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US lawmaker wants Nigeria blacklisted for religious freedom violations

In a bid to address the apparent religious crisis in the country, a member of the United States House of Representatives, Chris Smith, has introduced a bipartisan resolution to return Nigeria to the State Department’s annual list of countries that violate religious freedom in the world.

The resolution came after the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, omitted Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in the State Department’s 2021 and 2022 International Religious Freedom Reports. According to the Pew Research Centre, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa, with over 80 million adherents of the faith. However, Christians in Nigeria face threats of murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence from militant groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).The co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said in a press release that: “The Biden administration’s totally unjustified decision to retreat from the noble and necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution puts even more people in jeopardy.”

David Curry, president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, who spoke at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C. said Nigeria should still be a country of particular concern. Former US Representative, Frank Wolf, lamented that no action has been taken to help Christians in Nigeria. He mentioned the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement, which was an effort to find the mostly Christian female students aged from 16 to 18 who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. “Does anyone remember the hashtag BringBackOur- Girls? Well, whatever happened, where are all those guys who went on television and [posted] the hashtag? 50% of the girls did not return.

I met with some of the Chibok parents. They wonder what in the name is the world doing.” The World Index of Christian Persecution cites Nigeria as the first in terms of violence against Christians, stating that 89 per cent of Christians killed throughout the world are located in the country. The report also states that 7,600 Nigerian Christians were reportedly murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.

A State Department spokesperson said: “The secretary determined that the status of religious freedom in Nigeria did not meet the legal threshold to justify Nigeria’s designation as a Country of Particular Concern or their inclusion on the Special Watch List. We continue to have concerns about religious freedom in Nigeria, which are well documented in the annual IRF Report, and we will continue to press the government to address these. “The State Department has redesignated Boko Haram and ISIS-WA as Entities of Particular Concern for religious freedom. It has also designated these entities Foreign Terrorist Organisations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists.” Nigeria has denied it persecutes Christians. According to media reports last year, Nigeria’s Minister for Information and Culture (Lai Mohammed) said it was not true that his country persecuted anyone due to their religious faith.

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