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“Persecution against people of faith must end”

  • Religious persecution on the rise in Nigeria
  • Experts strategize on action to be taken at high-level event hosted by ADF International

WASHINGTON DC (16 July) – On Wednesday, ADF International hosted a dinner event on the grave challenges facing Nigeria regarding the protection of religious freedom. Governmental and civil society advocates for the persecuted in Nigeria shared first-hand expertise and proposed actions to address the violence and discrimination perpetrated by groups such as Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen in the country.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. We should not allow the Nigerian government to let terrorists and criminals attack faith communities with impunity. We urge those in power to protect every person’s inalienable right to religious freedom. We also call on the international community to work with local faith leaders to best support interfaith peace and counter extremism. Only a coordinated and holistic effort will be effective. Persecution against people of faith must end,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Global Religious Freedom for ADF International.

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A “pressure cooker” of violence

Parts of Nigeria, particularly in the North and Middle Belt, are some of the most dangerous places for religious minorities today. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians have been internally displaced. Last week, 121 schoolchildren were kidnapped from a Baptist school in Kaduna. And, since 2012, over 27,000 Nigerian Christians have been murdered for their faith.

Last year, the U.S. Department of State designated Nigeria as the first democracy to ever be labelled a “country of particular concern” for the egregious, systematic, and ongoing violations of religious freedom happening in the country. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings called the country a “pressure cooker” of violence. For over a decade, the terrorist group Boko Haram has targeted Christians and attacked other Muslims. The brutality of attacks from various militants has only seemed to increase. One major report has even raised the specter of genocide. Speaker Bishop Sunday Onuoha of Global Peace Foundation highlighted the problems of justice for the victims of Boko Haram violence: “How would you feel?” if your attackers went free? “It is an emergency.”

Violence and insecurity are the most pressing issue challenging religious freedom in Nigeria today. Yet, other issues such as forced marriage and forced conversions in the North, and problems with non-Muslims being brought into Sharia courts are widespread and deeply concerning. Victims of Boko Haram violence, particularly women and girls who are victims of sexual violence and slavery, face being ostracized if and when they are able to return to their homes. Converts from Islam often face harassment that is ignored by law enforcement and local governments.

World’s largest civil society-led conference on international religious freedom

The high-level event took place at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., on July 14. The Summit was this year’s largest civil society-led conference on international religious freedom in the world.

The International Religious Freedom Summit was hosted by former U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Katrina Lantos Swett. The event featured high-level leaders from government and civil society. More information can be found at www.irfsummit.com.

ADF International is a faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people. ADF International was one of the Premier Partner sponsors of the International Religious Freedom Summit and hosted the dinner.

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