Human Rights Advocates Call on Biden Administration to Blacklist Nigeria

More than twenty human rights, religious freedom, and Christian advocacy groups are calling on Congress to take more action to pressure the Biden administration to re-designate Nigeria to its blacklist of worst offenders for allowing citizens to practice their faith of choice. This push comes as the State Department is expected to release its list of “Countries of Particular Concern,” which includes nations where religious freedom is severely limited or religious groups face persecution in the coming days. The brutal statistics speak for themselves, with over 5,000 Nigerian Christians killed for their faith in 2022, according to a report by Open Doors, a religious freedom watchdog group.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week to discuss this matter, urging Blinken to place Nigeria back on the official U.S. blacklist. Blinken had removed Nigeria from the list in 2021, but pressure is mounting to reverse this decision. Legislation has been introduced calling on the Biden administration to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern and appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat atrocities in the country.

In a letter to all members of Congress, more than two dozen leading religious freedom and Christian advocacy groups have urged lawmakers to press the administration to address the ongoing religious persecution in Nigeria as required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Among the signatories are prominent figures such as David Curry, President and CEO of Global Christian Relief; former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback; and Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.

The Catholic bishop who heads the Makurdi Diocese in Nigeria’s Benue state, in the country’s north-central region, expressed gratitude for the efforts of U.S. religious freedom advocates. He has witnessed the relentless attacks on his community by Fulani Muslim militants and welcomes the attention being brought to their plight.

The attacks against Christians and Muslim minorities in Nigeria have been relentless despite Christians making up nearly half of the country’s population. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, along with radical Fulani tribesmen, have been responsible for attacks on entire Christian communities. The violence has also led to the displacement of millions of Nigerians, particularly in Benue State.

The Biden administration attributes the massacre of Christians in Nigeria to a conflict over resources exacerbated by climate change, but USCIRF and other leading human rights organizations disagree. They have expressed outrage over the State Department’s omission of Nigeria from the CPC blacklist, calling for accountability for the perpetrators of these heinous acts.

The push to re-designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern is a humanitarian effort to stop the mass slaughter of innocent Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, with the hope that by raising awareness and taking concrete action, there can be an end to the ongoing religious persecution in the country. As pressure mounts on the Biden administration, the outcome of this issue will be closely watched by the international community.

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