Nigerian teen whose Christian conversion triggered death threats granted restraining order


A map of Nigeria. / Credit: Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Aug 28, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

An 18-year-old Nigerian Christian convert has been granted a court order protecting her from her father and brothers, who have been threatening to kill her for leaving the Islamic religion.

Identified by the pseudonym Mary Olowe, the woman was smuggled to safety in a Christian community by her mother, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, the religious freedom organization that assisted in the case.

Following the threats, Olowe and her mother sought a restraining order against the father and brothers. ADF International announced the Nigerian high court’s order on Friday.

The order said that “the defendants are hereby restrained from threat and attempt on the life of the applicant following her decision to change from the practice of Islam to Christianity and also not to breach her fundamental rights as to the choice of her religion or thoughts.”

The ruling was not appealed, according to ADF International.

“We are relieved that Mary has found protection from these credible threats and that the court recognized her fundamental right to convert from Islam to Christianity,” Sean Nelson, legal counsel for ADF International, said in a statement Friday.

“This is an important decision that we pray will help others facing threats to their lives only because they came to believe in Christ,” he said.

Nelson said that no one should be persecuted for their faith, adding that Nigerian Christian converts from Islam often are targeted and discriminated against for their change in religion.

The Nigerian constitution has no official state religion and provides for religious freedom, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom in Nigeria.

Despite that, Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians to live in, according to Open Doors, an organization that advocates for persecuted Christians globally. For Christians, the organization ranked Nigeria as the sixth most persecuted country in the world.

According to ADF International, 5,500 Christians were killed for their faith last year across the globe and Nigerians constituted 90% of those deaths.

ADF International has defended several Nigerian converts to Christianity before the nation’s Sharia courts, which deal with Islamic law and are provided for by the nation’s constitution.

One of those cases included a young Christian girl named Hannah who lost both of her parents in an attack by the terrorist group Boko Haram and was assisted by a local Muslim cleric.

When the girl turned 18, the cleric tried to force her to convert to Islam and marry him, which she refused. The cleric took her to a Sharia court and said that she cheated him and denounced Islam, a crime meriting death.

She was denied bail and held in prison pending adjudication of the charges until a lawyer connected with ADF International took the case. Bail was granted in February 2021 and a few months later the charges were dismissed because the cleric continuously failed to show up at trial.

Additionally, the organization is currently assisting in the case of a Sufi Muslim, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a musician who was sentenced to death for allegedly violating one of the nation’s laws against blasphemy.

Currently in prison awaiting his appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Sharif-Aminu was sentenced to death by hanging for sharing lyrics to a song on the messaging platform WhatsApp that were deemed to be blasphemous.

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