Annoying Easter Message: CAN demands public apology from FIRS

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has condemned a recent Easter advertisement by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), demanding a public apology for what it deems as an insensitive message that disrespects the Christian faith.

The controversy erupted when the FIRS shared an image of a Point of Sale machine on social media with the caption, “Jesus paid your debts, not your taxes.”

The now-deleted post, tagged with #FIRSNigeria, sparked widespread outrage, particularly among Christians, who perceived it as disrespectful and offensive.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, CAN’s National Director for National Issues and Social Welfare, Commodore Abimbola Ayuba (rtd), expressed concern over the FIRS advertisement, emphasizing that such statements undermine the religious sentiments of millions of Nigerians and pose a threat to national unity.

The apex Christian body called on the FIRS to issue a public apology for the controversial advertisement and urged high-level officials, including President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Minister of Finance Wale Edun, to intervene in addressing the matter.

The demand for a public apology underscores the gravity of the issue and highlights the need for sensitivity and respect for religious diversity in public communications.

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 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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