The Reverend John Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, says the U.S. removal of Nigeria from its religious freedom watchlist is appalling.
Hayab was one of five civil society representatives who met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he visited Nigeria on Nov. 19, one day after the U.S. released its latest list of countries to be designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC).
The move drew significant criticism as religious freedom conditions continue to decline globally.
Nigeria continues to see regular and ongoing massacres of indigenous Christians, according to local publications in the country. Also, Nigerian security forces continue to harass and sometimes kill Shi’ite Muslims, and multiple Muslims and freethinkers are currently imprisoned for the “crime” of blasphemy.
“The U.S.’s delisting of Nigeria from its list of violators of religious liberty is appalling, as the persecution of Christians is still at its peak. The U.S. State Department ignored the worsening insecurity in Nigeria, declaring that placing the country on the list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ for religious freedom could jeopardize the work of the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom in Nigeria.
“Only a day before the meeting with Blinken, the terrorists who kidnapped 66 worshippers at the Emmanuel Baptist Church (Kakau Daji, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State) released a video showing themselves killing some of their captives. In the video, the terrorists took five young men between the ages of 15 and 24 from among the kidnapped, acting as if they were to be released. When the victims came near to their homes, the terrorists opened fire, killing two instantly. The third died later. All three have been buried by the church.
“When I met with Antony John Blinken, the US Secretary of State, during his recent visit to Nigeria, as one of the five civil society representatives, I expressed how disappointed the Christians in Nigeria were following the US’ deletion of Nigeria from the CPC list. What I said to Blinken was that, because Nigeria still has grave problems with religious persecution, his action was like that of a doctor discharging a patient from the hospital, even though the patient is critically ill. What that signifies is telling the patient to go home and die.
“Manifestly, the US was either ill-advised or purposely does not care about what happens to us in Nigeria. It also appears that the State Department does not fully comprehend that there is a grand plan by the current regime in Nigeria to impoverish and weaken the Christian community without letting the international community notice it. To achieve the grand plan, the government employed highly professional lobbyists to convince the State Department to arrive at such an unpopular decision, removing Nigeria’s name from the list of countries violating religious freedom.”
Christians living in Nigeria face some of the worst acts of persecution, said a statement on the Alliance Defending Freedom International’s website. Millions of people have fled devastating violence and have become internally displaced. As a result of the violence, 13,000 churches have been closed or destroyed altogether. Many victims have been kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted or married, or sold into slavery. Reports show that every day at least 17 Christians were killed in the first half of 2021.
Above: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with members of the civil society at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nov. 19.
Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters/Newscom