By Russ Read
A Christian woman in Nigeria was stabbed to death Thursday for allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, prompting an outcry from Christians in the country.
Bridget Abihime, a trader and wife to a Christian pastor, was killed for allegedly saying Muhammad was not important. Nigerian police have taken two suspects into custody, but the Christian Association of Nigeria says the killing is part of a larger problem that the government has not properly addressed.
“This barbarism must stop now,” said Rev. John Hayab, the association’s spokesman. He believes that police tried to cover up the crime, and demanded the prosecution of all those involved. The association warned authorities Saturday that such failures are leading to a “looming religious crisis.”
Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase said the entire Nigerian security network is working to prevent a religious backlash and called for help from Nigerian leaders in “dousing the tensions.”
Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari said the killing was “utterly condemnable.” His statement following the murder called for Nigerians to respect each other’s faiths in order to “live together in peace.”
Nigeria’s 170 million people are evenly divided between Muslims in the north, and Christians in the south. A 15-year-long conflict between the two groups over territorial grazing rights for farmers’ herds of animals has killed 60,000 people. The rise of Boko Haram, an Islamic State-linked terrorist group, has drastically increased violence against Christians in recent years. The group is responsible for the deaths of at least 20,000 people over the last seven years.
Rev. Samuel Dali of the Church of the Brethren claimed more than 8,000 of the church’s members have been killed by the terrorist group, with 70 percent of churches destroyed.
Abihime’s killing is not the first instance of a Nigerian Christian killed for allegedly insulting Islam. A group of young Muslim men previously beheaded a Christian after accusing him of desecrating the Koran.
A 2015 study by Open Doors, a charity that monitors religious violence, found that more Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2015 than the entire world combined.