The Biden State Department once again has refused to designate Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), despite Christians being killed by militant Muslim groups almost daily with no effective intervention by the Nigerian government.
Over the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and pleas from religious freedom advocates, the Biden administration, for the second year, left Nigeria off of a list of 12 other nations designated as CPCs in an announcement on Dec. 2. The Trump State Department had designated Nigeria as a CPC, but the Biden administration dropped that label in 2021.
The CPC designations are announced annually by the State Department to spotlight the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
Since 2011, the terrorist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have murdered more than 40,000 Christians in Nigeria, in addition to thousands more killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, Genocide Watch reports. In 2021 alone, according to the persecution watchdog group Open Doors, some 4,650 Nigerian Christians were murdered by these groups—equal to one Christian killed every two hours.
Open Doors estimates that Nigerians made up nearly 80% of the world’s Christian martyrs in 2021.
The State Department’s announcement revealed a sharp disagreement over Nigeria between the Biden administration and the members of the USCIRF, which is an appointed commission mandated by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.
USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel said in a statement that “there is no justification” for the State Department’s failure to recognize Nigeria as a CPC and that the “USCIRF is tremendously disappointed that the secretary of state did not implement our recommendations” concerning the severe violations documented by the U.S. government. The USCIRF said the State Department’s omission was “inexplicable.”
Nigeria’s Christians comprise around 98 million of the country’s 211 million people. The Nigerian government and President Muhammadu Buhari have been roundly criticized for a weak response to the violence toward Christians.
“The level of trauma among Christians is reaching crisis levels as men are killed, women are raped and abducted, and youths are left in despondency over the future,” Open Doors says on its website about the Nigerian genocide. “Pray for healing and hope. Pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen their faith and that Christians will continually be able to provide a reason to anyone that asks for the hope that is in them.”
“Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria before it, an unstable Nigeria is becoming the new breeding ground for Islamist terrorists,” said the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), which advocates for Nigerian Christians.
Dating back to the Trump administration, ICON has vocally supported efforts to get a U.S. Special Envoy appointed to address the Nigerian violence.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced CPC designations for Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan “for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at Christian Solidarity International (CSI), told Faithwire.com he believes the reason the Biden administration is going soft on Nigeria is because China is becoming more influential in Africa and the U.S. is attempting to counter Chinese influence there. “There’s absolutely no credible reason to keep Nigeria off the list,” he said.