Religious, human rights groups urge Blinken to punish Nigeria over mass killings of Christians

January 16th, 2024

The Biden administration is facing pressure from numerous human rights and religious groups for failing to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (“CPC”) for the brutal killing of over 200 Christians last month.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, two dozen interest groups, led by Advancing American Freedom and including Alliance Defending Freedom, the Hudson Institute, former Ambassador Sam Brownback and former defense and national security officials, scolded the State Department for its “refusal” to designate Nigeria as a CPC – calling the lack of action “unconscionable.”

“Less than two weeks ago, almost 200 Nigerian Christians became martyrs while celebrating Christmas. According to one account, these Christians were ‘killed for sport.’ Just weeks earlier, the Christian Association of Nigeria received a letter threatening them against celebrating Christmas,” the letter sent Monday states.

“The international religious freedom community stands outraged at your refusal to hold these acts of evil to account,” it continues.

The letter notes that the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), a Nigeria-based nonprofit, has found that more than 52,000 Christians have been killed and more than 14 million Christians have been forced to flee Nigeria since 2009.

Over that same period, Intersociety also found that 18,000 churches and 2,200 schools had been attacked, according to the letter.

On Jan. 4, Blinken announced that he’d designated a series of countries, including Iran and Russia, as a CPC, but Nigeria was notably left off the list.

The letter says that “within hours” of Blinken’s announcement, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for a congressional hearing, and international religious freedom advocates “publicly criticized” his decision.

USCIRF is a federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and consists of commissioners who are appointed by the president and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders.

Nigeria, which is a hub for Boko Haram, was added to the list during the Trump administration but has been left off the list since 2021.

According to the Pew Research Center, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa, with over 80 million believers.

“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,” the letter states.

“When the United States stands silent as evil runs amok, the world takes notice,” it concludes.

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