While the United Nations Human Rights Council met for its 53rd Session, Christian persecution continued at an escalating pace in many parts of the world. In addition to violations of their rights to freedom of speech and religion, Christians are being killed daily in many parts of the world.
As part of our advocacy at the U.N. for securing the rights of Christian minorities worldwide, the ECLJ hosted a conference during the U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva, on July 11, 2023, on “Persecution of Christians & Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan & Nigeria,” along with Jubilee Campaign.
The conference gathered lawyers from Nigeria and Pakistan, along with ACLJ Senior Counsel CeCe Heil and ECLJ Director Dr. Grégor Puppinck. Additionally, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Nazila Ghanea, a key official in combating persecution globally, delivered a powerful statement (watch the entire event above or on Youtube).
The event covered two countries in particular: Pakistan and Nigeria. The focus was on blasphemy laws in both countries, highlighting Shahzad Masih’s death penalty case in Pakistan and violence against Christians in Nigeria.
As our memorandum for the event explains, blasphemy laws in Pakistan are some of the harshest in the world, and remain vague and often misapplied. These overly broad laws allow those seeking to settle personal scores and vendettas to easily target minority religious groups with false accusations of blasphemy.
Shahzad Masih’s is one such case. This Christian boy was just 16 years old when he was arrested in July 2017 after his Muslim co-worker accused him of blasphemy. Shahzad’s case is particularly outrageous because even the accusations made by the prosecution’s version of the facts do not constitute blasphemy. After facing trial for over five years, Shahzad was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2022.
Shahzad Masih’s case is just one in Pakistan’s long list of blasphemy cases. Since the 1980s, over 2,000 cases have been registered under these barbaric laws, over 70 people have been murdered, and hundreds have been imprisoned–many on death row or serving life sentences. Additionally, homes and entire villages of Christians have been vandalized and burned down.
Looking at a different continent, Nigeria also punishes the defamation of Islam with the death penalty. Nigerian Christians do not only suffer persecution under blasphemy laws, but they also face the wrath of jihadist militias, including Fulani militants and Boko Haram.
Since 2009, more than 52,250 Christians have been killed, more than 700 Christians have been abducted, and more than 18,000 churches and 2,200 Christian schools were burned down by Islamic militants in Nigeria. This violence forced 5 million Christians from their homes to refugee camps. This violence has not subsided; reports show that in 2022, Nigeria accounted for an outrageous 90% of all Christians who were killed worldwide for their faith.
We hope that authorities in both countries will soon realize how blasphemy laws are being abused, and minorities are being persecuted at the hands of violent mobs and take action to remedy the situation.