The Assistant General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on Admin and Personnel, Pastor Johnson Odesola, has warned against provoking Christians in Nigeria, especially in the Northern region to go into self-defence against Islamic violence.
Odesola, who is also the Continental Overseer of the RCCG for Africa 4 and the Middle East, spoke to journalists shortly after a peaceful protest on Sunday against the brutal murder of Deborah Samuel, a Christian female student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, on May 12, 2022.
SaharaReporters had reported that Deborah was killed by her fellow students for allegedly posting a blasphemous message on a WhatsApp group for students.
Her murder has attracted condemnation from within and outside the country. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had subsequently, called for a peaceful protest today in all the churches across the country to demand justice for Deborah and an end to such brutal murder in the country.
The cleric, who said that the nation's penal code law empowers citizens to defend themselves in the face of aggression or a life-threatening situation, however, added that Nigeria should not allow that to happen, especially regarding religious violence.
According to him, it can lead to war.
He said, "The protest we held today is actually against the happenings in the country. Nigeria is one, Nigeria is a secular country, it is not a religious country. I read this morning in the paper that one of the social media activists, a lady Muslim had said many times that Jesus Christ is not the son of God and nothing has happened to her.
"Now if what I heard on the tape was what Deborah said, that doesn't warrant taking her life.
"So, today the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) instructed churches to hold peaceful demonstrations to say that the lives of human beings must be preserved. And we must be friends - Muslims, Christians, and those who practise other religions; that we are to be together as one and Nigeria is for every one of us and not for a certain set of people."
He asked why people from Northern Nigeria could come to the South, build their mosques and do everything without molestation or any form of attack yet the same people will not allow other religions to practise freely in the North.
"Now if people from the North can come and settle here, build their mosques and do everything, why should we not go and build schools there? Why should they not come here? Look at the streets of Lagos, look at many of them who are there and things they do so yet; what we are protesting (against) is let everybody who is in Nigeria be free to live wherever they want to live and be free to enjoy."
Speaking on whether there would be a time when Christians would resort to self-defence against targeted Islamic violence, the clergyman said, "We are taught to be gentle."
He said the penal code empowers Nigerians to defend themselves when it comes to religious violence but swiftly added that the situation shouldn't get to that level.
"We are our brother's keepers, we need to be friendly, and we need to show love," he said.
He added that "violence will lead to war and we as Christians, we are for peace and not for war".
To save the country from any further crisis, he called for the restructuring of Nigeria, saying unless we restructure "what is happening may continue because, yes we are the same but the way and manner we think are not the same, the sentiments are also not the same."
Odesola, however, condemned the way the Sokoto State Government had handled the case, saying it was an insult to humanity for charging the two arrested suspects with inciting violence and disturbing public peace instead of charging them with the murder of the killers of Deborah.