A persecution watchdog and human rights organization is calling on President Joe Biden and his administration to take action following the deadly stoning of a Christian woman in Nigeria.
Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), delivered a direct message to Biden this week while offering an update on the murder of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, the 25-year-old Christian college student reportedly stoned to death by a Muslim mob on May 12.
“The US has a pretty large infrastructure dedicated to religious freedom,” he said Wednesday. “If her own government is not going to take this seriously and our government is not going to take this seriously, I’m really pessimistic about the chances for anything changing for the better in Nigeria.”
A Direct Message to Biden
Veldkamp spoke directly to Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, imploring officials to take more measures and to realize how much Nigerians look to America as an example and model.
“[They] take the United States as a model that embodies a lot of hopes for their own lives, for their own country. … you can make a difference here,” he said. “If this murder that happened so publicly … if this just goes unpunished, that tells everyone in Nigeria what their future is.”
Veldkamp continued, “You have a chance to intervene to make a difference to make it clear … this is unacceptable for an ally of the United States to behave this way when people are being killed in the streets.”
I was appalled to learn about the mob attack and murder of Deborah Samuel in Nigeria, a vicious act that was fueled by hatred and accusations of blasphemy. I send my condolences to Deborah’s family, friends, & community. Her attackers must be held fully accountable.— U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Rashad Hussain (@IRF_Ambassador) May 19, 2022
It reportedly took seven days for an official response to emerge from the U.S. government, with U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Rashad Hussain tweeting on Thursday a condemnation of the deadly attack.
“I was appalled to learn about the mob attack and murder of Deborah Samuel in Nigeria, a vicious act that was fueled by hatred and accusations of blasphemy,” Hussain wrote. “I send my condolences to Deborah’s family, friends, & community. Her attackers must be held fully accountable.”
Despite the response, CSI is calling on the U.S. government to do more.
We welcome @IRF_Ambassador’s condemnation of Deborah’s murder. But the U.S. must do more.@SecBlinken should immediately:— Christian Solidarity International (CSI) (@CSI_humanrights) May 20, 2022
1)Return #Nigeria to the #CPC list.
2)Publish what Rev. John Hayab of #Kaduna told him on his visit to Abuja in November: https://t.co/jVbcejEuT0
CSI President Dr. John Eibner penned a letter to Blinken this week, pleading with the secretary of state to take action. Among other steps, Eibner implored him to “return Nigeria to the U.S.’s Countries of Particular Concern list.”
Blinken removed Nigeria from the list in November 2021, sparking confusion and frustration. CSI said the removal decision was “issued without justification.”
Secretary Blinken took Nigeria off the U.S.’s list of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom in November 2021. The decision was issued without justification, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called it “appalling” and “unexplainable.”
Last year, the Commission put out a strongly-worded statement calling the removal “unexplainable” and appalling.
“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) finds it unexplainable that the U.S. Department of State did not redesignate Nigeria as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) and treated it as a country with no severe religious freedom violations,” the statement read.
Watch Veldkamp’s update on Yakubu’s death and his message to American leaders:
What’s the Backstory?
As Faithwire previously reported, Yakubu’s horrific stoning death has reverberated throughout Nigeria and has shocked religious freedom advocates.
Yakubu, a Shehu Shagari College of Education student in Sokoto, Nigeria, was brutally murdered May 12, and the violent attack was purportedly filmed and shared on social media.
“We have videos, we have photos which I’ve seen, unfortunately,” Veldkamp told CBN’s Faithwire in an earlier interview.
She was killed over comments purportedly made on WhatsApp, a messaging app.
“She was in a WhatsApp group that was dedicated to studies at her school,” Veldkamp explained. “Someone asked her in this group how she got such a good score on a test, and she replied, ‘Jesus.'”
This reportedly angered Muslims in the group, who negatively reacted. Yakubu then purportedly left a voice message saying the Holy Spirit would protect her and that the WhatsApp group’s purpose was for schooling, not “religious nonsense,” as Veldkamp explained.
The Christian student’s horrific murder followed these interactions, and thus far, government officials and others within Nigeria have given Veldkamp and other human rights workers little confidence justice will prevail. While two individuals were arrested after the killing, Veldkamp said neither was charged with murder.
“Likely, there’s going to be no justice in this case,” he said.
Learn more about those details and watch our initial report on Yakubu’s death:
Despite Christianity being vibrant in many parts of the country, the northern region has experienced a plethora of extremism that seems to be worsening.
Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List ranks Nigeria the seventh most dangerous place in the world to live as a Christian.
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