Religious leaders in Nigeria condemn brutal murder of student
By Gabriella Ceraso
Public outcry continues against the unjustified act of violence against a Nigerian student, a crime condemned by both Muslim and Christian religious leaders throughout Nigeria including the highest authority, Sultan Saad Abubakar.
Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto - the State that was the scene of the incident - has appealed for calm.
Shocked by the murder, the Nigerian Bishop called for justice over this criminal, inhuman act that has "nothing to do with religion."
Christians and Muslims, he added in a message posted on the diocese's website, have always "lived peacefully" over the years. He called for prayers for the repose of the soul of Ms. Deborah and that God may grant her eternal rest and console her family.
According to reports published by local media, a student publicly accused young Deborah Yakubu, an economics major, of alleged blasphemy on a student group chat. This appears to have led to the outbreak of collective violence that took place at the ShehuShagari College of Education, in Sokoto State in northeastern Nigeria.
The young Christian student's Muslim classmates allegedly dragged her out of the school, where she had unsuccessfully sought refuge and protection, to stone her and set her body on fire.
The perpetrators have already been identified, thanks in part to a video documenting the horrific murder, confirmed by Sokoto police, while the institute has been closed by government order indefinitely.
'A barbaric act that leaves us speechless'
The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Nigeria says it is deeply shocked by this "terrible murder."
“ACN decries this most recent act of violence. The levels of extremism and violence reached in Nigeria over the last few years are absolutely appalling. Hardly a week goes by without news of kidnappings and dozens of deaths, but this barbaric act leaves us speechless,” said executive president Thomas Heine-Geldern.
Difficult situation in Nigeria
In the statement, the Foundation also recalled that "since 1999, twelve states in northern Nigeria have adopted Shariah-based legal codes which operate in parallel with secular courts. Many of these Shariah laws include heavy penalties for blasphemy, including death. However, at least Shariah guarantees a form of due process, without resorting to lynching and summary execution, as happened with this most recent case in Sokoto, which is not unprecedented. According to ACN’s most recent Religious Freedom Report, after 20 years of Shariah law the situation in northern Nigeria has become worse, with ethnicity and religion becoming shortcuts to power, resources and privilege. The report states that Shariah law has deepened the divisions in the country."