African leaders arrive for summit
49 heads of state attended the USA-Africa Summit in Washington D.C. in December.(Video: Reuters)
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced a bipartisan resolution to add Nigeria to the State Department’s annual list of countries that violate religious freedom on Tuesday.
The resolution comes as Secretary 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 Center, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa, with over 80 million believers.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama speaks during a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nov. 18, 2021.
(Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Christians in Nigeria face threats of murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence from militant groups such as Boko Haram.
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.”
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David Curry, president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, spoke at the International Religious Freedom Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and said Nigeria should still be a country of particular concern.
Since 2013 the Nigerian military has run a secret mass abortion program in the war against Boko Haram. A recent Reuters investigation revealed at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls ended after many had been kidnapped and raped.
“The army forced abortions on at least 10,000 women without their consent or consideration of their religious views after they had been kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram terrorists. Yet, rather than be intimidated into silence, 33 of these women spoke openly to journalists about these unspeakable, grotesque violations of their bodily autonomy and created international awareness of the situation,” he said.
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Former Rep. Frank Wolf, R- Va., says still 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.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power stands between Aisha Yesufu, left, and Bring Back Our Girls co-founder Obiageli Ezekwesili during a vigil in Abuja, Nigeria, April 21, 2016.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
“Does anyone remember hashtag BringBackOurGirls? Well, whatever happened, we’re 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,” he stated.
The World Index of Christian Persecution cites Nigeria as the first in terms of violence against Christians, stating 89% of Christians killed throughout the world are located in the country. The report also states 7,600 Nigerian Christians were reportedly murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.
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A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “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 Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists,” the spokesperson added.
Nigeria has denied it persecutes Christians. According to media reports last year, Nigeria’s minister for information and culture said it was not true that his country persecuted anyone due to their religious faith.
A request for comment was sent to Nigeria’s foreign ministry.