It is Easter Sunday, the Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.
Also known as Resurrection Sunday, it is described in the Holy Scriptures as having occurred on the third day after Christ’s death by crucifixion on a Roman cross at Calvary.
Easter is regarded by many as the foundation of the Christian faith, with Christ’s resurrection signifying his victory over death, the triumph of good over evil, and the completion of God’s salvation of mankind.
President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted that Christians and Muslims in the country can flourish together.
He stated this in an opinion article which featured on Friday on Church Times, UK’s largest Anglican newspaper.
According to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the President also warned against politicising religion.
President Buhari, in the article, referenced a Biblical verse and stressed that Christians and Muslims share the same root even though their beliefs differ.
Read the article below:
IN 1844, the Revd Samuel Ajayi Crowther returned home to Yoruba land (now part of modern-day Nigeria). Twenty years earlier, he had been kidnapped and sold to European slave traders who were bound for the Americas. He was freed by an abolitionist naval patrol, and received by the Church Missionary Society. There, he found his calling.
Crowther made his voyage home to establish the first Anglican mission in Yoruba land. He came with the first Bibles translated into Yoruba and Hausa languages. He opened dialogue and discussion with those of other faiths. And his mission was a success: Crowther later became the first African Anglican bishop in Africa.
Today, Nigeria has the largest Christian population on the continent. The messages and teachings of Christianity are part of the fabric of each person’s life.
ALONG with the millions of Christians in Nigeria today, I believe in peace, tolerance, and reconciliation; in the institution of the family, the sanctity of marriage, and the honour of fidelity; in hope, compassion, and divine revelation.
Like Bishop Crowther, I am a descendant of Abraham; unlike him, I am a Muslim. I believe our two great religions can not only peacefully coexist but also flourish together. But Muslims and Christians must first turn to one another in compassion. For, as it says in Amos 3.3: “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”
As they are People of the Book, I believe that there is far more that unites Muslims and Christians than divides them. In fact, I believe that the messages of the Bible are universal: available for anyone to exercise, and instructive to all.
We must resist the temptation to retreat into our communities, because, if we do, we can only look inwards. It is only when we mix that we can reach new and greater possibilities.
Whichever religion or religious denomination they choose to follow, Nigerians are devout. Anything that Nigerians believe will place impositions on their practice, and belief is therefore sure to cause widespread alarm.
And, unfortunately, there are those who seek to divide Nigerians — and our two great religions — and to do so for their own advantage.
I stand accused — paradoxically — of trying to Islamise Nigeria while also being accused by Boko Haram terrorists of being against Islam. My Vice-President is a devout man, a Christian pastor. He, too, is accused of selling out his religion, because of his support for me.
This is not the first time that I — nor, indeed, my Christian-Muslim evenly split cabinet — have been the subject of such nonsense. Fortunately, the facts speak differently from the words of those who seek to divide us from one another.
Since my administration has been in power, Boko Haram has been significantly and fatally degraded; I have befriended church leaders and church groups both within and outside our country; my Vice-President has addressed and opened dialogue with Muslims up and down our land.
In all things, we seek that which all well-meaning Christians and well-meaning Muslims must seek: to unite, respect, and never to divide. Does it not say “There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2.256)? Does it not say “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9.50)? This, surely, is the path that followers of both our two great religions must walk.
UNFORTUNATELY, those who wish us all to walk apart have recently found another focus for their efforts: the tragic clashes between nomadic herdsmen and settled farmers in the central regions of Nigeria.
For generations, herders have driven their cattle from the north to the centre of our country; they tend to be predominantly Muslim, although not exclusively. The farmers, in certain areas of central Nigeria, are predominantly Christian.
The causes of this conflict are not religious or theological, but temporal. At the heart of this discord is access to rural land, exacerbated both by climate change and population growth.
Sadly, there are some who seek to play fast and loose and so make others believe that these are not the facts. When religion is claimed as the cause — and by those who know that it is not — it only makes finding a resolution more difficult.
The government has taken action to mediate, to bring the two groups together in peace and unity. But we also need all parties to follow the teachings of the scriptures, and encourage reconciliation rather than cause division. As it is said: “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” (Mark 8.18).
As our constitution codifies, politicising religion has no place in Nigeria; for it makes us turn away from one another; it makes us retreat into our communities and walk different paths.
I believe that there is a better way. To those who seek to divide, I still hold my hand out in brotherhood and forgiveness. I ask only that they stop, and instead encourage us to turn towards one another in love and compassion. Nigeria belongs to all of us. This is what I believe.
Muhammadu Buhari is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Friday, killing seven in the latest assault on the religious minority claimed by the Islamic State group.
The attackers opened fire on the bus of pilgrims in Minya province after they had visited a monastery, the local bishop told AFP.
Bishop Makarios of Minya said the wounded had been taken to a hospital in Beni Mazar, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Cairo.
