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Christians Vulnerable as Nigeria Drifts Away from Secularism

09/18/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has published a new report, titled Secular Sharia? Criminal Sharia Law and Its Impact on Nigeria’s Christian Communities. In it, ICC considers the history of Sharia law in Nigeria—technically a secular country, describes how criminal Sharia law was introduced around the turn of the century, and explores the impact of criminal Sharia law on the Christian community in Nigeria.

On paper, Nigeria is a secular federation where power is shared between the national government and the individual governments of its 36 states. Within this political structure, state governments have the authority to shape their system of law as long as the system they come up with adheres to the ideals of the Nigerian constitution which creates—on paper—a secular state.

While Nigeria claims to be a secular country, the actions of the 12 northern states that have adopted Sharia criminal law and their support from the federal government have proven otherwise.

“The notion that Nigeria is a well-intentioned but under-resourced country struggling to contain sectarian violence is woefully incomplete,” the report says. “The Nigerian government may be under-resourced, but it is not blameless in the matter of sectarian violence. Indeed, though government forces have fought to quell sectarian violence in some instances, in other cases, it has at least exacerbated the problem, if not created it in the first place.”

Sharia criminal law mandates various harsh punishments that stand in contravention of human rights law, including floggings and the amputation of limbs. Under Sharia law, certain criminal offenses known as hudud carry severe, fixed punishments, explicitly laid out in the Quran and the Hadith. These hudud mandate penalties such as floggings for alcohol consumption, the amputation of limbs for theft, and death for apostasy.

ICC’s latest report considers eight case studies illustrating the danger of Nigeria’s departure from secularism and its impact on Christians in the country.

“The international community must confront Nigeria on its continued embrace of criminal Sharia law,” said Jay Church, ICC’s Advocacy Manager for Africa. “The international community wants peace, security, and equality in Nigeria. As part of its efforts to bring stability to Nigeria, the international community would do well to push Nigeria to reform its legal system, abolish the use of criminal Sharia law, and return to the principles of equality which its constitution promises.”

Click here to download the full report.

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