Violations of religious freedom in Nigeria are “egregious, systematic, and ongoing”
Human rights advocates call on U.S. to re-designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern
WASHINGTON DC (26 August 2021) – Today, a large and varied group of human rights experts and advocates for religious freedom have urged U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to re-designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern. The State Department is currently preparing a list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for nations who have “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”. The list will be released in December.
“Now is not the time for the United States to pull back its pressure on a regime whose ham-fisted overreach is exacerbating its country’s human rights problems. The pressure must remain, not only because of religious freedom concerns, but because of all the human rights concerns facing Nigeria. Any let up by the U.S. and the international community will signal to the people of Nigeria that they have been abandoned. We cannot stand by while the Nigerian government allows terrorists and criminals to attack faith communities and commit gross human rights violations with impunity. Nigeria must remain a Country of Particular Concern,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Global Religious Freedom for ADF International.
Abductions, murders, destruction and harmful laws
In their letter to Secretary Blinken, the human rights advocates highlight concerning developments in the country: “A recent study reported that at least 3,462 Christians have been murdered for their faith in 2021, a number which has nearly surpassed those killed in all of 2020. Priests are regularly kidnapped, and churches and mosques regularly destroyed. Militant groups have targeted Christian and Muslim schools with abductions, disproportionately targeting girls and Christian students.”
The letter also highlights religious prisoners of conscience in Nigeria: “After years of captivity, the Christian teenager Leah Sharibu still remains held by the Islamic State West Africa Province for refusing to convert to Islam.”
“Both Sharia and blasphemy laws in the North have been used against individuals of various backgrounds,” they continue, citing the recent blasphemy cases against Sufi singer Yahaya Sharif-Aminu and the humanist Mubarak Bala. Thus, “the CPC designation should remain as a pressure point in diplomatic engagements with the Nigerian government,” they conclude.
A “pressure cooker” of violence
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings called the country a “pressure cooker” of violence. The U.S. Congress is now calling for more aggressive measures. Last year, an influential group of parliamentarians raised the specter of potential genocide of Christians and Muslims that reject the extremism of terrorists.
In accordance with the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, the government officially designates “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs). Late last year, Nigeria became the first secular democracy ever to be designated a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. State Department.
See the letter here.
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