A persecution watchdog is warning the Biden administration’s decision to remove Nigeria from the U.S. State Department’s Countries of Particular Concern could have dire ramifications for Christians.
The U.S. government has been under increased scrutiny over its decision last year to remove Nigeria from the list. Renewed critique emerged this month after a Muslim mob reportedly fatally stoned Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a 25-year-old Christian college student, on May 12.
Experts ponder why Nigeria was removed as persecution intensifies inside the African nation.
“We’re puzzled by this,” David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, told CBN’s Faithwire of the designation change. “Because nothing has gotten better in Nigeria. It continues to get worse.”
Curry said removing the designation — which pinpoints nations with severe religious freedom violations — could cause more calamity and persecution. Watch Curry’s message to President Joe Biden and other U.S. leaders:
“To take Nigeria off the Countries of Particular Concern list for no apparent reason seems purely political, and, unfortunately, Deborah Samuel and others will lose their life because that pressure was eased,” he said. “I would say the Nigerian government has done nothing to resolve this problem.”
Curry continued, “They do not sufficiently protect these civilian soft spots like churches … because the government of Nigeria has done nothing, we should raise the pressure on them and put them on the Countries of Particular Concern.”
He said the U.S. did list Nigeria for one year before removing the designation and that the Biden administration did not offer a concrete explanation for the removal, factors that add to the confounding situation.
Curry said the label helps put — and keep — pressure on governments to “either curb extremism” within their borders or to halt government-inflicted persecution.
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In Nigeria, it seems the former is the biggest problem, with officials too often ignoring or looking past deadly extremism. Curry said the government has disregarded extremists’ diabolical actions since at least 2012.
“The entire north of the country of Nigeria operates under shariah law,” Curry said. “There are extremist groups [like Boko Haram]. The ideology is the same. They target Christians because of their faith … they’ll attack entire villages.”
While the U.S. wishes to be international partners with Nigeria, he said the removal — and the easing of pressures — is “woefully insufficient” to meet the call of what’s needed.
“Nigeria is the country that we can measure [that] has the most Christians killed for their faith,” Curry said. “Thousands and thousands of them every year.”
As previously reported, Curry’s call has been mirrored by others, including Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI).
Veldkamp warned of the dire situation inside the country in a recent interview with CBN’s Faithwire and called on the U.S. to be more proactive.
“The US has a pretty large infrastructure dedicated to religious freedom,” he said Wednesday. “If [Deborah’s] own government is not going to take this seriously and our government is not going to take this seriously, I’m really pessimistic about the chances for anything changing for the better in Nigeria.”
Read more about Deborah’s death and the issues in Nigeria here.
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