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Nigeria to remain off watch list of offenders of religious liberty – US State Department

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Persecondnews.com  can authoritatively confirm that the Biden administration has decided not to put Nigeria back on a list of offenders of religious liberty.

 

This is coming as human rights advocates and members of the U.S Congress are pressing the Biden administration to place Nigeria on the watch list in an effort to stop the violence and persecution of Christians in the country.

 

Nigeria’s continued exclusion from the list prompted Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey; Rep. French Hill, R-Arkansas; and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, to introduce a resolution last week to push back on the nation’s abuses. The bipartisan resolution urges the State Department to redesignate Nigeria a CPC and to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat human rights violations in the region.

 

A U.S State Department speaking under the condition of anonymity said, “after careful review” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has decided not to put Nigeria back on a list of offenders of religious liberty.

 

“After careful review, the Secretary [of State] has assessed that Nigeria does not meet the legal threshold for designation under the International Religious Freedom Act,” the OFFICIAL said.

 

The State Department official said that “the United States takes all incidents of violence seriously and raises them regularly in our conversations with Nigerian officials.”

 

After the killing of Father Isaac Achi, who was burned to death January 17, many advocates in the United States asked the US government to take a strong stance in defense of Nigerian Christians by adding Nigeria to its annual list of countries that violate religious freedom, known as the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.

 

As regards the murder of Father Achi, “We are saddened and appalled,” said the official.

 

“We do not know the motives of those responsible, but we condemn their heedless violence. We urge the Nigerian authorities to quickly bring them to justice.”

 

“We continue to have concerns about the religious freedom situation in Nigeria, which is well documented in the annual IRF (International Religious Freedom) Report,” the official said. “We will continue to press the government to address these.”

 

 The official noted that the State Department has redesignated two terrorist organizations within Nigeria, Boko Haram and ISIS-WA, as “Entities of Particular Concern for religious freedom.”

 

Human rights observers in Nigeria and members of the Catholic Church have argued, however, that the Nigerian government itself should be on the CPC list, in part, because it has allowed these groups to continue to persecute Christians and religious minorities.

 

Bishop Jude Arogundade of the Diocese of Ondo, Nigeria, told a group gathered in Washington earlier this month that members of the ruling party have ties to terrorists. Arogundade’s diocese suffered a terrorist attack on Pentecost Sunday 2022 in which 50 Catholics attending Mass were killed at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Nigeria’s Owo state.

 

“The Biden administration continues to leave Nigeria off the CPC list for political gain. This resolution sends an important message to the Biden administration and the government of Nigeria that the U.S. Congress sees what is happening there and will continue to speak out against the ongoing violence and the government’s inadequate response,” U.S Congress woman French Hill said last week.

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