Dear newly seated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk,
As the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, we, the undersigned, are calling on you to use every power/make every effort to closely monitor the situation of religious freedom in Nigeria as a matter of urgent priority.
In Nigeria, more Christians are being killed for their faith than in the rest of the world together. The tragic murder of Deborah Samuel, who was burned to death for thanking Jesus in a text message, shows that religion can be a target of deadly violence within the country. Like Deborah, every day 14 innocent people are slaughtered in Nigeria because of their Christian faith.
Notwithstanding, the UN has so far failed to devote special attention to the deteriorating situation on the ground, leaving behind countless men, women, and children who have been victims or at risk of religious discrimination, violence, and persecution.
What could help
Violent extremist groups, such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province, are terrorizing Christians and civilians in general. Regrettably, the horrific campaigns of abduction, sexual violence, murder, and destruction that have been plaguing towns and villages throughout the country, and the desperate calls for protection against religious persecution have so far been largely ignored by the international community. The silence surrounding this grave human rights situation has now become part of the problem.
We, therefore, urge that you speak out publicly on these issues, and work with the government of Nigeria to put a stop to the perpetration of such heinous crimes. Please conduct an inquiry into the sexual violence, forced conversion, and forced marriage committed by terrorist groups against women and girls belonging to religious minorities. Please raise awareness about the administration of injustice under Sharia courts. Please heed the plight of faith leaders living in fear for their lives and those of their community members, and spare no effort to build a world where everyone is able to practice their religion openly and freely, without discrimination. Please right the wrongs of your predecessors who lacked the courage to speak truth to power and emboldened human rights violators to continue to perpetrate atrocities with impunity.
Final call to action
Mr. High Commissioner, please use your mandate to help protect our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and around the world. And let us work together to make a lasting impact for freedom of religion, for everyone, everywhere.