Catholic Church In Yola Built A Mosque For Muslims – Bishop Mamza (Religion)

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In this interview with HINDI LIVINUS, fiery Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Yola, Revd. Fr. Stephen Mamza, speaks on the state of the nation.

You have faced criticism from your fellow Christians for building a mosque for Muslim IDPs. How did you handle the opposition?

In the first place, when we played host to these IDPs, we did not discriminate against any one of them. We didn’t ask what religion the IDPs belong to; we didn’t ask for their church denomination; we just treated them as human beings who are in need of help, irrespective of their religion, denomination or tribe. Majority of the IDPs who thronged our camp were Christians but there was also a large number of Muslims among them. And if we were able to build houses for all of them, and also built a church for the Christians among them, then it is only a matter of justice and fairness that we also provide a space of worship for the few Muslims among them. There are about 10 to 12 Muslim families in the camp. I just felt that since we didn’t leave out the Muslims while providing food for the Christians or leave the Muslims out while building houses for the Christians, it is only just that we also build a mosque for the Muslims as we built a church for Christians. It is not something that is commonly done; it is not something that we have heard of being done, especially in our country, Nigeria, where everybody is conscious about their own religion.

What do your parishioners think about it?

Even from within, people did not see it as a good gesture, at all. But it is normal; I can also understand them. Some of them even pointed out that the Boko Haram insurgents are Muslims and they have caused a lot of the havoc for us; they ask, “Why should we even go ahead and build a mosque for them?” But I say, “Well, not all the Muslims are Boko Haram (members), not all of them (Muslims) are evil. Those that I know, that we have been living together and taking care of them for the past seven years, I know them to be good. So, there should be no reason why I should discriminate against them. I think that is the reason we built the mosque. People even ask, “Why should you, a Christian, build a mosque?” And my response to them is that, “I am a Christian, a pastor, a bishop and a priest, I shouldn’t deny anybody their right to worship.” I think that is the clear message I actually want to pass across. Religion is a matter of choice. One can choose to practise this religion today, and can equally choose to practise another religion tomorrow. People should not be compelled into the practice of any particular religion against their will. If as a Christian you decide to change to Islam, that’s your own choice, you should be allowed to do so.

Also, if as a Muslim you decide that Christianity is better for you, you should be allowed to practise the faith of your choice. Nobody should be threatened or forced. If a Christian chooses to become a Muslim, that Christian shouldn’t be threatened. Same way, if a Muslim decides to become a Christian, that Muslim shouldn’t be threatened. That is what freedom of worship guarantees under our constitution, since it is a secular state that allows and tolerates freedom of worship.

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