By Peter Ajayi Dada, Catholic News Service
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) — Catholic churches in Sokoto suspended Masses May 15 as the governor imposed a 24-hour curfew to quell violence during protests against the arrest of young men for the May 12 murder of Deborah Yakubu.
Yakubu, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, was stoned, beaten and burned after a mob of students alleged she blasphemed Muhammad in an online post several weeks earlier. Police arrested two suspects, triggering the protests.
Various media published unconfirmed reports that protesters tried to set fire to several churches. They also burned businesses in a major business hub near the Sokoto Central Market.
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto criticized the actions of the protesters but denied rumors that his residence was attacked.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja urged Nigerians not to give up on the struggle for interreligious harmony in the country. In a homily May 15, he urged Christians to oppose people trying to gain selfish advantages without respect for rights or ethics, and he said extremism must be opposed.
Nigerians must continue to bridge the gaps separating them because of religious bias, ethnic rivalry and other artificial categorizations, he said.
“Religion means to wish others well, to show compassion, mutual support and cooperation,” he said. “Love is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, rich in mercy and reaches out to all.
“Our love for one another challenges us to break down the walls of enmity, hatred, apathy, disunity, segregation and strife that have torn families, communities, races and nations apart.”
Signis, which represents Catholic communicators in Nigeria, and the Christian Association of Nigeria, called on government agencies to find justice for Yakubu’s death. Noting that all life is sacred, the groups said they were “pained that such barbaric and satanic act” could still occur.