The attack took place on the road back from the Saint Samuel monastery, he added, as the bus was heading to the city of Sohag.
A security source confirmed that seven people were killed in the attack and seven wounded.
The Islamic State group claimed the attack in a message via its propaganda agency Amaq.
“Those who carried out the ambush… in Minya are fighters of the Islamic State,” Amaq said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
Egyptian state television said security forces were on Friday afternoon still in pursuit of the attackers.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his support to the victims in a statement on Twitter.
“I am mourning with deep sadness the martyrs who fell today at the hands of traitors who are trying to harm the tightly-knit fabric of the nation,” Sisi said.
“I wish the wounded a quick recovery and confirm our determination to continue our efforts to fight the darkness of terrorism and pursue the criminals.”
Egypt’s prosecutor’s office said it had received reports of “gunfire targeting a bus carrying a group of Copts returning from the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor”.
Copts hit by attacks
Copts, a Christian minority that make up 10 per cent of Egypt’s 96 million people, have in recent years been repeatedly targeted by the Islamic State jihadist group.
IS killed more than 40 people in twin church bombings in April 2017 and a month later shot dead 28 Christians in Minya province.
Egypt’s government imposed a three-month countrywide state of emergency after the April 2017 church bombings.
In December 2017 an IS gunman killed nine people in an attack on a church in a south Cairo suburb.
A year earlier, an IS suicide bomber killed almost 30 worshippers at a church in Cairo located in the Saint Mark’s Cathedral complex, the seat of the Coptic papacy.
The Egyptian army launched a major offensive in February 2018 against IS in the Sinai Peninsula, where the group has waged a deadly insurgency since the fall of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Alongside attacks against Copts, the jihadists have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Egypt in recent years and were allegedly behind a November 2017 attack against a mosque in north Sinai that killed more than 300 people.
The military offensive — Dubbed “Sinai 2018” — has killed more than 450 jihadists, according to an army estimate, while around 30 Egyptian soldiers have been killed during this year’s operation.
Egyptian authorities have also convicted jihadists for their role in attacks against Copts.
Last month an Egyptian military court sentenced 17 people to death over the suicide attacks against churches in 2016 and 2017.
Copts have long complained of discrimination in Egypt and IS is not the only group to have launched sectarian attacks against the community.
In December 2017, hundreds of Muslims attacked a church south of Cairo that had been operating without a permit for more than a dozen years.
The Niger State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has called for the inclusion of more Christians in governance.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the state chairman of the association, Reverend Mathias Echioda, while commending the parties in the state for the success recorded during the primaries, urged all the governorship candidates of various parties to pick Christians as their running mates for the 2019 elections.
According to Echioda, although CAN is not partisan, he believes that the demand for a Muslim/Christian ticket in the state is a legitimate one in order to allow equity and fairness to prevail.
He said, “It is on record that the previous administrations in the state, with the exception of that of Engr. A. A. Kure, have jettisoned this simple principle of fairness and equity, thereby relegating the Christians in the state to the background and denying them their legitimate right.
“We therefore totally disagree with the claims by some Politicians that there are no Christian Politicians in the state as this claim is not only undermining the integrity of the Christians but is also a calculated attempt to put unnecessary blames on the Christians. We have not only responsible but highly intelligent, upright, technocrats and sincere Christians who are ready to serve and contribute positively to the rapid development of the state”.
Speaking further, Echioda called on all governorship candidates to give priority to the reintroduction of the Christian Religious Knowledge (CRS) in all public schools in the state, noting that it had been absent from the curriculum of the state for many years now.
“The Christian body had made several presentations, both verbally and written, to the past and present administrations in the State but without any positive outcome yet; and the various promises by the administrations have turned out to look like a calculated attempt to deny the Christian children of acquiring their religious knowledge, especially since the Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) is being taught unabated in all public schools in the State,” he said.
Ahead of the general elections, the association also called on all Christians to come out en mass and vote for the candidates of their choice as a way of fulfilling their political obligations to their father land.
President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Christian community over the death of the General Secretary of CAN, Reverend Musa Asake.
The President in a statement signed on Friday by his special adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina prayed God to grant Asake’s soul eternal rest.
“President Muhammadu Buhari joins the national leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Christian community in Nigeria in mourning the passing of the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev (Dr) Musa Asake.
“The President, while commiserating with the family of the late Reverend, prays that God Almighty will comfort all those who mourn the departed, and grant his soul eternal rest,” the statement read.
The President, also in a tweet on his official Twitter handle, @Mbuhari said Asake’s death is a loss to the Christian community.
I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of the Gen Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev (Dr) Musa Asake. This is a huge loss to the Christian community in Nigeria. I pray that God Almighty will grant his soul eternal rest, and comfort all who mourn.
