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NIGERIA: Catholic priest burned to death, another shot in north Nigeria

NIGERIA: Catholic priest burned to death, another shot in north Nigeria

Reuters (15.01.2023) – Gunmen burned a Catholic priest to death and shot and injured his colleague in northwest Nigeria on Sunday, police said, the latest violence raising concerns about security ahead of an election next month.

Nigerians will vote for a new president on Feb. 25 but kidnappings for ransom and killings by armed gangs in the north have lead to fears that polls may not be held in some areas.

The motive for the latest attack was not immediately clear but gunmen have previously targeted priests in the largely Muslim north.

Wasiu Abiodun, police spokesperson for Niger state, said in a statement that armed men torched the residence of Father Isaac Achi, of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, in Paikoro local government area, after failing to gain entry around 3:00 a.m.

Father Achi was burned to death while another priest identified as Father Collins, who was at the house, was shot and injured as he tried to escape.

He is recovering at a local hospital, Adiodun said.

“This is a sad moment. For a priest to be killed in such a manner means that we are not all safe. These terrorists have lost it, and drastic action is needed to end this ongoing carnage,” said Niger state governor Sani Bello.

Reporting by Maiduguri newsroom, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, editing by Andrew Cawthorne

 





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NIGERIA: Nigeria’s death-for-blasphemy laws slammed at European Parliament

Nigeria’s death-for-blasphemy laws slammed at European Parliament

– MEP Carlo Fidanza calls for overturn of Sharia-inspired blasphemy laws that violate fundamental rights of religious minorities
– Fidanza brings attention to Nigerian musician’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which challenges the constitutionality of the blasphemy laws under which he faces the death penalty

 

ADF International(16.12.2022) – https://bit.ly/3YGPcJO – While a Sufi-musician waits to hear if he’ll face the death penalty for his “blasphemy” in a high-profile case at the Nigerian Supreme Court, Italian MEP Carlo Fidanza has called attention to the persecution of religious minorities internationally through the criminalisation of “blasphemy” in countries such as Nigeria.

 

The politician highlighted the case of musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who was sentenced to death by hanging in August 2020 for posting song lyrics to WhatsApp that were deemed blasphemous.

 

With support from ADF International, Yahaya’s case has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, challenging the constitutionality of the Sharia-based blasphemy laws.

 

“We welcome the remarks of Carlo Fidanza and others calling attention to the egregious violations of fundamental rights that we are seeing in countries like Nigeria. For decades, human rights advocates have been waiting for an opportunity to overturn blasphemy laws in Nigeria and safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of speech that is protected by international law. Yahaya’s case could be the catalyst for change we have been hoping for. We are supporting Yahaya’s case because nobody should be persecuted for what they believe in, and as a result we hope that blasphemy laws will be eradicated in Nigeria once and for all.” said Dr. Adina Portaru, Senior Counsel for ADF International in Brussels.

 

Watch the speech at the Plenary of the European Parliament here (Italian).

 

Fidanza, who serves as the Co-Chair of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion and Belief and Religious Tolerance, noted that there are seven countries in the world where a person can be sentenced to death for blasphemy, including Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria.

 

The Member of the European Parliament called for blasphemy law in Nigeria to be overturned, calling them “contrary to the human rights of religious minorities, international law and Nigeria’s commitments to its treaties.”

 

Fidanza continued: “this would be an important signal internally, against the Islamist militias that are bloodying the country, and internationally, towards all states that use anti-blasphemy laws to target religious minorities.”

 

For more on Yahaya’s case, visit https://adfinternational.org/nigeria-blasphemy-laws/

Further reading about Nigeria on HRWF website





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NIGERIA: Sufi musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu in prison for blasphemy

Against Nigeria’s blasphemy laws

No one should be killed over their beliefs

By Kelsey Zorzi

 

The Critic (03.12.2022) – https://bit.ly/3XU1MoF – In Nigeria, you can be put to death under the law for the “crime” of blasphemy. Sufi musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, currently imprisoned for blasphemy, has petitioned the Nigerian Supreme Court to put an end to his criminal case, which centres on his sharing religious lyrics on the popular messaging platform WhatsApp. For exercising his fundamental rights to free expression and religious freedom, Yahaya’s life is on the line. This potentially landmark case could abolish once and for all Northern Nigeria’s Sharia blasphemy law — an urgently needed step for the peaceful coexistence of faiths in the country.

 

In March 2020 Yahaya shared song lyrics via WhatsApp that others viewed as insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. His house was burned to the ground by a mob, and he was promptly arrested and charged with blasphemy under the Sharia Penal Code of Kano State. Without legal representation, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging by a local Sharia judge.

