A few days after the United States Government added Nigeria to a special watch list of governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom, indigenous Christians in the northern region of the country joined their counterparts in celebrating Christmas. The day was marked with glamour as people turned out en masse to partake in the celebration.
Christmas and Sallah festivities are everybody’s affair in Kano, with a significant number of indigenous Hausa Christians. This year’s Christmas was no different as Christians and Muslims came together in moments of joy, making it difficult for visitors to identify the dividing line between adherents of the two religions.
In Kano, Christianity has significant followership in many communities across Garun Malam, Rano, Sumaila, Tudun Wada, Gwarzo and Karaye local government areas. In some of the communities in Garun Malam and Rano local government areas, it was an aura of joy and excitement as the Muslim faithful joined their brothers, the Christians in merriment for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
A Muslim, ‘Sarkin Kida,’ the chief drummer of Madobi Local Government, Malam Umar Chiroma entertained Christians at Nasarawa Baptist Church Chiromawa on Christmas Day.
Malam Sabo Jatau, a Christian and member of Nasarawa Baptist Church Chiromawa, expressed confidence that the country would be at peace should it learn from their experiences as a multi-religious society.
Jatau said, “Christmas and Sallah celebrations peculiar to respective religions are for all here; we don’t segregate. We are always one in times of joy and moments of grief.
“During their weddings, in the mosque or at home, we celebrate with them, likewise our weddings and funerals. Even today, you can see for yourself that there are many Muslims right here at the church premises rejoicing with us. We live in peace, love and have mutual respect for one another.”
Another Christian leader, Malam Garba Waisu, said the cordial relationship between Christians and Muslims had existed for several decades.
“Even this morning, the chairman of Garun Malam called and wished me a happy Christmas, so the relationship has been cordial,” he said.
He, however, decried the attitude of the Kano State Government towards Christian communities. He alleged that the government feigned ignorance about the existence of indigenous Hausa Christians.
“Our only concern is with the state government, which after almost half a century, still feigns ignorance about the existence of Christians among the Hausa people of Kano State origin and does not carry them along in governance as is the case in order places,’’ he said.
Malam Hassan, 75, is one of the surviving members that accepted Christ in the community about 50 years ago.
Recalling the struggles that heralded the building of the Nasarawa Baptist Church in the early days of Christian faith at Chiromawa, he urged the Christian population in the community to emulate Christ and continue to live in peace with one another, and to love their neighbours.
In Gombe, no one was left out of the celebration. In Kaltungo Local Government Area, located in the southern part of the state, Christian faithful celebrated the day with their Muslim brothers and sisters as is the norm in the state, where siblings practise different religions.
Our correspondent, who visited Kaltungo on Christmas day, reports that after the church services, worshippers returned to their houses to entertain their Muslim relatives and friends.
On Christmas eve, the Mai Kaltungo, Saleh Muhammad, an engineer, held the annual durbar and cultural events to commemorate the culture of the Kaltungo people, and joined Christians in celebrating the yuletide.
Mai Kaltungo felicitated with the Christian community during the event, which was well attended by both Muslims and Christians.
Meanwhile, in a sermon on Christmas day at ECWA Church, Gombe, Pastor Rolines Buba Yangari described Christmas as a day of devotion to worshipping God, not a day to organise social activities that would lead to sin.
Pastor Yangari called on Christian faithful to reflect the lifestyles of Jesus Christ by showing love, kindness, and to present gifts to people around them.
He stressed the need for Christians to have the culture of visiting their relatives, especially in this festive period.
Also, The Reverend Apollos Hassan of ECWA Gospel Church, Off Ashaka road, advised the Christian faithful to shun the life of pretence and emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In a Christmas sermon on Wednesday, Apollos stressed the need for Christians to inculcate the spirit of giving out, as well as showing love to one another.
He urged believers to always pray for their leaders so that God would give them wisdom and knowledge to rule according to God’s will.
Also, indigenous Christians in Katsina State celebrated Christmas in a colourful and peaceful style. The people, usually in Kafur, Bakori and Malumfashi local government areas, attended church service and other social events in colourful dresses.
The Reverend Ajasi Ayhu of ECWA Church, Funtua, said because the indigenous Christians were predominantly farmers and Christmas always comes on December 25 after the harvesting period, they hardly encounter a serious economic setback in the season.
“We normally contribute money long before the Christmas, with which we buy cows in our communities for the season’s feast. We have sizeable and manageable families, so we design a successful celebration yearly,” he said.
The Reverend Ayhu added that there’s always a peaceful coexistence with Muslim communities around them, especially those that have Muslim relatives.
When Daily Trust Saturday visited some parts of Kafur and Bakori local government areas on Christmas day, Muslim women and youths from neighbouring villages and hamlets trooped into Unguwar Shudi in Bakori Local Government Area.
According to the locals, it is a tradition for the community’s indigenous Christians to organise a party on Christmas day, during which they play many interesting games and entertain their guests.
Pastor Markus Ishaya of ECWA Church, Unguwar Shudi, said the tradition had been there for over 20 years.
“Usually, women and youths here in Unguwar Shudi invite their friends to celebrate Christmas. Food, drinks and meat are abundantly provided for the guests during the feast,” Pastor Ishaya said.
He commended Muslim communities in their neighbourhood for always honouring their invitations.
One of the guests and an elderly Fulani man, Muhammadu Sani, said they only had a difference in their faiths but live as brothers and sisters.
“Our settlements are not far from this Unguwar Shudi. In fact, the dominant people here are Fulani, but we have been living in peace with them for decades.
“During our Sallah, wedding or naming ceremonies they also actively participate. We spend our leisure time together, that is why the bond, as you can see, is so strong,” Sani said.
There was a larger event on Boxing Day at Marabar Kanya, Kafur Local Government Area.
One of the indigenous Christians, Dan’asabe Adamu, said it was a grand gathering, with many people in attendance.
“Christians from Malumfashi, Kafur and Bakori local government areas gathered at Marabar Kanya every Boxing Day. They organide prayers, lectures, eat together and exchange greetings and pleasantries with long-time friends, relatives and neighbours,” Adamu said.
He added that people from Makarfi and some Southern Kaduna Christians do go to Marabar Kanya in a solidarity visit every Christmas season.
Furthermore, preparation for the celebration of Christmas amongst indigenous Christians of Jigawa State began two days ahead.
Those with little to prepare started their preparation on Christmas eve. The food, usually ready by 10 am on Christmas Day, was shared to neighbours and well-wishers.
Roni and Kazaure towns have the highest population of indigenous Christians in Jigawa State.
Haruna Adamu said that on Christmas Day, food distribution started at 8am. Adamu explained that as a tradition, people took food to the church, also to be shared amongst worshippers and security personnel.
Adamu said that residents could not, however, celebrate properly this year due to the death of a church elder on Christmas Day. He added that they usually celebrated after the morning church service. They engaged in sporting events, dancing and singing competitions.
An octogenarian and widow, Binta Fasali, said Christmas was celebrated by slaughtering cows and sharing among orphans when the missionaries were in Roni.
Fasali said her grandchildren, about 30, always made Christmas Day eventful.
The chairman of the Jigawa State branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Markus Yohannah Danbinta, said the celebration would last into the New Year, with bible memorisation, dancing, singing and sporting competitions.
Indigenous Christians are mostly found in the southern part of Katsina. They reside predominantly in Malumfashi, Kafur, Musawa, Bakori and Matazu local government areas.
The senior pastor of the First ECWA Church, Malumfashi and chairman, ECWA Katsina DCC, Ayuba Gona Malumfashi, said they held two church services. The second service in the afternoon was to entertain people, especially the needy.
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