WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The Biden administration will not add Nigeria to the U.S. State Department’s watch list for offenders of religious liberty despite the urging of members of Congress from both parties.
LifeSiteNews previously reported that Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) have cosponsored a resolution “calling on the Biden Administration to add Nigeria to the State Department’s annual list of countries that violate religious freedom — known as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) — and appoint a Special Envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region to monitor and combat atrocities in the region,” in response to Secretary of State Antony Blinken omitting Nigeria as a CPC [Country of Particular Concern] in the Department’s 2021 and 2022 International Religious Freedom Reports.
The bipartisan resolution cites findings that “nonstate armed groups” conduct “attacks on houses of worship, religious ceremonies, and religious leaders, with Christian communities and their churches hit particularly hard,” to which “the Nigerian government has often failed to respond sufficiently,” and that Nigeria accounted for “‘5,014 Christians killed in 2022, nearly 90 percent of the total number of Christians killed worldwide . . . [and] almost 90 percent of kidnappings carried out against Christians in 2022.”
However, “[a]fter careful review, the Secretary has assessed that Nigeria does not meet the legal threshold for designation under the International Religious Freedom Act,” a Department official said in a statement, Catholic News Agency reports. “[T]he United States takes all incidents of violence seriously and raises them regularly in our conversations with Nigerian officials.”
“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 claimed. “We will continue to press the government to address these.”
Last December, Bishop Jude Arogundade of the southwestern Nigerian Diocese of Ondo lamented that “whenever the [U.S.] Democrats are in power they look away from the killings of Christians in Nigeria. It was very visible during Obama’s administration.” He vowed that “we will keep up the pressure to get the world’s attention. Those who have died will not die in vain.”
Speaking to CNA in response to Blinken’s rejection of the resolution, one of the measure’s sponsors, Rep. French Hill (R-AR) said, “I look forward to asking the State Department directly about this issue when they come to testify in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”