European Centre Calls On Nigeria, Pakistan To Review Blasphemy Laws
The European Centre For Law and Justice (ECLJ) has stated that Nigeria and Pakistan have some of the harshest laws against blasphemy worldwide, while condemning the violence, abductions and deaths which have been caused by alleged blasphemy in both countries.
The ECLJ lamented that since 2009, more than 52,250 Christians had been killed in Nigeria, while more than 700 others had been abducted; “with more than 18,000 churches and 2,200 Christian schools burned down by Islamic militants in Nigeria.”
The centre stated these at its conference during the United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 11, 2023, which was on “Persecution Of Christians & Blasphemy Laws In Pakistan & Nigeria.”
The conference, which was part of the ECLJ’s advocacy at the UN for securing the rights of Christian minorities worldwide, brought together lawyers from Nigeria and Pakistan, along with ACLJ Senior Counsel, CeCe Heil, and ECLJ Director, Dr. Grégor Puppinck.
Additionally, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Nazila Ghanea, a key official in combating persecution globally, delivered a powerful statement at the conference, which held while the UN Human Rights Council met for its 53rd Session.
The ECLJ said, “The event covered two countries in particular: Pakistan and Nigeria. The focus was on blasphemy laws in both countries, while highlighting Shahzad Masih’s death penalty case in Pakistan and violence against Christians in Nigeria.
The ECLJ Memorandum noted that “blasphemy laws in Pakistan are some of the harshest in the world, and remain vague and often misapplied. These overly broad laws allow those seeking to settle personal scores and vendettas to easily target minority religious groups with false accusations of blasphemy.
“Shahzad Masih’s is one such case. This Christian boy was just 16 years old when he was arrested in July 2017 after his Muslim co-worker accused him of blasphemy. Shahzad’s case is particularly outrageous because even the accusations made by the prosecution’s version of the facts do not constitute blasphemy. After facing trial for over five years, he was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2022.
“Shahzad Masih’s case is just one in Pakistan’s long list of blasphemy cases. Since the 1980s, over 2,000 cases have been registered under these barbaric laws, over 70 people have been murdered, and hundreds have been imprisoned–many on death row or serving life sentences. Additionally, homes and entire villages of Christians have been vandalized and burned down.
“Looking at a different continent, Nigeria also punishes the defamation of Islam with the death penalty. Nigerian Christians do not only suffer persecution under blasphemy laws, but they also face the wrath of jihadist militias, including Fulani militants and Boko Haram.
“Since 2009, more than 52,250 Christians have been killed, more than 700 Christians have been abducted; and more than 18,000 churches and 2,200 Christian schools were burned down by Islamic militants in Nigeria. This violence forced 5 million Christians from their homes to refugee camps. This violence has not subsided; reports show that in 2022, Nigeria accounted for an outrageous 90% of all Christians who were killed worldwide for their faith.
“We hope that authorities in both countries will soon realise how blasphemy laws are being abused, and minorities are being persecuted at the hands of violent mobs and take action to remedy the situation.”
Meanwhile, in a petition started nine months ago, and titled “Defend Persecuted Christians” and signed by over 14,000 persons, the centre condemned the blasphemy laws and called for action.
The ECLJ said, “Over the last decades across the world, Christians have become the most persecuted people because of their faith.
“In Europe, Christians and places of worship are increasingly targeted by violence and destrictions, people of Muslim background who convert to Christianity are often persecuted, forced to live their faith in hiding. Public demonstrations are increasingly censored, and even basic statements of faith in public discourses are being prosecuted.
“In North Korea, they are prevented from even possessing a Bible. In many other countries, they can’t publicly join a community or be baptized because capital punishment or life imprisonment are provided by States in response.
“The ECLJ is taking action at the European Court of Human Rights, at the European Parliament, at the Human Rights Council, and before many other international bodies to defend the rights of Christians: the freedom for anyone to become a Christian, to practise and to live his or her life accordingly.
“I hereby sign this petition to support the ECLJ’s actions and to increase the importance of that issue in the agendas of all these institutions and of their representatives.”