By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari says he is distressed and depressed by the ethno-religious killings in the country, appealing to Nigerians to learn to live together in peace and harmony.
The president said this when he received leaders of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), led by Rev Dr Dachollom Datiri at the State House, Abuja, on Tuesday.
Buhari urged religious, community and traditional leaders to do more in promoting peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.
“As an organised institution (COCIN), I have no reason to doubt your report on the atrocities being committed in your communities including the killing of Idris Alkali, a retired Maj.-Gen., the dumping of his car into a pond and the body of the deceased thrown into a disused well.
“The communities (in Plateau) have lived long enough to know that there is nothing they can do without each other than to live together in harmony.
“As leaders, we must persuade the upcoming generation, using every channel particularly the educational institutions to live together with our neighbours.’’
Buhari, who used the occasion to underscore the important role religious leaders’ play in engendering peace, lauded the exemplary role of the Imam in Plateau State who risked his life to save hundreds of Christian families fleeing attacks in June.
“It is not all Muslims that are against Christians and neither are all Christians against Muslims.
“The leadership in the respective religions have to work harder to make sure they convince the coming generation that they have to live together in the same country,’’ he said.
Buhari assured the Christian delegation that he would continue to exert pressure on the Nigeria Police Force to do the needful in protecting lives and property.
“In our security arrangement, the police is in the frontline in making sure that communities irrespective of ethnic or religious bias, live together in peace,’’ he said.
He added that Nigeria could not afford to take its unity for granted and allow a return to the unfortunate perils of a civil war.
In his remarks, Datiri, while condemning the recent killing of an Army General in the state, chronicled recent attacks against Christian communities in Plateau and neighbouring states, resulting in the displacement of thousands of persons.
The cleric appealed to the Federal Government to ensure the safe return and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their communities, in addition to the rebuilding of places of worship destroyed in the unfortunate incidents.
The COCIN president also called on the Federal Government to take adequate measures in ensuring the release of Leah Sharibu and other abductees of Boko Haram terrorists.
Datiri also requested the President to use his good offices to persuade some northern states to allocate land titles to Churches, in addition to directing the Ministry of Education to allow the teaching of Christian Religious knowledge in schools in the region.