As Pentecostal Churches Train Members in Self-Defence

Feeling vulnerable with its posture of "passive tolerance," the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has directed pastors and other Christian leaders in Kaduna to start training their members in self-defence skills.

Against the backdrop of recent communal clashes in some areas of the North, the Fellowship said its directive became necessary following alleged threats of an impending attack on Christians by certain groups in the guise of religion.

Addressing a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, PFN state President Pastor Joseph Ajayi said the Fellowship remained committed to the principle of non-aggression. "We have told our members not to fight, but we have the right to self-defence," he explained.

The group noted efforts by the Kaduna State Govern-ment to secure the peace. "We appreciate the commitment of the Kaduna State Government to the pursuance and maintenance of peace, but there are elements consistently looking for ways to cause trouble," Ajayi said.

He spoke yesterday against the backdrop of ethno-religious crisis that recently rocked Plateau State, spilling over to Kano. The crises in both states wreaked carnage on lives and property, resulting in the imposition of a state of emergency in Plateau State, and a strong presidential warning to Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau to secure the peace or risk imposition of emergency rule.

Ajayi described the training in self-defence as proactive, regretting that if Christians in Plateau State were so trained, the casualty rate that resulted from recent attack on a church there would have been lower.

The cleric explained: "We have come to the conclusion that, to have true peace in Kaduna State, every person and every party must come together with sincerity, truth, honesty and sacrifice to work for peace.

"Christians are not begging to be allowed to live and practise their religion, we have the inalienable right to live and practise our religion without molestation or intimidation, according to the Nigerian Constitution."

He said Christians were eager to foster peace since it would be for their own good. But he added: "While working to prevent crisis, we will also embark on ways to protect and defend ourselves in case of attack. We have continued to teach our followers that peace is better than war because nothing good comes out from mayhem, destruction and murder."