ACLJ Asks State Department to Redesignate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern
We’ve just sent a letter to the State Department asking our government to redesignate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the President is required “to review annually the status of religious freedom in each foreign country” and “designate countries of particular concern for religious freedom.” Such designation involves certain consequences such as public condemnation, withdrawing security assistance, or placing other restrictions that are intended to push the designated country’s government to remedy violations of religious freedom.
Due to the continuing concern over horrific violations of religious freedom in Nigeria, ACLJ Senior Counsel for Global Affairs Mike Pompeo, in his position as Secretary of State during the Trump Administration, designated Nigeria as a CPC for the first time on December 7, 2020. Regrettably, in November 2021, the Biden State Department chose to remove Nigeria from the CPC list.
We stated in the letter that “[t]he decision to remove Nigeria from the CPC list is troubling, not only because it happened right before [Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s] visit to Nigeria, but because the conditions regarding religious freedom had not improved in the country.”
In our letter, we informed the State Department that “the situation of violence and extremism did not get better in 2021.” We pointed out that: “In Nigeria, a Christian is killed for [his or her] faith every two hours” and that from October 2020 to September 2021, “more Christians were murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country.” With more than 4,650 Christians killed during that time period, “Nigeria accounted for nearly 80% of Christian deaths worldwide.”
Our letter reiterated that:
Nigeria is a dangerous place for Christians and other religious minorities. The terrorist organizations Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) operate with impunity in Nigeria . . . . Nonstate actors such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and the Fulani militants are more egregious examples of the problem just as visible in the government itself. There can be no doubt that the Nigerian government has tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.
We pointed out, inter alia, the most recent attack on the Catholic Church that left at least 50 people killed, including women and children, and the brutal murder of 20 Christians in an act of vengeance for the death of ISIS leaders in the Middle East.
In addition to these most recent attacks, we detailed numerous attacks on Christians in Nigeria by Boko Haram, ISWAP, and the Fulani militants in the past year:
For instance, in May 2021, armed radicals killed eight Christians and burned down a church and several homes in Kaduna state. In July 2021, terrorists kidnapped “nearly 140 students at a Baptist boarding school.” During the same period, Fulani herders attacked in the same region, killing thirty-three people, and burning down four churches and hundreds of homes. In September 2021, a Muslim extremist mob killed a pastor they suspected had helped a certain Muslim convert to Christianity. The mob also burned down the pastor’s house, church, and mission school. In October 2021, Fulani militants attacked a Baptist church, killed two Christians, and abducted dozens at gunpoint. In September 2021, armed bandits abducted seventy-three students from a school. In another instance, “gunmen attacked two majority Christian villages in . . . Kaduna, killing [forty] people.”
We went on to highlight the atrocities this year, stating that “[i]n the first three months of 2022, almost 900 Nigerian civilians were killed in violent attacks – including hundreds of Christians who were murdered because of their faith.”
We acknowledged that “the religious freedom violations are too numerous to account for in this letter,” so we detailed a few more attacks that occurred this year in just the last few months:
In April 2022, Fulani herdsmen killed eleven people in Jato-Aka. Also in April, Fulani herdsmen and others in Kaduna state killed eighteen Christians and burned down ninety-two houses. In May 2022, Fulani militants attacked a Christian community; destroyed houses, barns, and food; looted domestic animals and other valuable goods; and murdered at least three Christians and a Nigerian soldier. They called back on a victim’s phone to promise more attacks. Also in May, ISWAP terrorists killed eight Christians in Chibok County, less than a month after the ISWAP killed one Christian and abducted six Christian girls in Yimirmugza village. Two days later in May, Fulani herdsmen in Bassa County killed eight Christians—including two children—looted valuables, and destroyed Christian homes. One week later, a Christian college student was stoned to death and then set on fire by her classmates; they accused her of “posting ‘blasphemous’ statements in a WhatsApp group.”
In light of Nigeria’s ongoing abysmal religious persecution record, we urged Secretary of State Blinken to redesignate Nigeria as a CPC so that he can use all available tools to prevent further bloodshed.
We hope this information will encourage the State Department to do the right thing, i.e., redesignate Nigeria as a CPC.