Members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), popularly called Shiites, on Wednesday attended a Christmas Church service at Church of the Advent, Samaru, Zaria.
Speaking in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) shortly after the service, the leader of the team, Isa Hassan-Mshelgaru said the essence of attending the service was to promote love, tolerance and understanding among Nigerians.
The service was conducted at Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Diocese of Zaria, Church of the Advent, Samaru, Kaduna State.
The IMN is a proscribed Shiite organisation whose leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, has been in detention since 2015 after the group clashed with Nigerian soldiers.
The group has held several procession in Abuja to protest the continued detention of Mr El-Zakzaky despite several court orders for his release; the protests had been met with violent clampdowns by security authorities.
“We came to celebrate the Christmas with fellow Christians here because we consider them as our brothers and we don’t have anything to give them than to come and celebrate this day with them,” said Mr Hassan-Mshelgaru.
“As they consider this day very important, we also consider it very important, we feel that we should come and visit them so that to clear some of the unnecessary imaginary boundaries that have been created.
“There are some imaginary boundaries that could not be seen that kept us far away from each other, so, we want to breach this gap, so that we come together as brothers and sisters living in the same country and same locality,” he said.
Mr Hassan-Mshelgaru, a professor, appealed to other Nigerians, whether Muslims, Christians or traditionalists to shun all forms of hatred, saying that religion was not all about hate but a means of bonding people together.
“You can be a Muslim, a Christian or a Traditionalist, always bear in mind that religion should be a platform for bringing people together not separating them.
“So, my appeal is that Nigerians should come together under the same umbrella as we live in the same country to ensure united and formidable country envy of other nations,” he said.
The Vica of the Church, Isuwa Sa’idu, expressed appreciation for the visit and urged the visitors to sustain the tempo for the good of the nation.
“In fact, I am so excited that they can think of a thing like this to come and visit us on Christmas Day celebration like this.
“When we first got the news of their coming, I was just so overwhelmed and I said I can’t wait for that day to come, here am behold the day has come, the visit had really gladdened our hearts,” he said.
According to him, the visit shows that Nigerians are looking for peace and they are actually pursuing it and not just pursuing it with words but with action.
“So, their action of rising to come to visit us has shown that truly we have found that peace.
“Because Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and if everybody will behave like our friends and brothers, the Muslim Brothers, I don’t think we will have problems in this country.
“Is just share of misunderstanding of what we are and who we are and where we represent that we lack peace today, we can never stay apart from each other, we must and under must live together.
“Here I am in Samaru, I come from Southern Kaduna, some of our friends come from the East and some of you who are Northerners are also living in other parts of Nigeria, if there is no peace how do we live like that?” he asked.
He observed that the occasion had opened a door for people to know that Nigerians have brighter opportunity to live peace with one another.
Mr Sa’idu said that attending Church service by Muslims was not unusual in other countries, saying that in other countries Muslims, Christians another religious groups do their celebrations together.
“I pray this has broken the jinx that we can begin to live together, Muslims attend Christian functions, Christians attend Muslims functions like that we will be happy.
“My message to Nigerians is that let’s copy what these brothers and sisters have done and truly this visit has encouraged me that I have a friend in you, in this man and all of you.
“This implies that I can go to this person, I can go to that person and I will tell my problems and you can attend to me, if we learn to do this, I tell you in the next 10, 20 years, there will be no religious fight.
“Those who ignite crisis for their selfish aims and they leave us to kill and destroy one another but now that we are here for peace we all love one another,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the visitors presented a gift to the Church as a sign of love.