Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) condemns the murder of Deborah Yakubu, a Christian student who was stoned and then burned at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, northern Nigeria.
Deborah Yakubu is said to have sent a blasphemous WhatsApp message about Muslim prophet Mohammed during Ramadan, when the college was closed for holidays.
When she returned to class, a group of students was waiting and attacked her, stoning her and then setting fire to her body. The Shehu Shagari Education College of Sokoto has since been closed by order of the state government of Sokoto.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN International, said: “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.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Deborah’s family and with the Christian community of Sokoto at this time. We also call on all political and religious leaders in Nigeria to firmly and openly condemn this case of religious extremism.”
Since 1999, 12 states in northern Nigeria have adopted Shari‘a-based legal codes which operate in parallel with secular courts.
Many of these Shari‘a laws include heavy penalties for blasphemy, including death.
Dr Heine-Geldern added: “The religious extremism we have become so familiar with under Boko Haram, and that has caused so many innocent victims, seems to have spread and polarised an increasingly large part of society.”
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto said: “We condemn this incident in the strongest terms and call on the authorities to investigate this tragedy and ensure that all the culprits are brought to book…
“This has nothing to do with religion. Christians have lived peacefully with their Muslim neighbours here in Sokoto over the years. This matter must be treated as a criminal act and the law must take its cause.”