ACLJ Credited with Influencing Policy To Protect Christians in Nigeria After Nearly a Decade Advocating at the U.N. and the U.S. State Department


Jordan Sekulow

July 1, 2021

8 min read

Persecuted Church



For nearly a decade, the ACLJ has been working to save persecuted and dying Christians in Nigeria from unthinkable atrocities.

We’ve told you repeatedly how radical Islamists have been targeting innocent Christians for violence simply because of their faith. For years we’ve learned of atrocity after vicious atrocity committed against Christian men, women, and even children.

Christian children are abducted at an earth shattering pace. Young women and girls are sold into slavery. Christian villages and churches have been laid to waste and entire families have been slaughtered. Christian pastors have been mercilessly beheaded. All because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

If this were happening here, we’d all be outraged. We should be just as outraged that it’s happening to our Christian brothers and sisters over there as well. Psalm 82:3 commands all believers:

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

That is why the ACLJ has been fighting tirelessly for Nigeria’s Christians for over nine years. On April 11, 2012, we issued a public statement, along with six other prominent human rights organizations, calling attention to the plight of Christians and directly urging the U.S. State Department to take the issue seriously and acknowledge the religious persecution.

Even then we recognized exactly what was happening and what would continue to happen unless the world stood against it. We directly called on the U.S. State Department to stop ignoring the horror facing Christians in Nigeria:

In the past few years violent groups like Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the equally deadly multi-city Christmas church bombings, have increased attacks on Christians as a way of destabilizing the country. As U.S. officials continue to ignore the threat to religious liberty posed by religiously motivated terrorism within Nigeria, we should expect more gloomy religious holidays to threaten the country’s fragile democracy as well as our own national security. . . .

The U.S. Department of State must declare Boko Haram a terrorist organization and place the Boko Haram and related organizations on its terrorist list. International travel by anyone associated with Boko Haram must be banned.

These efforts were recognized at the time, but the Obama Administration refused to act. As bad as the plight of Christians in Nigeria seemed back then, we knew the rampant and terrifying bloodshed would become much, much worse with continued inaction.

Six years ago—at the same time that Islamic terrorists executed horrific attacks in Paris, murdering over a dozen innocent civilians—Boko Haram (the vile Islamic militia that has sworn its loyalty to ISIS) committed what has been called the “second-deadliest terrorist attack in modern history.”

According to reports, the jihadists attacked the Nigerian city of Baga and “slaughtered as many as 2,000 people in an orgy of violence while the world watched news about a jihadi massacre and ensuing siege in Paris.”

As we reported at the time:

In an indescribable killing spree, Boko Haram destroyed the city of Baga, burning Christian churches and murdering thousands. One individual who escaped the massacre told international media, “I escaped with my family in the car after seeing how Boko Haram was killing people . . . . I saw bodies in the street. Children and women, some were crying for help.”

There are reports that the jihadist army is now using young girls as suicide bombers. Their barbarism and despicable tactics know[] no bounds.

Six years ago, we once again directly called on the U.S. State Department to take critical action:

The evil of radical Islamic jihad must be confronted in all its forms, and it must be recognized for what it is every time it strikes in every corner of the globe. For years we’ve allowed groups like Boko Haram to ravage and kill in the name of Islam. It’s time the Obama Administration and the State Department’s bureaucrats recognize and address this growing problem, call it what it is, and defeat it.

Yet, as the Wall Street Journal has detailed, the continued frequency of attacks by Islamic groups like Boko Haram continues to get worse:

Boko Haram attacks towns and villages on a daily basis. Their specialty is mass kidnapping—of boys and young men to join their ranks, and of girls to become wives of its warriors.

This is why we expanded our efforts. In addition to our work at the State Department, we have made 18 submissions to the U.N. Human Rights Council for Christians in Nigeria. And over the past three years, we’ve been working at the U.N. to pressure Nigeria to save Christian teen Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram at the age of 14, has been held hostage ever since, and reportedly forced to carry and give birth to two babies who the terrorists can warp and groom into unquestioning soldiers. What radical Islamic terrorists are doing to Christians in Nigeria – particularly what they’re doing to Leah and countless other girls like her – without any repercussions is beyond reprehensible. It is pure evil.

Our work at the State Department continued in 2018, while Mike Pompeo was Secretary of State.  On November 21, 2018, the ACLJ sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria at the State Department detailing the atrocities against Christians and urging action. As our letter stated:

Boko Haram is one of the deadliest and cruelest Islamic terrorist organizations. Since May 2011, it is estimated that Boko Haram has killed more than 37, 500 people, displaced 2.4 million individuals, and created 228,000 refugees. This massive humanitarian crisis must be addressed and those responsible brought to justice. . . .

Mr. Ambassador, we urge you to echo President Trump’s concern for the plight of Nigerian Christians, and to reiterate that Nigeria must take immediate action to provide lasting safety and security for all its citizens, including those Christians targeted by Boko Haram. . . . Finally, we urge you to take whatever steps are necessary, through diplomatic or other means, to assist Nigeria to this end.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later placed Nigeria on a special persecution watchlist as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for the rampant violence against Christians and the Nigerian government’s inaction, which can only be interpreted as toleration, if not even approval. At the time, Secretary Pompeo stated that he found that Nigeria was “engaging in or tolerating ‘systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.’”

He specifically proclaimed: “The United States will continue to work tirelessly to end religiously motivated abuses and persecution around the world, and to help ensure that each person, everywhere, at all times, has the right to live according to the dictates of conscience.”

Now Sec. Mike Pompeo has joined the ACLJ as Senior Counsel for Global Affairs, bringing his unique experience and deeper knowledge as former Director of the CIA and Secretary of State to help us fight for the lives of defenseless Christians in Nigeria and across the globe.  Sec. Pompeo recently credited the work of the ACLJ over the last nine-plus years in his decision as Secretary of State to designate Nigeria as a CPC, recently writing:

The work that the ACLJ did was very informative for our team at the State Department when we began to evaluate whether or not to designate Nigeria as a CPC. The ACLJ contributed to the data set that underlaid the decision I made.

But more must be done. It’s sad to report that despite our ongoing efforts, the flames of deadly persecution are burning higher and hotter than ever before. Nigeria has become the epicenter for anti-Christian violence. And that unchecked terror is now spreading into other regions of Africa. Meanwhile the Nigerian government remains either unable or unwilling to do anything to stop it.

That is why we have redoubled our efforts at the United Nations to urge international intervention to save Nigeria’s Christians. As we recently told you, just days ago we submitted our 18th submission to the U.N. urging protection and aid for Nigeria’s Christians.

Sec. Pompeo remains particularly concerned over the state of fear that Nigeria’s Christians currently find themselves trapped in, and the far-reaching repercussions this violence could have, which is why he’s joined us to help save them. As he wrote:

At least 1,500 Christians have already been killed in Nigeria during 2021, and even more have been kidnapped and are either being held hostage or trafficked.  The attacks are brutal.  Armed radical Islamic groups arrive in a village during the night, kill the men, rape and murder the women, and kidnap the children . . . These terrorists must be held accountable for such preposterous characterizations.  And given that Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any African country – over 80 million, nearly half of its people – it is essential that this persecution is snuffed out before it becomes even worse.

The ACLJ has no intention of slowing our efforts to defend Nigeria’s dying Christians until every believer is free to live and worship without fear of violence and retribution, and Christian children in Nigeria feel free to go to school or even play outside without the very real risk of abduction, enslavement, or worse.

Sec. Mike Pompeo is with us. But if we’re going to save THEM, we need YOU.