The United States has given reasons why it placed Nigeria for the first time on a religious freedom blacklist.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had on Monday designated Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom, the rare inclusion of a fellow democracy in the US effort to shame nations into action.
Sam Brownback, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
“Today the US designates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations,” Pompeo announced on Twitter.
The Nigerian government, however, rejected the tag, arguing that it “protects religious freedom”.
“Nigeria does not engage in religious freedom violation; neither does it have a policy of religious persecution. Victims of insecurity and terrorism in the country are adherents of Christianity, Islam and other religions,” Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture said.
Samuel Brownback, US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, in a press statement on Thursday, accused the Nigerian government of tolerating religious violence.
He said: “The secretary and the world have great concern about what’s taking place in Nigeria at this time, and some terrorist groups are organising and pushing into the country.
“We’re seeing a lot of religious-tinged violence taking place in that country and indeed in West Africa. It’s an area of growing concern about what’s happening, in particular the tension that’s taking place there between religious groups. And it’s often the religious affiliation that is used to try to recruit and inspire violent acts.
“You’ve got expanded terrorist activities, you’ve got a lot of it associated around religious affiliations, and the government’s response has been minimal to not happening at all.
“Several cases – there have not been criminal cases brought forward by the government. Terrorism continues to happen and grow, in some places, unabated.”
SaharaReporters, New York