Religious freedom advocates are “outraged” and confounded after the Biden administration again declined to add Nigeria to the U.S. Department of State’s Countries of Particular Concern list, a designation targeting nations restricting or complicit in religious freedom violations.
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Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), has been among those urging the State Department to reclassify Nigeria as a nation violating residents’ religious liberty — but to no avail.
Veldkamp told CBN’s Faithwire the Biden administration’s decision to ignore international outcry over the matter is stunning, particularly in light of the deadly assaults unfolding against Christians in Nigeria daily.
“It’s not an exaggeration,” he said. “Every week, Christians are being killed in this country.”
Watch Veldkamp explain the horrors unfolding in Nigeria:
Veldkamp shared how the release of the current Countries of Particular Concern was dropped on Friday afternoon, noting this is how “Washington kills news” by releasing it heading into a weekend when fewer people pay attention.
Tragically, Veldkamp said he had spent the days before the release speaking with priests in Nigeria who witnessed and experienced the unthinkable.
“Earlier in the week, I had talked to two different priests from two different states in Nigeria,” he said. “One is in the middle of the country, and one is in the deep south of the country. One priest… had just visited a village where 20 Christians were killed the week before. He met a father who saw four of his children killed in front of his eyes.”
This same priest met another mother and father who lost one of their children and saw homes being burned to the ground. One of those interview subjects somberly said, “I stood on the ashes of human beings.”
The second priest came from the deep south of Nigeria, where Christians had been, until recently, “relatively safe,” according to Veldkamp.
But that priest recently witnessed a massive attack on his village by the Fulani ethnic group, leaving around 12 dead. The faith leader had reportedly warned authorities but to no avail.
“They knew the attack was coming, and they tried to alert the army, and they tried to get the army to come and protect them,” Veldkamp. “But the army wasn’t listening, and by the time the 12 people had been killed, they didn’t realize it because the killers used machetes instead of guns. They just went into people’s houses at night and just butchered them silently.”
Regarding the Nigerian government, Veldkamp said it seems there’s at least “tacit cooperation” in allowing the killing of Christian populations to progress. The U.S. decision to leave Nigeria off the list, Veldkamp believes, is a “way to get favor with the Nigerian government.”
“I think the U.S. government knows that the struggle of the 21st century will be a struggle for control of Africa between the United States and China,” he said. “China is making major inroads into Africa, and the U.S. wants to stop that, and, in order to stop it, they’re trying to get allies like the Nigerian government on their side.”
The Trump administration had previously placed Nigeria on the list in 2020, before the Biden administration removed it.
“Nigeria was put on this list by [then-]President [Donald] Trump in 2020 and, almost certainly, the Nigerian government told their counterparts in the U.S. government, ‘This is our price. We want off of this list if you want our cooperation. This is what we want from you,'” Veldkamp said. “There’s absolutely no credible reason to keep Nigeria off the list.”
It seems Veldkamp isn’t alone in his latter assertion, as the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released a statement expressing “outrage” over Nigeria’s omission from the list.
“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) finds it inexplicable that the U.S. Department of State did not include Nigeria or India in its latest designations of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ (CPCs) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), turning a blind eye to both countries’ particularly severe religious freedom violations,” the statement read.
CBN’s Faithwire has extensively covered Christians’ plight in Nigeria — a situation that has increasingly drawn attention internationally since a Christian college student was stoned earlier this year.
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.
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