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“SHAME ON YOU”: MEPs shout as European Parliament "turns blind eye” to murder of teenage Nigerian accused of blasphemy

  • European Parliament rejects motion to debate Christian persecution, in particular in the case of Deborah Samuel Yabuku, brutally murdered last week when her school peers accused her of blaspheming in a class group chat 
  • Vote taken on the same day that victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws thank EU for support of religious freedom 

BRUSSELS (20 May 2022) – Does the EU truly value the protection of religious freedom? 

Human rights lawyers and MEPs are raising concerns after a vote to debate the European Commission’s position on Christian persecution – in particular, on the brutal murder of teenager Deborah Yabuku – was defeated in the parliament this week in a vote of 231 in support, 244 against.  

In protest at the European Parliament’s refusal to take action over the severe atrocity, several MEPs shouted “shame on you” across the plenary floor.  

 

“Europe should know Deborah Samuel Yakubu’s name. This opportunity to speak out against a brutal and unjust murder of an innocent teenage girl – based on a false accusation of “blasphemy”, no less – has been unforgivably lost. Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith, but it seems that EU has turned a blind eye,” said Jean-Paul Van De Walle, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Brussels. 

Murdered for a WhatsApp Message 

In Sokoto, Nigeria, last week a violent mob accused teenager Deborah Samuel Yabuku of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in a WhatsApp classroom discussion group. Some of her classmates were outraged after Yakubu thanked Jesus for helping her in an exam. To the mob, the accusation of blasphemy justified her murder. More about Deborah’s story here.

“What a shame! The European Parliament does not want to take a stand on the murder of the young Nigerian for being a Christian. They do not want to condemn the persecution that Christians are suffering. This is inexcusable!” tweeted Margarita de la Pisa MEP (Spanish original). 

Mixed Messages

The refusal to engage on the issue was particularly poignant given that Shagufta Kauser and Shafqat Emmanuel were invited to speak in the European Parliament on the very same day. The married Catholic couple were rescued from death row in Pakistan last year because of false accusations of blasphemy, and found safe refuge in Europe.  

In a speech live-tweeted by ADF International, the couple shared their testimony with the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance.

They thanked the people involved for their action in protecting victims from the consequences of blasphemy laws. The EU had passed a resolution on 28th April, ahead of their release from prison, which condemned blasphemy laws, and called attention to their plight. 

In her speech, Shagufta Kauser called on those in power to take action to protect other victims of persecution. 

“I’m so thankful to all your efforts and I’m so grateful we’re among you today. But remember that there are many more who need help – we know of a young man of 18 years old who has been sitting in prison for years for blasphemy. And there’s the case of Stephen Masih – he’s mentally ill, and facing trial,” Shagufta had said, addressing MEPs. 

“We are very grateful that so many people, especially the teams from ADF International and the Jubilee Campaign, helped and protected us by bringing us to safety. Although we will miss our country, we are happy to finally be somewhere safe. Hopefully, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan will soon be abolished, so others won’t suffer the same fate as Shagufta and I,” said Shafqat Emmanuel, after reaching safety in Europe. 

A worsening situation for Christians in Nigeria 

Christians living in Nigeria face some of the worst acts of persecution in the world. At least 17 Christians are killed every day simply because of their faith. 

For over a decade, terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State-West Africa Province have targeted Christians and other religious groups. In recent years, the brutality of attacks from various militants has only increased.  

Despite guarantees of religious freedom in the Nigerian Constitution, discriminatory laws and practices, such as the use of blasphemy laws, affect a wide range of individuals, including Muslims, Christians, and humanists. 

 

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