Nigeria has dealt with significant internal violence for years, mostly at the hands of the Boko Haram terrorist group and militant Fulani herdsmen. Tens of thousands have been killed or abducted by these two groups, and hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced.
The International Religious Freedom Summit, a three-day convention being held in Washington DC this July, is set to address essential themes in the struggle for religious freedom in the Middle East. The Summit’s organizers, former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights Katrina Lantos Swett, have amassed an impressive group of speakers ranging from current U.S. Senators to survivors of religiously motivated persecution abroad. The IRF Summit’s current schedule suggests that many of the issues to be addressed will be directly relevant to the ongoing fight for greater protection of religious freedom in Nigeria.
1,900 civilians and government employees were killed by Boko Haram and Fulani militants in 2020 alone, according to ICC analysis of the situation. Much of the violence is concentrated in Christian-majority areas of the Middle Belt region.
ICC’s analysis shows that the majority of civilian and government deaths in 2020 happened at the hands of Fulani militants rather than Boko Haram terrorists or bandits. Despite this fact, the government of Nigeria continues to largely ignore the Fulani crisis in favour of the more easily defined terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram and the simpler criminal threat posed by vaguely defined bandits.
President Mohammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on promises to end the threat posed by terrorists and bandits. He has seen some success on this front in the years since, and even declared victory over the Boko Haram terror group at one point. In light of a recent resurgence, though, he recently walked those comments back, quietly declaring a renewed state of emergency and releasing the heads of his armed forces for failing to end the violence.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently issued a report in April recommending that the Department of State designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its severe violations of religious freedom.
USCIRF made the same recommendation in last year’s report, which State did follow in a December 2, 2020 announcement that condemned Nigeria for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” However, the designation was largely undermined by a waiver of the sanctions that normally would have accompanied the CPC designation.
In all, the IRF Summit will seek to passionately advocate for religious freedom in Nigeria and worldwide through testimony from victims and dialogue between keynote speakers. Registration continues on the Summit’s website, but seats are limited.
From International Christian Concern here.