Eight killed in mob attack on Christian convert
Recent spate of religious killings prompts calls for more tolerance in Nigeria
ABUJA, Nigeria—Eight people died in a blasphemy-inspired mob attack on Monday in Nigeria’s Zamfara state. President Muhammadu Buhari, who has faced wide criticism for remaining silent about several other recent religiously motivated killings, condemned the attack.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, witnesses said a polytechnic student in the town of Talata Mafara angered a mob when he made a blasphemous statement against Islam and the prophet Muhammad.
“The young man was a Muslim before he converted to Christianity and fellow students always accused him of saying nasty things about Islam,” a resident of the community, Salisu Mafara, told Nigeria’s Premium Times. “He reportedly said terrible things about the prophet and the students around descended on him, and he was seriously injured.”
Witnesses said a man identified as Tajudeen rushed the beaten man to the hospital. His assistance enraged the mob, and they torched Tajudeen’s vehicle and his house, killing eight people.
State Gov. Abdulaziz Yari called for an emergency Security Council meeting following the incident. Yari, who attended the victims’ funerals, said, “no stone will be left unturned until all those behind this act are brought to book.”
Nigeria has seen an increase in blasphemy attacks in recent months. In June, a mob lynched a Christian trader in Kano state over blasphemy allegations and religious intolerance. In July, a group of men murdered a female evangelist street preaching in the Abuja town of Kubwa.
“It is quite worrisome,” said Pastor James Wuye, co-executive director of Interfaith Mediation Center in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna State.
After remaining silent about other attacks, Buhari described the Monday killings as “barbaric and unacceptable” in a Twitter post.
“I assure that the law will take its course,” the post said. “My prayers are with the families of the victims.”
The attack comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday spoke with religious leaders and peace advocates in Nigeria’s Sokoto state on the role communities play in ensuring religious tolerance. Wuye, who attended the speech, called on religious leaders—especially those in the Muslim community—to condemn the attack and educate their followers on the need for peaceful cohabitation. Buhari’s response to the attack is crucial toward ensuring peace, as people will watch to see whether the attackers are punished, Wuye added.
“I think when these things happen three times and he doesn’t speak up, the response will be he’s nonchalant and supporting the attacks,” Wuye said. “The body polity of the country is tense now, and if he doesn’t take a decisive step, it could affect him.”
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