UN Writes to Nigeria Over Blasphemy Law Targeting Christians: In response to appeals from ADF International, Christian Solidarity International, and Jubilee Campaign, the United Nations has written to the Nigerian government to express concern about the country’s strict blasphemy laws, which the religious freedom advocates say violate human rights and are being used to persecute Christians.
The UN letter comes after the murder of a schoolgirl, Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, who was attacked and set on fire by a mob of her classmates in May 2022 for sharing her Christian faith. The letter includes details of the attack and calls on the Nigerian government to re-examine the imprisonment of Christian mother of five, Rhoda Jatau, who was jailed days after Debrah’s death for allegedly sharing a video on social media condemning the young girl’s killing.
The part of the letter that was sent to the government in Lagos, Nigeria, on August 4, 2023, but was only made public in early October reads:
“Both cases appear to be related to the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and of freedom of opinion and expression. Both [Deborah and Rhoda] are members of a religious minority”.
Highlighting the dangers of laws that seek to restrict religious belief, the letter further reads:
“Blasphemy laws have repeatedly been shown to violate freedom of religion and belief as well as have a stifling effect on open dialogue and public discourse… they often fuel stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination and incitement to violence.”
Although the letter was made public at the end of a 60-day confidentiality period in which the Nigerian government could respond, Premier Christian News reports that no response has been received from the Nigerian government in regard to the letter.
Speaking about the appeal the Director of UN Advocacy for ADF International, Giorgio Mazzoli, said:
“Blasphemy laws, in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, stand in clear violation of international law. ADF International is committed to securing justice for Rhoda Jatau and continues to honour the memory of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, who died for being a peaceful witness to her Christian faith at the hands of an angry mob.
“Rhoda Jatau has been imprisoned and held incommunicado for nearly a year and a half. For allegedly sharing a video on WhatsApp condemning the murder of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, her most basic human rights have been violated. We are hopeful that international advocacy efforts, including this letter from UN experts to the government of Nigeria, will secure the release of Rhoda, and pave the way for the abolition of blasphemy laws in the country”.