Tuesday, March 04, 2008

From the Church of Nigeria's Communications Department

In response to my recent post regarding a report by Eliza Griswold, in which the role of Archbishop Akinola in the 2004 Yelwa massacre was questioned, I received the following email message today:

Dear Sirs,

Eliza Griswold's recent attempt to demonise the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria by publishing an article raising issues of religious violence (reported in CT last week) is most unhelpful. As CAN president, one of the challenges the Archbishop faced was that of persuading youthful Christians to stop revenge attacks.

While the very sad ethnic/religious Yelwa incident took place in 2004, his statement about no religion having a monopoly of violence was made in 2006 when Nigerian Christians were being slaughtered because of some cartoons published in Denmark.

About Ms Griswold's article, Archbishop Akinola has commented: "It is a pity that I have again been quoted out of context by the Atlantic Monthly two years after the event and the interview. The incident of the Danish Cartoons started off a crisis in Northern Nigeria. As president of the Christian Association of Nigeria I had to prevail on Christians not to retaliate. If we had not done that there would have been chaos. It was in the context of prevailing on Christian youth not to retaliate that I said what I said"

His statement was made not to encourage violent retaliation from Christian youth, but to recognise the reality of the possibility of such retaliation in the context of extreme provocation.

What is not reported so well, or known so widely is the many efforts that were initiated for peace-making. In February 2007 for example, Abp. Akinola (along with many Anglican bishops) was in the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria's overall Islamic leader on a friendly visit.( http://www.anglican-nig.org/sokoto_surprise.htm ) Abp. Akinola has not and does not encourage violence but continues to maintain peaceful cordial relationships with every peace loving Nigerian irrespective of tribe, creed or gender.

The Western press should learn from the Danish cartoons saga that articles they publish, whatever the motive might be, can be responsible for the death of many innocent lives hundred of miles away.

Yours sincerely

AkinTunde Popoola
4th March, 2008
Note that the issue, the involvement of the Archbishop in the 2004 Yelwa massacre, is quickly shifted to a controversial statement made by Akinola in 2006.

Here is my reply to Canon Popoola:

Dear Sir,

This is all very interesting, but does not address the concern.

When asked by Ms Griswold if members of CAN were sent to Yelwa in 2004, the Archbishop grinned and said "No comment."

That is the issue. Were men from CAN sent to Yelwa? Did the Archbishop, as President of CAN, send them?

Your attempt to change the subject to a statement made in 2006 does not deter me from feeling strongly that a full investigtion is needed into the events in Yelwa that resulted in the deaths of over 600 people, and the role CAN played in that massacre.

Terry Martin
To make sure such an investigation occurs, contact information for those who need to know about this can be found here.


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