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U.S. Laments Govt’s Inaction On Religious Extremism, Considers Special Envoy

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has warned of a genocide in the country if the Federal Government fails to arrest the growing extremism, particularly in the North.

Speaking yesterday during a virtual hearing on the escalation of violence by non-state actors in Nigeria and its potential to exacerbate deteriorating religious freedom conditions, USCIRF said it will push for a special envoy to be sent to engage the current administration on the ongoing killings in the North East and the Lake Chad region.

The body noted that insecurity was spreading in the country, with violent attacks against civilians and security forces occurring daily.

“Among the complex web of armed actors and motivations, extremists in various parts of the country target individuals and communities based on their religious identity. Christian and Muslim communities fear for their lives, risking death, mutilation and abduction when they worship in public and celebrate significant religious ceremonies.

“Amidst this shocking scale of violence, government’s inaction is pervasive. Impunity for extremists, who target religious communities and houses of worship, is systemic across much of the country. The Federal Government’s approach has failed to curb the violence and protect its citizens’ rights to freedom of religion or belief. As a body, we will encourage the U.S. government to support Nigeria in addressing impunity for extremist violence,” Anurima Bhargava, USCIRF chair, stated yesterday.

Panelists at the virtual hearing included U.S. ex-Representative member, Frank Wolf; Vice President, Global Affairs and Partnerships, Search for Common Ground, Mike Jobbins; founder, Choice for Peace, Gender, and Development, Hafsat Maina Muhammed; Catholic Priest; Head of Department, Religious Studies, Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State, Anthony Bature; and analyst in African Affairs, Congressional Research Service, Tomás Husted.

The panelists said they were disturbed that the rest of the world was closing its eyes to the worsening insecurity in Nigeria.

Wolf said: “Nigeria is failing and there is little attention by the West to the crisis. History is repeating itself as it happened in Rwanda. If what is happening in Nigeria is happening in the West, the world would have been enraged but there is silence and inaction, which could prove fatal to the West Africa region and rest of the world.”

In April, USCIRF in its report recommended that the U.S. 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.”

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