Date: May 16, 2013
By Joseph DeCaro, BosNewsLife International Correspondent
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– African Christians are divided over a proposal to grant amnesty to the militant members of Boko Haram, the violent Islamist group whose bombings killed thousands, many of them Christians, and destroyed hundreds of churches in northern Nigeria.
As Nigeria's military struggles against Boko Haram's Islamist insurgents, the ensuing violence has compelled some leaders to seek a political solution to a crisis that has continued unabated since 2009, BosNewsLife's news partner Worthy News learned.
Previously, amnesty was granted to ecological activists operating in the nation's oil-rich Niger Delta in 2008. As that deal restored peace to the region and raised its oil production, Nigeria's government extended a similar offer to members of Boko Haram.
The government created a committee to develop a plan for amnesty in exchange for disarmament, but Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declined the offer, claiming it was Nigeria, not his group, that needed amnesty.
Christian leaders view amnesty as a tool to appease northern politicos before the 2015 presidential elections. Several Protestant leaders consider any amnesty as unacceptable while Catholics desire more dialogue.
Earlier this year, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria suspended relations with the Christian Association of Nigeria whose president, Ayo Oritsejafor, described any proposed amnesty as "wickedness". In response, the Catholic archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, said amnesty could bring peace.
"Even if we fight them militarily for years, we would still have to have dialogue," he said. "Dialogue, not violence, is what ends wars everywhere in the world."
But Evangelical Bishop Jeremiah Gado cautioned that amnesty for Boko Haram, which means 'Western Education is Sinful' only "rewards" violence by punishing Christians who he said greatly suffered from the sect's sectarian attacks.
"Even God does not forgive a sinner until he confesses and repents," added Gado. "Boko Haram believes it has done nothing wrong. So why force amnesty down their throats?"