 

Innocent of any crime, Yahaya now has appealed to the Supreme Court for justice. He filed his notice of appeal this month, following a decision by the lower courts to issue a retrial after an initial overturning of his conviction. If retried, Yahaya would more than likely be unjustly convicted again, landing him back on death row. It is thus imperative, and urgent, for the Supreme Court to hear his case and bring much needed legal clarity to end the abomination of blasphemy laws in Nigeria.

 

In a split country, everyone stands to lose under these laws

In accordance with Nigeria’s own constitution, the Supreme Court should rule decisively in favour of Yahaya’s rights to free expression and religious freedom. International law — including international treaties to which Nigeria is a party — also demands that the Court uphold Yahaya’s fundamental freedoms.

 

Blasphemy laws are not unique to Nigeria. Approximately 40 per cent of countries in the world have blasphemy laws in some form, and there are currently at least seven countries where a conviction for blasphemy can result in the death penalty. This is a crucial moment for Nigeria to step out as an international leader on the abolishment of blasphemy laws and serve as a model for other countries looking to end this grave human rights abuse.

 

Blasphemy laws have greatly exacerbated religious tensions in Nigeria. The criminalization of blasphemy perpetuates societal violence, giving fodder to existing tensions by sanctioning violence with a seal of legal approval. It breeds a climate of censorship, silencing individuals with the fear of breaking the law for sharing their faith. As exemplified by Yahaya’s case, such laws punish the innocent who dare to express themselves.

 

Nobody should be punished, much less killed, for their religious ideas. Any person of faith or no faith at all can be sanctioned, and even killed, as a result of a blasphemy accusation. In a country of over 200 million, split nearly evenly between Christians and Muslims, everyone stands to lose under these laws. Their abolishment would dramatically improve the prospects for human rights in Nigeria.

 

Christian student Deborah Yakubu was stoned to death

The reality of religiously motivated violence on the ground in Nigeria is grim. In the period between January 2021 and March 2022, over 6,000 Christians were targeted and killed. In May of this year, Christian student Deborah Yakubu was stoned to death and her body burned in Sokoto State, Nigeria, after classmates deemed her WhatsApp messages blasphemous. Following this tragedy, Rhoda Ya’u Jatau, a Christian woman from the northeast, is now on trial for blasphemy for sharing a WhatsApp message condemning Deborah’s brutal killing. Earlier this year, humanist Mubarak Bala was sentenced to 24 years in prison for social media posts critical of Islam.

 

The international religious freedom community has united in calling for urgent action to end the violence in Nigeria. In the United States, advocates repeatedly have called for the Biden administration to reinstate Nigeria as a “Country of Political Concern” on the State Department’s list of the world’s worst religious freedom violators.

 

The UK recently joined 17 other countries, as the chair of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, in “unequivocally” calling for the end of the use of the death penalty for allegations of blasphemy, apostasy or religious insult. Last week at a parliamentary debate on the persecution of Christians, MP Fiona Bruce, the UK Special Envoy for freedom of religion or belief, gave an account of the “multiple atrocities happening in Nigeria”. Earlier this year, she raised Yahaya Sharif-Aminu’s case specifically in Parliament as an example of the application of the death penalty for blasphemy occurring in Commonwealth countries.

 

With a judgment expected in the spring of 2023, all eyes are on the Nigerian Supreme Court as we await justice for Yahaya and, ultimately, the abolishment of blasphemy laws in Northern Nigeria. Progress for Nigeria is contingent on fostering the robust freedom of expression and religion needed for a society to thrive. As Yahaya appeals not only for his own life, but for the rights of all Nigerians, let us stand with him and declare without reserve: everyone has the right to express their opinions. In a free society, all should be able to express their beliefs without fear.

 

Photo: www.ex-muslim.org.uk

Further reading about FORB in Nigeria on HRWF website





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NIGERIA : Christian woman on trial for blasphemy

Christian woman on trial for blasphemy in Northeast Nigeria

Charges based on a WhatsApp message she shared.

Morning Star News (05.10.2022) – https://bit.ly/3TUVQbU – A Christian woman in northeast Nigeria is on trial after being held incommunicado for more than four months on blasphemy charges for forwarding a WhatsApp message, sources said.

 

Rhoda Ya’u Jatau, 45, was arrested in Bauchi state in May after receiving a WhatsApp message from Ghana condemning the gruesome killing of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a university student in Sokoto state also falsely accused of blaspheming Islam.

