Skip to content

Amidst death threats, Nigerian Court rules Christian convert is free to change her religion

JOS, NIGERIA (24 August 2023): Mary Olowe*, an 18-year-old Christian convert in Nigeria, successfully secured a court order protecting her from members of her family who threatened to kill her for converting from Islam.  

Mary’s mother smuggled her to safety in a Christian community after Mary’s father and brothers threatened to kill her for her converting. After Mary and her mother sought a restraining order, a high court in northern Nigeria handed down an order of perpetual injunction against her father and brothers. The order stated: “the defendants are hereby restrained from threat and attempt on the life of the applicant following her decision to change from the practice of Islam to Christianity and also not to breach her fundamental rights as to the choice of her religion or thoughts.” No appeals were filed against the order.  

“We are relieved that Mary has found protection from these credible threats and that the court recognized her fundamental right to convert from Islam to Christianity. This is an important decision that we pray will help others facing threats to their lives only because they came to believe in Christ,” stated Sean Nelson, Legal Counsel for ADF International, which provided legal support for Mary’s case.  

“No person should be persecuted, harassed, or threatened with death for their faith nor for converting from one faith to another. Christian converts from Islam in Nigeria are often denied the ability to freely live out their faith because of targeted threats and attacks against them, even from their family members. ADF International is committed to defending the right of every person to live out their faith without fear of persecution, and we pray that all in Nigeria will have their right to religious freedom recognized and protected,” added Nelson. 

Background 

Together with other religious minorities in Nigeria, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is especially severe. Worldwide, over 5,500 Christians were killed for their faith last year. Of those, 90% were Nigerian.  

In Nigeria, Christian converts from Islam, such as Mary, face significant social hostility. ADF International supported the cases of Hannah, Faith, Elijah, and Barbara*, all Christian converts who were persecuted by way of Nigeria’s Sharia courts. Because of their Christian faith, they were all dragged before the courts and charged with apostasy, the punishment for which includes the death penalty. Their cases were all dismissed after ADF International allied lawyers were able to provide counsel in their defense. 

Egregious laws in Nigeria, including blasphemy laws, often plague and systematically punish religious minorities. ADF International is supporting the case of Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim who was sentenced to death by hanging for sharing song lyrics that were deemed “blasphemous” on WhatsApp. With the help of ADF International, Yahaya is appealing his case to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in hopes of overturning blasphemy laws in Nigeria. Yahaya remains in prison awaiting his appeal.  

Yahaya’s case is far from an isolated incident. Many others have been harmed by Nigeria’s blasphemy laws, including Deborah Yakubu, who was stoned and beaten to death, and Rhoda Jatau, who was attacked by a mob and is being tried without bail. 

*names changed for security reasons 

Images for free use in print or online in relation to this story only

Stay Informed

Get involved! Sign up to receive updates:

"*" indicates required fields

Name*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Know your Rights & Duties as Parents

Get answers and understanding on the most pressing issues facing parental rights:

parental rights booklet