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Amidst brutal ongoing attacks, Nigerian Christian and Muslim faith leaders sign joint declaration condemning violence

Amidst brutal ongoing attacks, Nigerian Christian and Muslim faith leaders sign joint declaration condemning violence

  • Signers of the Declaration – convened by ADF International, Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa – include President of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Sultan of Sokoto
  • Christian persecution in the global spotlight this month as global leaders gather in Washington, DC, and in London to promote religious freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. (1 July 2022)— Nigerian religious leaders came together at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington, D.C., to sign a declaration on principles of inter-religious and civil society cooperation and religious freedom.

The event took place in the wake of violent attacks in Nigeria, mostly directed at Christians.

On Pentecost Sunday, 50 Christians were murdered in an attack on St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State.

“No one should be persecuted for their faith. In a time when religious tensions are extraordinarily high in Nigeria because of brutal attacks like those on St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, where 50 Christians were killed, and mob violence based on allegations of blasphemy, like with the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, it is vital for religious leaders to say enough is enough. The Christian and Muslim leaders who signed this Declaration should be commended for their important witness to interfaith respect and cooperation, and their unequivocal condemnation of violence in the name of religion,” said Sean Nelson, Legal Counsel for Global Religious Freedom at ADF International.

The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, H.E. Rev. Samson Olasupo A. Ayokunle, and the Sultan of Sokoto, H.E. Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar (represented by Prof. Usman Yusuf), who is the most prominent Muslim cleric in Nigeria, signed the “Declaration for a Peaceful and Secure Nigeria,” along with the facilitator of the event, Methodist Bishop Sunday Onuoha, President of Vision Africa.

Extreme Persecution in Nigeria

The signed Declaration states that the religious leaders “recognize and respect the various traditions and faith communities present in Nigeria, and will promote their collaboration to advance the well-being of all and to resolve conflicts peacefully.” The leaders also state that they “unequivocally reject and condemn all use of violence and coercion to spread or hinder political or religious views and identities, or to demean ethnic, regional, or tribal affiliations.” They also recognize that “religious leaders play a special role in leading their communities, and have a duty to shepherd their communities in a way that promotes peace.”

“We passionately appeal to [the] global community to come to our aid as soon as possible to avoid the imminent danger of the country becoming another humanitarian crisis,” said Bishop Onuoha.

“After the horrendous spate of attacks against Christians in the past few months and the mob violence that is increasing, it is hard to overstate the importance of the leaders of both the Christian and Muslim faiths coming together to say that this extreme intolerance must stop,” continued Sean Nelson.

Highlight of International Religious Freedom Summit

The signing of the Declaration was one of the highlights of the IRF Summit, which featured many speakers raising concerns about religious freedom in Nigeria. The IRF Summit is the largest civil society-led conference on international religious freedom in the world.


Rev. Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, who oversees the Catholic Diocese of Ondo where the Pentecost massacre took place, emotionally recalled the attack in remarks at the IRF Summit: “In a place of worship they killed as many as possible and just walked away.”

Other speakers, such as U.S. House of Representatives member French Hill, called for Nigeria to be listed by the U.S. Department of State as a Country of Particular Concern.

Former US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom and IRF Summit Co-Chair Samuel Brownback appeared on stage with the signers of the Declaration. Amb. Brownback and Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and IRF Summit Co-Chair, met with the signers earlier in the day, as did the current Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain.

The Declaration signing was part of an ongoing Inclusive Security Dialogue process engaging diverse stakeholders in Nigeria, and organized with support by the Global Peace Foundation, Vision Africa, and ADF International.

One week later, global leaders are convening at the International Religious Freedom Ministerial in London to find solutions to promote and protect Freedom of Religion and Belief for all.

Find out more about ADF International’s engagement at the Ministerial via Twitter.

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