In Nigeria, the Biden Administration Forgets the Religious Roots of Foreign Aid
America’s humanitarian foreign aid tradition emerged out of the missionary movement. As Walter Russell Mead observes in his magisterial work on the various streams of American political thought, “most contemporary international organizations that provide relief from natural disasters, shelter refugees, train medical practitioners for poor countries, or perform other important services on an international basis can trace their origin either to missionary organizations or to the missionary milieu.” It was a natural progression for the United States to get involved in foreign aid and international religious freedom as American missionaries abroad sought the same.
Today, organizations like Samaritan’s Purse are sustaining that important tradition, even as the progressive Obama and Biden administrations have turned away from it, using our foreign aid and international institutions to promote global abortion and a disorienting LGBT agenda. In doing so, these progressives have sacrificed meeting basic needs food, shelter, and medicine in favor of brainwashing foreign populations with their left-wing ideology.
Nigeria is a prime example of this. Despite the billion-dollar foreign aid check the U.S. cuts Nigeria every year, there are horrendous atrocities taking place in the country. According to one group monitoring the situation, Open Doors International, “In Nigeria, a Christian is killed for their faith every two hours; that’s nearly 13 Christians a day and 372 Christians a month.” Their research shows that “in 2021, more Christians were murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country. Last year, Nigeria accounted for nearly 80% of Christian deaths worldwide, with more than 4,650 believers killed."
Vision of Humanity first started tracking international acts of terrorism in 2011 with its Global Terrorism Index. During President Obama’s first term, Nigeria was the eighth worst country on its list. By the end of Obama’s second term, in 2016, Nigeria had surpassed Russia, Somalia, and even Afghanistan to become the second largest hub for terrorism, just behind Iraq. On Obama’s watch, the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram emerged in Nigeria as the world’s deadliest terrorists. Boko Haram has killed and massacred thousands of human beings since then, and displaced millions more. In 2014, the terrorist organization abducted hundreds of schoolgirls, including many who still have not been reunited with their families.
However, under the Trump-Pence administration, the United States worked to crush Boko Haram and other religious persecutors like the Islamic State. We sent attack planes to Nigeria, we put a bounty on the head of Boko Haram’s leader, and we brought the full force of the U.S. government to bear on terrorists in the region. By the end of the last administration, Boko Haram was defeated, and ISIS was no more. Nigeria was a safer and more stable country and was poised to make further progress.
But then, against the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the Biden administration shirked in its duty. Without explanation, Biden’s administration delisted Nigeria from the list of Countries of Particular Concern, which the U.S. uses to put economic pressure on countries that are human rights violators. At the same time, the Biden administration pulled out of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a compact of 34 countries initiated by the Trump-Pence administration to get international aid back to its roots. The Biden administration decided to push an agenda of abortion and sexual libertinism rather than basic aid, health, and human rights like religious freedom.
Today, it is clear that basic human rights are in dire straits in Nigeria. The Biden administration has taken its eye off the ball, pushing for sexual orientation and gender identity in a country that cannot even guarantee its citizens religious liberty. While it is pushing for so-called “abortion rights” in Nigeria, Nigerian officials are using the reins of power to force women into abortions. Biden’s agenda could not be more tone-deaf to the real suffering on the ground in Nigeria.
But it does not have to be this way. The United States can restore its mantle as the global leader of human rights. Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has introduced a bipartisan resolution calling on the Biden administration to relist Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern and appoint a special envoy to crack down on these horrific acts. That would be a good first step as we seek to restore the mission and purpose of U.S. international aid, one that remains true to its roots in the missionary movement, and to those noble Americans who gave and continue to give their lives to serve the world as Christ did.
Paul Teller serves as executive director of Advancing American Freedom.