Presidency warns against politicisation of religion

The Presidency on Tuesday cautioned religious leaders against playing into the hands of terror groups by politicising religion.

In a statement signed by Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidency noted that the intent of Boko Haram and other similar terror groups is to turn Nigerians against one another, using divergence in beliefs.

According to the statement, the government and its security agencies had been committed to ending terrorist activities wherever they are currently found in the country, adding that security agencies had been doing everything possible to see to it that all those held hostage by terrorists are set free.

It, however, lamented the situation in which some religious leaders had been fanning the embers of religious disharmony in the country, politicising the situation and almost helping terrorists achieve their target of setting Nigerians against each other, using religious as bait.

The statement reads: "The security forces of Nigeria are working continuously to return those taken hostage by Boko Haram to their families, friends and communities. In doing this, the government has full confidence in their ability to accomplish the task.

"The government has condemned some of the appalling acts of terror, especially following the festive period. Yet, to continue to see these happenings solely in religious terms – removed from social, economic and environmental factors – simplifies complexities that must be heeded.

"Not seeing them as they should be is exactly what Boko Haram and groups wish: they want Nigerians to see their beliefs as reason to turn against one another. Boko Haram should be the happiest, seeing our religious leaders tearing at one another.

"Happily, a majority of our citizens, Christians and Muslims are united in their opposition to the terrorist group and the hatred for decency that the infamous group stands for…"

"Nigerians must continue to be united in ensuring that they do not subscribe to its message of division. Unfortunately, some leaders and politicians seek to make political capital from our religious differences. As we fight Boko Haram on the ground, so too must we tackle their beliefs: stability and unity in face of their hatred is itself a rejection of their worldview."

"This government shall never tolerate religious intolerance. We clearly and unambiguously restate our support for the freedom to practice whichever belief you wish. The politicisation of religion – as forbidden by the constitution – has no place in Nigeria.

"What this country needs urgently at the moment is addressing rampant unemployment, alleviating poverty and delivering long-delayed infrastructure. We urgently need jobs, economic growth and relief from debilitating corruption.

"The President does not wish to be distracted from this major focus by divisive politics promoting religion and accusations and counter accusations on baseless religious issues."

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