It’s Time for America to Remember Nigeria
For many years, and in ever-escalating numbers, Nigerian Christians have been enduring horrific violence in their communities, churches, and homes. This bloodshed has been imposed by Islamist groups Boko-Haram, Fulani radicals, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Meanwhile, tragically and inexcusably, the Christians’ need for protection has been largely ignored by Nigeria’s state and federal government authorities. And, although religious freedom activists have continued to appeal for an end to the murderous terrorism, devastation has only increased.
In recent days, Intersociety — an organization based in Nigeria that reports on Islamist violence — released a shocking and heartbreaking report about the surging anti-Christian violence that continues to devastate Nigeria’s faith communities. Consider the following highlights:
- 5,068 citizens massacred for being Christians in Nigeria in 2022
- 1,041 more slaughtered in first 100 days of 2023
- Since the 2009 Islamic uprising, 52,250 Christians and 34,000 moderate Muslims have been butchered or hacked to death. And since 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari’s radical Islamism has arguably led to the killing of 30,250 Christians and to attacks on 18,000 churches and 2,200 Christian schools.
- Since 2009, 14 million Christians have been uprooted and forced to flee their homes and 800 Christian communities have been attacked.
- Benue State was worst hit in the first 100 days of 2023, with 380 Christian deaths as Nigeria’s military air-bombed over 100 in Niger State. Christians of Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, and Kebbi were the worst affected in the attacks.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous and prosperous nation. And the U.S. is Nigeria’s key trade and defense partner, with substantial influence over its leadership. With this in mind, why has the pattern of slaughter and anti-Christian terrorism been allowed to prosper so long and so extravagantly?
Why is America turning a blind eye to the soaring death toll in Nigeria?
Just as Intersociety released their report, Morning Star News posted another news item, which adds even greater numbers to the already bleak accounts of death and destruction in Nigeria.
“Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists killed 33 Christians in an attack Saturday night through the early hours of Sunday (April 15-16) in Kaduna state, Nigeria. Area residents said herdsmen alongside other armed terrorists invaded predominantly Christian Runji village, in Zangon Kataf County, at about 10 p.m. on Saturday (April 15) …
“Please pray for us. It’s a black Sunday, as 33 Christians were killed by herdsmen and terrorists in the early hours of Sunday, 16 April,” area resident Mugu Zakka Bako wrote in a text message. “They were also buried today, Monday, 17 April.”
As we try to concentrate on international concerns, we are easily confronted with breathtaking headlines, refocusing our eyes on one deadly confrontation after another. Yes, Russia is battling with Ukraine. An uprising in Sudan is threatening thousands — many Christians. And the shifting sands of the Middle East echo Iranian radicals chanting “Death to Israel.”
Against this alarming backdrop, all-too-often our Western news reports overlook the ever-increasing bloodshed in Africa, even as radical Islamists — energized by the Islamic State — continue to ignite deadly infernos across that vast continent.
In Nigeria, violence and bloodshed continue to surge, week after week, month after month. Tragically, our Christian brothers and sisters who live there are the primary targets of Islamist terrorism — murders, rapes, kidnappings, and never-ending threats of more to come. In 2022, Open Doors reported that in 2021, Nigeria accounted for nearly 80% of Christian deaths worldwide. And as we can see in the Intersociety report, more than 5,000 Christians were massacred in Nigeria just in 2022.
For those of us who gratefully (and perhaps obliviously) live in peace, these reports always come back to the same questions: What can we do? Are we doing enough? Besides prayers and donations to humanitarian relief organizations, what other actions can we take?
It’s time we assertively reminded our elected representatives — in the Senate and House — about the bloodshed in Nigeria. Let’s demand American action.
Our U.S. government is able to project its influence in several ways into broken and desperate countries who have no real power of their own. Nigeria was, for less than a year, appropriately identified as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) by the U.S. State Department. Yet, almost immediately after the 2021 inauguration, that significant and meaningful designation was unexplainably removed by the new Biden administration. Today, in the wake of such sobering information from Intersociety and Morning Star News, it’s time we once again focused our prayers, petitions, and ideas for a practical solution regarding Nigeria.
Considering the atrocious level of ongoing violence in Nigeria, re-designating Nigeria as a CPC should be an immediate U.S. policy objective. Until the U.S. takes solid steps toward alleviating the Nigerian bloodbath, a couple of troubling questions remain unanswered by President Biden and his seemingly oblivious State Department:
What is America doing to stop the horrific bloodshed in Nigeria? And why is Nigeria no longer a Country of Particular Concern?
It’s time for America to remember Nigeria.
Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and Fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.