2 Katsina Varsities Sued For Banning Christian Fellowships

by Ohepo Ohepo

Since 2017, two Nigerian universities have been hauled before the courts for prohibiting Christian fellowships on campus.

With the help of the American conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF International), the Katsina State branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has taken two universities to court for their permanent ban on Christian groups meeting and worshipping on campus.

The claim was brought against the two colleges for infringing the right to religious freedom by “indefinitely prohibiting” Christian groups from organizing fellowship meetings and worship on campus, according to a statement released by ADF International on Monday.

ADF International claims that two public institutions—one State and one Federal—banned the use of their facilities for Christian religious activities, such as worship and fellowship, between 2017 and 2022. Since then, the universities have refused to reverse the restrictions.

According to the Christian legal advocacy group, one of the universities that was left out of the list implemented the ban by locking up all places of worship and fellowship on campus, denying access to the facilities to Christian groups and students, and forbidding them from holding meetings for fellowship and worship elsewhere on campus.

“In the meanwhile, mosques and meeting rooms built by the universities are open to use by Muslim student organizations at both campuses for worship and fellowship events.

“Both universities have relatively high percentages of Christian students and faculty despite Katsina being a Muslim-majority State,” the statement continued.

“We just want to be able to freely gather and worship as Christians on equal terms with other religious faiths,” a Christian student at one of the campuses was reported to have said. The fact that our universities are impeding our ability to exercise our most fundamental rights is terrible.”

“No one should be discriminated against for their faith, and the actions of these State and Federal universities are plainly unjust,” declared Sean Nelson, the main attorney for ADF International in this case.

“The world keeps watching as Nigerian authorities consistently violate its citizens’ rights to freedom of religion. We cannot allow discrimination against Christian students to continue in this way.

“These two universities should immediately revoke these discriminatory policies and allow Christians on their campuses to gather and worship freely.”

“The discrimination shown by these universities restricting Christian worship has been condemned by the local Christian community in Katsina as well as throughout Nigeria,” stated the CAN, which filed the lawsuits on behalf of the students.

“It is concerning that prejudice towards Christians is becoming more pronounced. There should be no religious discrimination in any educational institution under government control.

“We ask the rest of the world to condemn this discrimination as well and to join us in praying that the right to worship freely, on campus and elsewhere, will be fully restored.”

The Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution has provisions that safeguard Nigerian citizens’ right to freedom of religion or belief. According to ADF International, the lawsuit filed on behalf of the students falls within these provisions, and “ADF International is supporting the case.”

Regarding Nigeria’s record on religious freedom, ADF International said, “The persecution of Christians in Nigeria is particularly severe, along with that of other religious minorities in Nigeria.

Over 5,500 Christians lost their lives in 2022 as a result of their faith worldwide. Ninety percent were from Nigeria. This past Christmas, militants in Plateau State, Nigeria, killed at least 200 Christians.

“The criminalization of blasphemy in Nigeria has grave consequences for the nation at large.

The country of more than 200 million people, almost equally divided between Muslims and Christians, has blasphemy laws, which are a major source of social unrest.

“These laws suppress those who share their faith, punish the innocent for expressing it, and encourage violence in society.

Nigerian blasphemy laws incite heinous mob violence and cause grave injury to minority Muslims, Christian converts, and other groups.

“ADF International is assisting the legal defence of Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim who was sentenced to death by hanging in 2020 for posting song lyrics that were deemed “blasphemous” on WhatsApp.

“Yahaya is appealing his case to the Nigerian Supreme Court with the help of ADF International in an attempt to get Nigeria’s blasphemy laws repealed, which would end the death penalty. Yahaya is awaiting his appeal after serving almost four years in prison.

“ADF International is also aiding in Rhoda Jatau’s defense—a Nigerian Christian mother of five children. Recently released on bond, Jatau had been detained since May 2022 for allegedly posting a video on WhatsApp denouncing the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a Nigerian college student who was killed and set ablaze by her classmates in May 2022 for openly expressing her Christian faith. Rhoda is waiting on the next phase of her trial right now.”

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