Christian group in Nigeria labels John Kerry's visit as divisive and discriminatory

The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Supo Ayokunle, criticized John Kerry for stirring state divisions during his visit to Nigeria on Monday. Kerry was hosted by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III, while he was in the country.

Kerry also met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the governors of the northern states.

(REUTERS/Jorge Silva)U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Ayokunle said Kerry's visit favored the Muslims in Northern Nigeria, to the detriment of the Christian community.

"It was surely a very divisive visit. By going to the north, Kerry's visit has heightened fear and tension among Christians in Nigeria. If they cannot bring us together, they should not interfere in our affairs," Ayokunle said in a statement.

The motive behind Kerry's trip was to reinforce Nigeria's counterterrorism efforts and to speak about the importance of religious tolerance in fighting extremist ideologies.

Ayokunle also condemned the Nigerian Police and the Department of State Service (DSS) over its inaction regarding the cases of persecuted Christians.

"Has the DSS arrested the Muslim youths who burnt down a Catholic Church in Niger State because they were worshipping on Friday? What happened to the ECWA pastor who was killed in his farm in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State? What has happened with Redeemed Preacher who was murdered in Kubwa, Abuja?" he asked.

Ayokunle also mentioned the case of Joe Chinakwe who was arrested for naming his dog after President Buhari. He called on the Nigerian Bar Association to intervene in Chinakwe's case.

The Sultan of Sokoto recently commented that Nigeria is not a secular nation but a multi-religious state. The National Christian Elders argued against his remark, citing section 10 of the Nigerian constitution which prohibits the government from adopting a state religion. Over the years, there have been several cases of Muslim leaders trying to Islamize Nigeria despite clear provisions in the law against such acts.

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