Governments Are ‘Turning a Blind Eye’ to Christian Persecution in Nigeria: Congressman
In recent years, concerns over religious freedom increased substantially. Last week at the 2024 International Religious Freedom Summit, over a thousand people gathered to learn more about what can be done globally to protect the human right of religious liberty. Speakers at the conference pointed out that there are some areas of the world receiving less attention than others, and one of those places is Nigeria.
Since 2009, over 52,000 Christians have been slaughtered in Nigeria due to intense persecution. Only recently, a brutal attack during Christmas killed nearly 200 Nigerian Christians. Out of the estimated 5,621 Christians who were killed in 2023, an overwhelming majority of those homicides occurred in Nigeria. Despite the significant death toll that experts say borders on the edge of genocide, the persecution has so far remained largely under the radar of legacy media outlets.
The Biden administration has received pushback for “failing to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC),” Fox News reported last month. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) shared on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Monday, “Multiple governments, including the current one, have not stepped up to protect Christians.” He added, “I don’t know their hearts and souls as to why, but there has been such a reluctance to recognize what is approaching a genocide.”
In January, led by Advancing American Freedom and other religious freedom organizations, two dozen interest groups composed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. It detailed the immense persecution in Nigeria and called out the State Department for not acting as the situation warrants. The writers emphasized their outrage at the administration’s “refusal to hold … acts of evil to account.”
The letter concluded on a note of caution: “The eyes of the world look to the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom. Religious freedom is grounded in the American founding, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and quintessential to what it means to be an American. When the United States stands silent as evil runs amok, the world takes notice.”
As Lela Gilbert, senior fellow for International Religious Freedom at FRC, wrote last week, “The fact is that more Christian believers are killed for their faith in Nigeria each year than in the rest of the countries of the world combined. Meanwhile, the international response to these tragedies has for too long been virtual silence.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins urged the importance of “understanding … what a significant humanitarian crisis this could create.” In addition to the mass murders and threat to religious freedom, “if these Nigerian Christians were to flee their country and go to Europe,” that would be a “mass movement of refugees and would be a huge, huge crisis,” he added.
But as it stands, many of them have remained in their country and continue to be vulnerable to persecution. Many of them stay because, as Smith put it, “They’re asking their government to respond quickly, to mitigate the harm, to do surveillance.” But ultimately, their government is “sitting there with their hands folded,” doing nothing. And Perkins acknowledged that “it’s not necessarily at the hands of [American] government,” but they are also “turning a blind eye to this” when they should be interfering to at least some degree.
It’s a “gross indifference,” Smith concluded.
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.