Yahaya Sharif-Aminu is a singer-songwriter in his early 20s. He’s a Sufi Muslim, making him a religious minority in northern Nigeria’s mostly Sunni population. He shared some of his songs in a WhatsApp group in 2020. Some of the members in the WhatsApp group, however, accused Yahaya of committing “blasphemy” against the “prophet” Muhammad. Soon a mob surrounded his family’s home and burned it down. Police officers subsequently arrested Yahaya and he was convicted under Sharia court—without legal counsel—to death by hanging.
The deadliest country in the world for Christians isn’t Afghanistan or North Korea, it’s Nigeria.
Last year, 5,621 Christians were killed worldwide because of their faith—90% of them were northern Nigerians.
Mission organizations are reporting that Christian persecution is at its highest in 30 years. And that’s primarily because of what’s been happening in northern Nigeria over the last 24 years.
Approximately half of Nigeria’s population are professing Christians, and most of them live in the south. However the other half are Muslims, and most of them live in the north.
Northern Nigeria is where Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, have kidnapped thousands of young girls and killed tens of thousands of people over the last decade. But Boko Haram is enabled by northern Nigeria’s Sharia laws. There’s a direct relationship between terrorism and Sharia law in Nigeria.
Boko Haram was founded in northern Nigeria in 2002, shortly after 12 northern states reintroduced Sharia law between 1999 and 2001—despite Nigerians’ constitutional right to religious freedom. Since then, at least 50,000 Christians in northern Nigeria have been murdered.
And it’s actually getting worse. Last year was the deadliest year for Christians in Nigeria. Sharia blasphemy laws, terrorist attacks, and mob violence killed at least 5,000 Christians last year.
One of these Christians was Deborah Samuel. She was a student at a university in Sokoto State, northern Nigeria. She was killed at her school because she praised Jesus for her academic success.
On May 12, 2022, a classmate asked Deborah in a WhatsApp group for their class how she passed a recent exam. She answered, “Jesus.” According to some of her classmates, that answer is a crime worthy of death.
Some of her classmates replied with Islamic statements and demanded that she should retract her words about Jesus. But she refused. Instead, she defended her Christian beliefs.
Immediately the Muslim students said she was guilty of blasphemy under Sokoto State’s Sharia law, which is punishable by death. So they called on others in the community to execute mob justice.
School security tried to protect Deborah, but they were overpowered by the mob. Police officers were called, but they were supposedly intimidated by the large crowd. The mob threatened to kill anyone who tried to help her, so the rest of the Christian students fled the scene and returned home for their own safety.
Deborah, however, didn’t get the opportunity to return home to her parents.