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Nigeria: Islamic Leaders Have a Duty to Stop Boko Haram - -Onaiyekan

CATHOLIC Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan yesterday appealed to Islamic leaders to try and rein in members of the Boko Haram insisting it remains their cardinal duty to humanity since the sect members claims they are Muslims who are propagating "ideal" Islamic programmes.

Onaiyekan made the remark while reeling out programme of activities for the Episcopal ordination of Rev. Fr. Anselm Umoren as the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Abuja Archdiocese.

According to Onaiyekan, what is more important in order to bring back members of the sect to live normal life style was to begin to work on their theology, stressing that if the Islamic leaders could succeed in correcting the wrong doctrines imbibed by members of the sect, peace and stability would return to the country.

He said: "What I am trying to say is that we have more a battle of the mind to contend with than the battle of guns and tanks. And I think this is where the government has to seriously do all it can to reach the heart and mind of the people doing all these things.

"Just as the mind can be poisoned, we can also de-toxiate the mind, by reaching out to them and telling them they are making a big mistake and that what they are doing is not even in their own interest.

"That is what you might call counter propaganda. This is one reason why we are challenging our Islamic community in Nigeria.

"They have said it clearly again and again that they are not in support of what they are doing. Alhaji Lattef Adegbite, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs had spoken voiceferously condemning what the Boko Haram people are doing and that what they do is not Islam. Good! They can do much more than that because whether you call them Muslims or not, they said they are one.

"I was listening to BBC this morning and the Kano state correspondent of the station referred to them as Islamic terrorist group operating in Nigeria; he is a Muslim as well. When Islamic leaders say we should not be calling them Islamic terrorist group, we will not call them Islamic but, they say they are and they operate within the family of Islam and so, when there is the need to detoxicate their mind, to throw out messages that will change their mind for the better, it is not from the Church that we will do that; it will be done through the network of the Mosques. And I think they must take that responsibility seriously.

"They said they were never Boko Haram that it was other people who gave them that name. They said their name, if you listen to them correctly and read it with the meaning clearly obtained, that they are, they have a very long name in Arabic which means an association of Suni Moslems that are interested in propagating the faith and in fighting for it.

"The two operating word is propagating the faith and Jihad, which has different meanings, including violent attacks".

He maintained that there is little the police or other security agencies can do but much can be achieved if we control the kind of message we preach to our followers.

On the ordination of the Auxiliary Bishop, he stressed that he requested for one form the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI who appointed one of the priests in the Archdiocese to be his assistant, in accordance with the letters of the Cannon Law.

He said though Fr. Umoren who would be ordained on Thursday is not automatic successor to him, both of them would work closely and harmoniously in accordance with the Catholic procedures.

"I asked for an Auxiliary Bishop not because I am too alone or that the priests who are working with me have not been doing well. I asked for Auxiliary Bishop because there are some heavy responsibilities that rest on the Bishop alone, which I need someone to help me to carry.

"Therefore, while we have Vicar General and all kinds of priests who are in-charge of several things in the Archdiocese, they will continue to do their work but the Auxiliary Bishop will be my special right hand man who will carry out some of the duties that are generally reserved for Bishops alone; I share my duties in that regard.

"We intend to work very closely. The Code of Cannon Law insists on common action and common mind between the Archbishop and the Auxiliary Bishop.

"The Code of Cannon Law does not leave anyone in doubt as to who is in-charge. In this regard, there are two Bishops but all under one Diocesean Bishop," he stressed.

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