by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – As thousands of Christians in Nigeria are murdered by Islamic jihadists every year, a coalition of more than 30 international rights groups and faith-based organizations wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on September 19, asking him to re-designate Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” in regard to religious freedom violations, Church Leaders (CL) reports. The US annually reviews the status of religious freedom in every country in the world and designates each country that has tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
The September 19 letter was sent in the hope the Secretary of State will put Nigeria on the 2022 List of Countries of Particular Concern that is expected to be published by the end of this year, CL reports. To the shocked outrage of international rights groups, Blinken removed Nigeria from the US List in November last year, shortly before his official visit to the country. The letter sent to him on September 19 described his removal of Nigeria from the List as “unexplainable” and “appalling.”
The letter was signed by the ADF International, Anglican Persecuted Church, Religious Freedom Project Christian Freedom, International Christian Solidarity, and International Christian Concern organizations, among many other groups, and by a number of prominent political figures, including members of the UK parliament.
“Well-known terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISWAP target Christians and Muslims who reject extremism throughout Northeastern Nigeria. Militia groups operate on a wide scale throughout the North and Middle Belt, although increasingly in the Federal Capital Territory and the Southeast as well,” the letter explains. “While the motives of the militia groups are diverse, a significant portion of them are driven by extremist ethnoreligious factors, disproportionately targeting Christians, as attested to both by widespread eyewitness testimony and data.”
The letter cited data from the Observatory of Religious Freedom in Africa (ORFA), which reported that between October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021, 4,303 Christians were murdered in jihadist-related attacks. “When controlling for the differences in the Christian and Muslim populations in the different geopolitical zones and states where these killings occurred, ORFA found that Christians were 7.8 times more likely to be killed in jihadist-related attacks than Muslims,” the letter reads.