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Presidential visit raises human rights concerns

| Monday, September 22, 2003

Notre Dame was visited this weekend by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Father Paulinus Odozer believes we should join with Africa, and help the country forge into the future, “with the rest of the human community.” I would also like to believe this goal is possible of Nigeria.However, I have serious reservations about the country’s leader, His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and his appeal for solidarity. President Obasanjo has it within his power to spare the life of Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to die by an Islamic court. Lawal’s crime is having a child outside of wedlock, which is considered adultery under Islamic Shariah law. She is condemned to be executed by being buried up to her neck in sand and stoned to death.Although the Nigerian Supreme Court will have the final say with appeals, President Obasanjo has allowed this travesty of human rights to go on far too long.How can Nigeria forge into the future if President Obasanjo continues to allow the unjust persecution of this woman? As Catholics and Christians it is our belief that every person is equal under God. Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene was to have suffered the same fate as Lawal is to face, but Jesus halted her accusers as he said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” (John 8:7). If solidarity is to have sympathy for all humanity, then President Obasanjo should have sympathy for Amina Lawal and tell his people that the discrimination of women will no longer be tolerated under his presidency. I implore the students of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross to raise their voices in support of human rights and tell President Obasanjo that in order to join the rest of us in the future, he must first demonstrate equality toward humanity in his own country.

Anthony ChaconSMC Information Technology StaffSept. 19