Nigerian Christians Protest Death of Deborah…… | News and reports
Thousands of churches across Nigeria demanded an end to sectarian killings on Sunday, horrified by a crowd onslaught on a university student accused of blasphemy. But fearing more violence, their approach differed significantly by geography.
“The overwhelming majority of our churches in the south participated, many took to the streets to protest peacefully,” said Testimony Onifade, Senior Special Assistant to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “Coming together, we condemned this horrific act and called on the government to identify, arrest and prosecute the culprits.”
But in the north, where Muslims make up the majority of Nigerians, John Hayab described 20 minutes set aside to pray for divine intervention. The chairman of CAN’s Kaduna national chapter hailed the “solemn” ceremony observed by all faiths in the north, amid a ban on demonstrations by local authorities after some Muslims had threatened counter-protests.
Instead, a select group of 120 Christian leaders gathered at a church in Kaduna town, guarded by police and security agencies.
There were good reasons to be cautious.
Two weeks ago, in Nigeria’s most northwestern state of Sokoto, Deborah Samuel was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students from Shehu Shagari College of Education. Officials and the police intervened in vain.
Two students were arrested. To protest their release, Muslim partisans proceeded to destroy 11 more buildings, descend on Christian shops in the city and besiege the palace of the sultan of Sokoto who had condemned the May 12 murder.
According to his friend Rakia, Samuel’s last words were: “What do you hope to achieve with this?”
After a colleague shared Islamic material on an exam preparation social media group, Samuel posted an audio recording asking him to remove it. Friends who heard Muslim students deem her response blasphemous urged her to recant.
Instead, she replied, “Holy Ghost fire. Nothing will happen to me.”
Gideon Para-Mallam, the former Jos-based Africa Ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, joined the protests in the Middle Belt Plateau state.
He called for peace and restraint. But also, for an explanation.
“How is it that our young people behaved like this? He asked. “All those dreams and hopes for the future, destroyed in a few moments of deep evil.”
Nigerian Christians have circulated a radical imam’s video response with a picture of the slain former Boko Haram leader in the background.
“Whoever insults the prophet of God, kill him,” the imam said. “Don’t waste time telling the authorities, kill him.”
It’s been a bloody year.
Open Doors, which ranks Nigeria 7th on its global watchlist of the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian, recorded 896 civilians killed by Islamic extremists in the first three months of 2022.
Abubakar Shekau was confirmed dead last June, killed in an exchange of fire with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). More than 40,000 militants surrendered to the Nigerian government, while a large but unknown number of commanders joined their jihadist rivals.
The same week as Samuel’s murder, ISWAP released a video depicting the execution of 20 Christians.
“Christians everywhere should be impressed by the testimony of these men,” said Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors in sub-Saharan Africa, “who, to our knowledge, have retained their faith even in the face of execution. . »
Formed in 2014 to confront the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, an 84-nation coalition has sounded the alarm in Africa, where the pace of affiliated attacks far exceeds the parent organization in the Middle East. The 3,461 sub-Saharan murders in 2021 represent 48% of the global total of terrorists.
And in mid-April, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed more than 150 Christian farmers in 10 communities in Plateau state. While some blame the attacks on a lack of resources, Nigerian Information Minister Lai Mohamed said there was now a “kind of holy handshake” between the bandits and Boko Haram.
Last year, Open Doors ranked Nigeria as a dastardly No. 1 in the categories of Christians killed (4,650) or abducted (2,510), as well as the homes and shops of Christians (a token tally of 1,000 each ) attacked, for denominational reasons. .
Deborah Samuel has put a face to the crisis.
“We consider this evil act to have been facilitated by successive governments that have failed to respond effectively to religious extremism and violence,” Para-Mallam said. “This impunity has gone on for too long.”
He called for an end to “jungle justice”.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was quick to criticize those who took the law into their own hands, promising an independent investigation. But former vice president and likely 2023 presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar deleted a tweet in which he condemned the killing.
One comment claimed he would lose a million votes in Sokoto.
The original post was shared without his permission, he said. But while his explanatory statement affirmed his ability to take strong positions on issues, including Sharia, he made no comment about the victim.
CAN’s youth wing has pledged to withhold votes from any candidate who does not clearly condemn Samuel’s murder. The non-religious Southern and Middle Belt Alliance said Abubakar’s callousness “does not befit” a president.
Under the auspices of Muslims United for Peace and Justice, 13 groups have condemned the killing. Para-Mallam expressed his appreciation for such a sentiment. Hayab said that in the north these leaders are few and unpopular.
But one of the 13, Muslim Rights Concern, used the occasion to call for greater enforcement of the blasphemy law and called for “deep soul-searching” by Nigeria’s Christian community to stave off the blasphemy law. ‘intolerance.
He also called for an investigation into a pastor in southwestern Osun State whose remarks in response to Samuel’s murder allegedly insulted Islam and could plunge the entire region into chaos and war. religion, according to the Muslim group.
A government official, while condemning the murder, blamed Samuel herself.
“Muslims do not accept insults against [our] beloved prophet,” said Anas Sani, assistant to the finance minister in Sokoto. “May the carelessness of our tongues never push us to [an] falls early.
While a manhunt is underway, the two students charged so far face only a two-year prison sentence for conspiracy and incitement to disturb public order.
Regarding the blasphemy allegations in Nigeria, Mubarak Bala was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April after pleading guilty. In 2020, Omar Farouq was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Yahaya Aminu was sentenced to death.
All three are Muslims and Nigeria’s Supreme Court has overturned the last two convictions. But he recognized blasphemy as a misdemeanor, punishable by death if found by a court.
Onifade chastised his country’s constitution for including Sharia.
“The blasphemy agenda is the latest plot to destroy vulnerable Christian minorities,” he said, placing him in line with Boko Haram terrorists and extremist Fulani herdsmen. “Fabricated by violent Islamists and Quranic masters, this conspiracy cannot be ignored by the international community.”
Muslims and Christians have fled their homes due to extremist violence, the United Nations has said, with 8.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in northwestern Nigeria alone. Half of them are facing a food crisis.
In response, Hayab called on citizens to arm themselves.
“Nigerian Christians, especially those of Nordic descent, have no choice but to defend themselves against bandits, terrorists and now religious fundamentalists,” he said, citing earlier false examples. . “They will use every opportunity to kill, at the slightest allegation of blasphemy.”
Para-Mallam, who founded an eponymous foundation for peace, agreed that the law allows certain weapons in certain situations. He advocated for communities to protect themselves against attacks.
But all must conform to the teaching of Jesus.
“There is a thin line between self-defense and retaliation,” he said. “We must first focus on the just restoration of peace, to promote coexistence.”
The opposite produces a tragedy.
Samuel’s classmates desperately called for help. Police fired tear gas into the melee and then fired into the air. They retreated, witnesses said, when students threw rocks at them and beat them with sticks.
Which then turned against the accused.
“She pleaded for mercy, but it was far from her,” said Rakia, her friend. “What a cruel way to die.”