His death comes a few days after he addressed a CAN press conference on the killings in the country, calling on Christians to embark on a peaceful protest to compel the Federal Government and security agencies to end the killings.
CAN President, Reverend Samson Ayokunle described the deceased as “a pastor and teacher, conference speaker and counsellor” with “a wealth of family, educational, academic, pastoral, teaching, education and church administration, cross-cultural, national and international, government and political experiences”.
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah, has asked Nigerians to look inwards and re-order their priorities so as to provide solutions to the various socio-political and economic problems burdening the nation.
He made the appeal in a special Easter message addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, the country’s political leaders and other citizens.
Bishop kukah reminded the President that the country is being divided by religion and ethnicity, which he believes threaten the very foundation of the nation.
He said: “I believe that this country is so split both vertically and horizontally today that all of us must honestly identify our many sins of omission and commission so that we can honestly seek a solution.
“This is a time for us to genuinely face what looks to me like an impending calamity. The gathering clouds are clear for us to see and even those who cannot see can hear the rumbling and rolling sound of thunder. We ignore them at our own risk.”
While he acknowledged the President’s efforts in delivering on his major campaign promises of security and the anti-corruption fight, he urged him to find ways of reconnecting with the people to genuinely address their yearnings and aspirations.
“We have never felt so alienated from one another. The bogeyman of religion, region and ethnicity, which we thought we had overcome by the sheer nature of your support base, has come back with a vengeance to haunt and threaten the very foundation of our existence.
“Mr. President, you are too distant from your people. There is a sad feeling that you do not share in the pain and suffering of your people. You must very quickly find a way of connecting with your people,” the Bishop said.
Furthermore, he accused political leaders of being consumed by materialism and abandoning their responsibilities to the people, promoting hatred, intolerance and corruption and being mere contraptions to grab power.
Religious leaders were not spared as the Bishop also accused them of falling into the temptation of presenting their churches and mosques as platforms for partisanship.
He, however, advised the leaders to “reduce the culture of godfatherism, and focus on building the foundation of a strong political culture”.
For the citizens he warned them against being manipulated by politicians, the businessmen/women, the religious leaders, and to defend their dignity as human beings and children of God.
“Defend your dignity as human beings and children of God. Do not allow the rich and powerful, who are rich because you are poor, to divide you.
“Rise and defend your right to food, health, shelter and the rest, because poverty is not a divine inheritance,” he said.
According to him, defending oneself does not mean turning o violence but rather, recognizing ones rights.
“Easter teaches us the message of love and of gentleness and of true strength. It tells us that to defend oneself does not mean to turn to violence or to any other misdeed or evil. But it means to recognize one’s dignity as a child of God and remember that each one is created and called to enjoy the fullness of life.”
Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has expressed optimism that Nigeria will overcome its challenges and become a great nation.
The Vice President who addressed journalists after attending a church service on Sunday to commemorate the Easter celebration at the Aso Villa chapel in Abuja, said that under the current administration, a lot is being achieved and the country is on the path of resurrection.
“First, my message is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is also a strong and powerful message to the nation – that our nation is on the path of resurrection, the path of progress, on the path of elevation.
“We are moving out of our challenges and we are going to a place of greater hope, peace and prosperity and abundance for all of us,” he said.
The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai has admonished leaders at all levels to embrace the virtues of sacrifice and tolerance in governance.
He also advised that the welfare of the people should be their priority.
The governor said this in a broadcast on Saturday to mark the Easter celebration.
He also called for peaceful coexistence among people of the state and emphasized the importance of living in love and humility between the leaders and the citizens.
“This festival of triumph follows the holy season of Lent, during which the Christian community engaged in fasting, prayers and works of charity. As people of faith, let us continue to practice in our daily lives the lessons of sacrifice, care for the poor, deep spiritual reflection and love for all humankind, irrespective of tribe or religion, observed during the fasting.
“For more than 2,000 years, Easter has symbolised the triumph of hope over despair and an affirmation that darkness cannot trump the plans and wishes of Almighty God. Jesus Christ set an example of sacrifice that has moved men and women through the ages.
“As we celebrate the triumph of Christ, let us embrace all the lessons of Easter, never losing faith in the will of Almighty God, and the triumph of good over evil. Let us uphold each other in our common humanity and pray for peace in our land. Let us do our best to promote harmony in our communities and reject strife in our land. Let hope never depart from our hearts,” he said.
Speaking further, governor El-Rufai described Easter as a time for more dedication to duty.
He, therefore, assured the citizens that his administration will continue to do its best to improve the quality of life in the state by providing qualitative and affordable education, decent healthcare, as well as security.
“As your Governor, I call on everyone who calls Kaduna State home to join hands with us as we work to make our state peaceful and safe for all; as we push on to improve the quality of life by providing qualitative and affordable education and decent healthcare.
