is required and necessary to make us regain trust in [its] ability to protect all Nigerians,” Onaiyekan said.

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