Five American senators have asked the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to redesignate Nigeria as Country of Particular Concern (CPC) over the deteriorating state of religious freedom in the country.
“Given the abysmal state of religious freedom in Nigeria, it is incumbent upon you to reverse last year’s decision and redesignate the country as a CPC. The moment demands that you do so without delay,” the senators said in the June 29 memo.
In a memo seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the senators, all Republican, informed Mr Blinken that religious violence and intolerance directed toward Nigerian Christians has worsened in recent years, hence their request.
Apart from attacks on Nigerian Christians, the senators also said, the Nigerian authorities also restrict and “crack down on religious minorities and detain individuals indefinitely on blasphemy-related charges.”
The memo was signed by Josh Hawley (Missouri), Marco Rubio (Florida), Mike Brawn (Indiana), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), and James Inhofe (Oklahoma).
In November 2021, PREMIUM TIMES reported that the U.S. government removed Nigeria from its list of countries that violate religious freedom, ignoring the recommendation from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“Last year, you inexplicably removed Nigeria’s designation as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) despite no demonstrable improvement in the country’s religious freedom conditions. On the contrary, the situation in Nigeria has grown worse. We previously urged you to immediately reverse your misguided decision, and we write today to renew our call,” the memo said.
The senators cited recent cases of the attack on the St Francis Catholic Church, Owo and the alleged case of blasphemy that led to the burning of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto.
‘Muslims, others also persecuted’
According to the memo, Nigeria earns the dubious honour—for the second consecutive year—of being the deadliest country on earth for Christians following an unnamed report that documented more than 4,650 cases of Nigerian Christians who were killed for their faith in 2021.
It added that “not only has the government of Nigeria failed to take meaningful steps to mitigate such violence, Nigerian authorities restrict and crack down on religious minorities and detain individuals indefinitely on blasphemy-related charges.”
The senators also expressed concerns that the Nigerian government is failing to protect the religious freedom and basic safety of its Christian citizens.
The memo noted that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that Nigerian government authorities directly participate in the persecution of Christians, Muslims, and even non-theists, most notoriously through arrests and convictions under blasphemy laws.
“Make no mistake: continued enforcement of state-sanctioned blasphemy laws enables the type of deadly violence that killed Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu and so many others,” it said.
Chiamaka Okafor is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.
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