New Telegraph

Handle Religious Symbols, Narratives With Sensitivity CAN Cautions Organisations

…demands retract, apology over FIRS controversial Easter message

Following the controversy trailing the Easter message sponsored by a public organisation, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has cautioned both public and private organisations to be very sensitive when handling religious symbols and narratives capable of affecting national peace and unity.

Recall that the controversial statement “Jesus paid your debt, not your taxes” circulated by the FIRS not only received condemnation from millions of Nigerians but sparked different degrees of arguments and confrontations by people from different sects and religions on the social space.

A statement signed by CAN’s National Director, National Issues and Social Welfare, Prophet Commodore Abimbola Ayuba on Tuesday in Abuja, has called on FIRS to retract the controversial message and also tender a public apology for the controversy it’s message generated.

Raising concerns over the recurrence of provocative messages around religious holidays, CAN said that given the diverse religious backgrounds in the country, there is a need to respect religious institutions and their beliefs rather than trivialize or mock them.

The statement reads: “It has come to our attention that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has released an Easter message that has sparked significant public outcry amongst Christians. It is with a profound sense of duty to national unity and respect for religious sentiments that we address the controversial statement “Jesus paid your debt, not your taxes” circulated by the FIRS.

“As a nation that prides itself on religious harmony and peaceful coexistence, we are deeply concerned by the recurrence of provocative messages around religious holidays.

“This year, a public institution, which should be the bastion of exemplary conduct, has been implicated in disseminating content that is widely regarded as offensive and derogatory to the Christian faith. Such messages not only threaten the delicate fabric of our national unity but also undermine the efforts of countless Nigerians working towards fostering mutual respect among diverse religious groups.

“The Easter period, a time of solemn reflection and sacred observance for Christians, should not be juxtaposed with civic obligations in a manner that trivializes or mocks core religious beliefs. Religious convictions are at the heart of our identity and deserve the utmost respect. The analogy drawn by the FIRS between the pivotal Christian doctrine of redemption and the civic duty of tax payment has been received with distress and indignation by the Christian community.

“We recognize that the intended message may have been to creatively engage taxpayers; however, the execution has regrettably crossed the bounds of cultural and religious decorum. While the FIRS’s intent may not have been to show irreverence, the impact of the message cannot be ignored. It is imperative to remember that the use of religious symbols and narratives should be handled with the highest degree of sensitivity, especially when intersecting with secular matters.

“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) advises all public and private organizations to exercise caution and consideration for the diverse religious backgrounds of our society. It is crucial that communications, especially from public institutions, are crafted with a clear understanding of the cultural and religious tapestry that defines our nation.

“In light of recent events, we call upon the management of the FIRS to retract the message and offer a public apology for the distress caused. We also urge the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Minister of Finance, Wale Edun and the Department of State Security Service (DSS) to take cognizance of this incident and to guide the FIRS in adhering to communication strategies that promote respect, unity, and cohesion.

“As a nation, we must strive to uphold the principles of respect and sensitivity in all our public discourses. It is through these values that we can continue to build a truly harmonious and inclusive Nigeria.”

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