Dozens of prominent Christian, human rights, and religious freedom organizations have pleaded with the Biden administration to change its tune and include Nigeria in its list of countries that violate religious freedom.
Reports show that in its yearly index of designations, the State Department kept all twelve nations on last year’s religious freedom blacklist and added just one, Azerbaijan, to a special watchlist. The decision to include Azerbaijan was made shortly after the nation regained control of an enclave populated mostly by Christians and ethnic Armenians.
These twelve nations include Cuba, China, Iran, Burma, Eritrea, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Russia, North Korea, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. They are officially recognized as countries of particular concern and nations that have committed the gravest violations of religious liberty.
The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom, whose members are chosen by Congress and who advise the State Department, scolded Blinken for failing to designate Nigeria and India. After expressing “great displeasure” with the decision, the panel demanded that Congress convened a hearing to examine the State Department’s “failure” to implement its recommendations and reaffirmed its calls for both nations to be officially blacklisted.
In the religiously diverse Nigerian state of Plateau, where tensions have been rising between Christian farmers and Muslim militant herders, over a hundred Christians, including their pastor, were murdered in the days leading up to Christmas.
Reports show the Catholic bishop of the Makurdi Diocese in the north-central state of Nigeria, Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe, expressed his profound encouragement about the efforts of American religious freedom activists to rally support for Christians in Nigeria. Muslims from the Fulani tribe have been attacking the Christian-majority state of Benue nonstop.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) submitted a bill earlier this year urging the Biden administration to send a special envoy to oversee the area around Lake Chad and the nation to deal with human rights violations. Democrat representative from Texas Henry Cuellar is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.