With Christian persecution raging in Nigeria, more than 33,000 people have signed a petition imploring President Joe Biden to reinstate the African nation to an important persecution watchlist.
Listen to the latest episode of CBN’s Quick Start podcast 👇
The Biden administration removed Nigeria last year from the U.S. State Department’s Countries of Particular Concern list, sparking rebuke and concern from persecution watchdogs.
The Goal of the Petition
Revelation Media and Alliance Defending Freedom have organized a new petition calling on the White House to return Nigeria to that list.
The document, delivered Friday to the White House, comes as the State Department prepares to release its annual designations, The Christian Post reported.
“Last year, President Biden removed Nigeria from a religious persecution watch list,” a petition description reads. “In the same year, Islamic terrorists, militants, and other extremists killed 4,650 Christians in Nigeria! It is not right for America to leave these Christians behind. We must stop the killing.”
The petition calls Nigeria “one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a Christian” and calls for the immediate reinstatement of Nigeria to the Countries of Particular Concern list.
“We cannot remain silent while our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and martyred for their faith,” the petition continues. “The killings must stop. The torture must stop.”
A Tragic Murder
As Faithwire previously reported, persecution in Nigeria burst onto the international scene last May, after a Muslim mob reportedly fatally stoned Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a 25-year-old Christian college student.
Yakubu’s horrific death reverberated throughout Nigeria and shocked religious freedom advocates. Yakubu, a Shehu Shagari College of Education student in Sokoto, Nigeria, was brutally murdered May 12, and the violent attack was purportedly filmed and shared on social media.
She was killed over comments made on WhatsApp, a messaging app.
“She was in a WhatsApp group that was dedicated to studies at her school,” Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), explained. “Someone asked her in this group how she got such a good score on a test, and she replied, ‘Jesus.’”
This reportedly angered Muslims in the group, who reacted negatively. Yakubu then purportedly left a voice message saying the Holy Spirit would protect her and that the WhatsApp group’s purpose was for schooling, not “religious nonsense,” as Veldkamp explained.
The Christian student’s horrific murder followed these interactions.
The Countries of Particular Concern List
In light of this event and many others, Veldkamp has been speaking out after Nigeria’s removal from the Countries of Particular Concern list.
“The U.S. has a pretty large infrastructure dedicated to religious freedom,” he said earlier this year. “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.”
Other experts have been equally perplexed about why Nigeria was removed from the list as persecution intensifies inside the African nation.
“We’re puzzled by this,” David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, told CBN’s Faithwire earlier this year 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 calamity and persecution.
“To take Nigeria off the Countries of Particular Concern list for no apparent reason seems purely political, and, unfortunately, Deborah 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 the Biden administration did not offer a concrete explanation for the removal, factors adding to the confounding situation.
Curry said the label helps put — and keep — pressure on governments to “either curb extremism” within their borders or halt government-inflicted persecution.
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.”
Extremism in the North
Despite Christianity being vibrant in many parts of the country, the northern region has experienced consistent extremist attacks that seems to be worsening. In addition to Yakubu’s death, other anti-Christian atrocities have recently unfolded in Nigeria.
A pastor was abducted, his wife was injured, and a Christian security guard was killed in a tragic September attack, purportedly carried out by Fulani herdsmen, members of a predominately Muslim group known to target Christians.
A separate Sept. 7 assault by suspected Fulani herdsmen also left three Christian women shot and injured. And a group of Christians — including a pastor’s son — were also kidnapped Sept. 4.
As Faithwire previously reported, a Christian woman was reportedly murdered in August while cleaning her church. Lyop Dalyop was purportedly sweeping and cleaning Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) on Aug. 27 in the Plateau state, when she was shot and killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Separately, in July, a Nigerian pastor and his sons were attacked in the Adamawa state, an area known for Islamic extremism. And an attack on a church on Pentecost Sunday in Nigeria in early June killed at least 50 people, with militants using guns and bombs.
These instances only cover a small portion of the horrors Christians have faced.
Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List ranks Nigeria as the seventh most dangerous place in the world to live as a Christian.
***As the number of voices facing big-tech censorship continues to grow, please sign up for Faithwire’s daily newsletter and download the CBN News app, developed by our parent company, to stay up-to-date with the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***