Nigeria “is not a Christian country. It is not a Muslim country…”

“This is not a Christian country. It is not a Muslim country. There is no place here that belongs to Muslims or Christians, rich people or poor people. There is no part of this country that belongs to Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws or any ethnic groups for that matter.” This was some of the advice given by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto diocese, Nigeria – Rt Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah to a Conference held last month in Osogbo University, Nigeria.

In a talk entitled ‘Future of Religion in Nigeria’s Politics’, the Catholic bishop – one of the most respected voices in Africa on Muslim–Christian relations urged his listeners to face these challenges because they were intrinsically linked with the challenge of development in Nigeria.

He was speaking at a Conference organised by the Islamic Welfare Association whose theme was:  The Muslim Agenda for Nigeria: Challenges of Development and Good Governance. Using the analogy of a boat, Bishop Kukah said that all Nigerians – Christian, Muslim, or unbeliever – “are all in the same boat called Nigeria. Our challenge is to steer it to safety.”

In his talk, Bishop Kukah spoke about the face of religion and  Boko Haram; contested histories, narratives and identities; managing pluralism; the Nigerian Constitution, Bible and Quran; Interfaith dialogue and making Nigeria safe for religion.

In the closing paragraphs of his talk, Bishop Kukah reminded his listeners that all “our goal should be to create a great country where ordinary citizens can live in freedom, peace and security, where their humanity, more than their religion, will be the basis for their acceptance. For, in the end, we must have a country before we can live as Christians or Muslims.”

Read the complete article in the Vanguard Newspaper.