Catholic bishops in Nigeria are hoping for “tangible” results from the United States to sanction Nigeria’s “genocide” of Christians, after five US senators wrote to the Secretary of State to re-designate Nigeria as a religious freedom violator. “Priests are killed… extremists kidnapped our children and forcefully converted them to Muslims… there is palpable fear and tension across the country,” said Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto. People are yet to see any “tangible move” towards tackling Nigeria’s insecurity which, according to him, has a religious undertone.” The scope of persecution is wide and cross cutting, involving the rape and forced marriage of Christian girls, promulgation of policies and privileges that exclude Christians and also forced conversions,” said Bishop Kukah. “There is almost complete lack of interest on the part of the federal government to help Christians who have been kidnapped en masse and the Churches concerned have simply had to pay heavy sums for the freedom of their members” he said.
Catholic bishops in Nigeria had criticized the United States for excluding the west African country from its religious persecution blacklist. That U.S. Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report was published June 2. Now five U.S. senators have officially written to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to re-enlist Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Following the deteriorating state of religious freedom in Nigeria, in December 2020, the US had blacklisted Nigeria for “violating religious freedom” under the CPC designation.” Last year, however, you inexplicably removed Nigeria’s designation as a Country of Particular Concern despite no demonstrable improvement in the country’s religious freedom conditions. On the contrary, the situation in Nigeria has grown worse,” the US senators wrote.” Religious violence and intolerance directed toward Nigerian Christians has worsened in recent years. One report documented more than 4,650 cases of Nigerian Christians who were killed for their faith in 2021,” the senators said.
“A calculated genocide” Urging swift action “on this important matter,” they told Blinken: “The State Department released its 2021 report on International Religious Freedom on June 2, which starts the 90-day timeline for the department to make its religious freedom designations. “Given the abysmal state of religious freedom in Nigeria, it is incumbent upon you to reverse last year’s decision and re-designate the country as a CPC. The moment demands that you do so without delay.” Similarly, Nigerian Catholic Bishop Williams Avenya of Gboko said the world must not ignore the “genocide” of Christians in Nigeria.” The mass slaughter of Christians in Nigeria… by every standard, meets the criteria for a calculated genocide from the definition of the Genocide Convention,” he said, adding that some region in the country have “truly become a vale of tears, a region where mass burials are very common.” Bishop Adetoyese Badejo of Oyo also added that there is nothing on ground to suggest that Christians have an easier time practicing their faith in Nigeria today than they did one or two years ago.
“Things have not gotten any better because extremists seem to be gaining even more territory in the North Eastern Nigeria” he said. Nigeria has been fighting an insecurity challenge since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009. The insecurity situation has been further worsened by the clashes between the nomadic herdsmen, predominantly from the Fulani tribe, and the more stable pastoral farming over water and grazing land. Intersociety, the civil rights group International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, reports that jihadists belonging to Nigeria’s main Islamic Jihadists — Militant Fulani Herdsmen, Boko Haram and its offshoot ISWAP — have killed Christians and burnt and destroyed their worship places. Catholic bishops in Nigeria have repeatedly criticized the federal government for failing to provide security in parts of the country witnessing ongoing anti-Christian violence.