Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who also serves on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, estimates that as many as 8,000 Christians have been murdered in cold blood between January and September this year. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government does almost nothing—and the Biden administration has decided to do even less.
After decades of disturbing eyewitness reports, today’s international religious freedom observers have become deeply concerned about Nigeria’s imperiled Christian communities.
On Friday, November 19, just hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched his first diplomatic outreach to Africa, we learned that the United States has inexplicably removed Nigeria from its State Department list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). To some, that may sound like innocuous paperwork or an ambassadorial feel-good gesture. But, in fact, this de-listing of Nigeria’s CPC designation is an outrageous betrayal of an already brutalized Christian community. And it forebodes multiplied death squads, torched villages and farmlands, and devastated homeless refugees.
After years of well-documented massacres and mutilated survivors, the Trump administration began to look more closely at the Islamist targeting of Nigerian Christians. Announced by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Nigeria’s Country of Particular Concern designation was made in early December 2020.
The US State Department explains that CPC-designated countries have “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom” during the reporting period. The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) defines particularly severe violations of religious freedom as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, including violations such as torture, degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, abduction or clandestine detention, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”
Nigeria has long been one of the most dangerous countries on earth for Christians. According to Voice of America in early 2021:
A report by the US-based Christian persecution monitoring group Open Doors shows the number of Christians killed in 2020 increased by 60%, mostly because of Islamic violence against Nigerian Christians. The study says more than 2,200 of 4,761 Christians killed around the world in 2020 died in Nigeria because of radical Islamists… Another US-based organization, International Christian Concern, estimates 50,000 to 70,000 Christians have died in violent attacks in Nigeria over 18 years, mostly carried out by Boko Haram terrorists or arms-wielding gangs.
How dangerous is the situation in Nigeria?