“Easter calls for dedication to duty, and putting the interest of the other before our personal gains, as Jesus taught us by sacrificing His life for all. We pray God Almighty that the blessings and lessons of Easter will spread all through our State, and move us all to be better people”.
Filipino zealots marked Good Friday with a bloody display of religious frenzy by having themselves nailed to crosses and whipping their backs raw in Asia’s bastion of Catholicism.
Though frowned upon by the Church, the gruesome re-enactments of Christ’s final moments draw thousands of believers — and tourists — in a carnival-like atmosphere that is big business for locals.
In a collection of towns located north of Manila, eight people had eight-centimetre (three-inch) spikes driven through their palms and feet in hot, dry fields meant to echo the site where Christ was crucified some 2,000 years ago.
Among an otherwise male field of penitents was 39-year-old Mary Jane Sazon, who made her seventh trip up onto the cross.
“Fulfilling my vow is important to me because ever since I started this the Lord answers my prayers,” Sazon told reporters as she pushed her dark hair back with freshly bandaged hands.
She would not be drawn on being the only woman crucified on Friday, saying “I don’t care what other people might say.”
While the ordeal is undeniably painful, the penitents’ weight rests on a wooden step and they spend only a few moments nailed to the cross before being carried to the medical tent for treatment.
At the same time, scores of bare-chested men, some of whose faces were concealed by hoods, lashed their backs bloody, as they walked through the streets before selfie-snapping onlookers.
The swinging of their whips left droplets of blood on cars, houses and even bottles of soda displayed on snack vendors’ tables that lined the road.
“If one of my family members gets sick, this is what we do,” said Norman Lapuot, 25, as he flogged himself with a bamboo-tipped whip. “I do this for my relatives.”
– ‘ I felt the pain’ –
Lapuot, who said it was his fourth time taking part in the ceremony, added that he believed the ritual bloodletting had helped his grandfather recover from a stroke.
While a majority of the Philippines’ 80 million Catholics spend Good Friday at church or with family, participants undergo the ordeal to atone for sins or to seek divine intervention.
The gruesome sights left some of the roughly 12,000 in attendance wide-eyed and wincing with vicarious pain.
“The most terrifying was the feet part, when the guy was screaming very loud,” said 28-year-old Juliette Pawinska, referring to when the spikes were driven in during one crucifixion.
“I actually felt the pain that he felt,” added the Polish national, who lives in the Philippines and works as a computer programmer.
The mock crucifixions on Good Friday have been going on for decades despite official disapproval from the nation’s dominant Catholic Church.
“The Church never encourages self-flagellation, much less crucifixion,” Father Roy Bellen, a spokesman for the archdiocese of Manila, told AFP.
“All sacrifices being asked from Catholics during Lent and Holy Week should lead to actions that benefit the poor and the needy,” he added.
Food stalls, cab drivers and even souvenir stands get a boost from the event which draws thousands of visitors every year.
Rose Anne Galang, whose full-time job is as a factory worker, said she pulled in some extra cash selling pork dumplings to hungry tourists.
“It’s my first time, but business was really good,” she added with a smile. “I’ll be back next year.”
Nearly 80 per cent of people in the Philippines are Catholic, a legacy of the nation’s 300 years of Spanish colonial rule that ended at the turn of the 20th century.
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked Christians in the country to pray for Nigeria’s unity and progress.
The President said this in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Mr Femi Adesina, as he felicitates with Christians on the commencement of this year’s Lenten season.
“As they join their counterparts worldwide to emulate the worthy example of Jesus Christ who fasted 40 days at the beginning of His earthly ministry, the President urges Christian brothers and sisters to pray fervently for the country’s unity and progress,” the statement said.
President Buhari believes that Nigeria’s existence as one united country is a divine arrangement and nothing should be done to put it asunder.
He further called on all Nigerians to intensify love, brotherliness and concern for the less privileged members of their communities in order to strengthen the bond of togetherness.
During the period of increased prayers, piety, sacrifice and selfless services, the President wished the Christians and all Nigerians well.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu say Christians should use the festive occasion to pray for unity, peace and prosperity of Nigeria.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu said Nigerians should rededicate themselves to the service of humanity in line with the true teachings of Jesus Christ which emphasises tolerance, patience, brotherly kindness and care for the needy.
Senator Saraki also stated that the 8th Senate and the National Assembly will continue to strive to make life more meaningful for all Nigerians.
He added that the legislature would at all times work to ensure that Nigeria takes her rightful position in the league of nations through relevant legislation and timely interventions.
Also, Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu called on Nigerians to emulate the great virtues of humility, love, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation which he said were the real reasons for the coming of Jesus Christ.
Ekweremadu, in his Christmas message to Nigerians, said Christmas was an opportunity to reflect on the humility of Christ and limitless love of God, who gave his only begotten son to be born as the man in order to save and reconcile mankind unto Himself.