 

Jatau shared the message condemning Yakubu’s May 12 death with colleagues in Warji County, and Muslims who saw it accused her of blaphemy and sought to kill her. Security agents from the Department of State Services, Nigeria’s secret police, arrested her on May 20, and she was incarcerated when Muslim mobs stormed her house seeking to kill her, sources said.

 

“Ever since her arrest, Mrs. Jatau has been detained in prison over false accusations of blasphemy,” charged with “inciting public disturbance, exciting contempt of religious creed and cyber-stalking,” said her attorney, Joshua Nasara, in a press statement.

 

Efforts to secure bail for Jatau, a health worker with the Warji Local Government Area, have been “frustrated and denied by government authorities and leaders of Islamic groups in the state,” Nasara said.

 

The charges accuse Jatau, of Tudun Alheri, of posting a video that disparages Allah, Muhammad (the prophet of Islam), his parents and the entire Muslim community to a WhatApp group of the Primary Healthcare Authority of Warji Local Government Area, allegedly “with the intent to cause religious crisis,” he said.

 

The charges allege that she thus violated Sections 114, 210 of the Penal Code Law and Section 24 subsection 1b(i) of Cybercrime Prohibition Prevention Act 2015.

 

Jatau was held for two weeks before she was charged, and since then she has been held incommunicado in prison as authorities and Muslim leaders in the state delayed her trial, Nasara said.

 

An application for bail was filed on July 20, after she was held the legal maximum of two months without trial, but it was not assigned to a judge until July 26, and by then judges had gone on vacation, Nasara said.

 

“It was in August that the application was reassigned to a vacation judge who heard it for the first time on Aug. 11,” he said.

 

The Rev. Ishaku Dano of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Warji County said the blasphemy charges are false. Jatau shared the WhatsApp message only as a word of caution against further violence in northern Nigeria, where Muslim mobs were wreaking havoc, he said.

 

“Information we obtained from Mrs. Jatau shows that the WhatsApp message she received and shared in her group was for caution against violence and against the use of derogatory language in addressing other people’s faith, but that was not the interpretation by the Muslims,” Pastor Dano said. “And since the occurrence of the incident in May 2022, there have been campaigns by Muslims for Mrs. Jatau to be killed for blasphemy against Muhammad.”

 

Pastor Attacked

 

In the Birshi area of the city of Bauchi, gunmen on Sept. 16 broke into the home of Pastor Zakka Luka Magaji and shot a relative staying with him, sources said.

 

“Seven terrorists invaded my house and attacked me and my family,” Pastor Magaji said. “I was their target even though I don’t know their motives. The injured relation staying with me who was shot during the attack is getting better now.”

 

The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bauchi State Chapter, said the attack on Pastor Magaji typifies the challenges facing Christians in northern Nigeria.

 

“The government must do everything possible to protect Nigerians from such attacks by terrorists, as life is sacred and must be protected at all costs,” said the Rev. Abraham Damina Dimeus.

 

Ahmed Wakil, spokesman for the Bauchi State Police Command, confirmed that seven armed terrorists attacked the pastor’s home, that he was unhurt and that the relative was wounded.

 

“A 32-year-old man who is a member of Christian Life Church living with Pastor Zakka was injured in the process,” Wakil said. “The police personnel who were there on a rescue mission immediately took the injured victim and rushed him to Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi, for treatment of gunshot wounds.”

 

Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.

 

Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.

 

In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.

Photo: Rhoda Ya’u Jatau. (Facebook) – morningstarnews.org

Further reading about FORB in Nigeria on HRWF website





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NIGERIA : USCIRF releases new report on violence impacting religious freedom

USCIRF releases new report on violence impacting religious freedom

 

USCIRF (06.09/2022) – https://bit.ly/3Ql9Ycj – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released the following new report:

 

Violence and Religious Freedom in Nigeria – This policy update identifies the ways in which widespread violence by nonstate actors in Nigeria threaten freedom of religion or belief. Examples detailed in the report include militant Islamist group violence, some forms of identity-based violence, mob violence, and violence impacting worship. It also explores the role that poor governance plays in driving much of this violence, as well as the impact on religious freedom of several aggravating factors exacerbating insecurity, including localized religious discrimination, the politicization of religion, and wider demographic and economic trends. The report concludes by highlighting the U.S. government’s responsibility to respond to religious freedom violations and rising atrocity risk in Nigeria, as mandated by U.S. law, and laying out policy response options.

 

In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. In June 2022, a USCIRF delegation visited Nigeria and published a USCIRF Spotlight Podcast episode detailing the visit’s findings and takeaways.

Further reading about FORB in Nigeria on HRWF website


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