Will US List Nigeria Again After Latest Religious Freedom Report?

Image: Ron Przysucha / US Department of State. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain, delivers remarks on the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom at the US Department of State on June 2, 2022.
Image: Ron Przysucha / US Department of State. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain, delivers remarks on the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom at the US Department of State on June 2, 2022.

Nigeria—and a few other nations—are on alert.

The US Department of State released its 2021 annual report on international religious freedom (IRF) last week, describing conditions in nearly 200 nations. Delivering remarks from the Benjamin Franklin room—where US ambassadors are sworn into service—Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a litany of well-known offenders.

China, he said, continues its genocide against Uighur Muslims.

Saudi Arabia makes illegal the practice of any faith besides Islam.

Pakistan sentences people to death for blasphemy.

And Eritrea demands renunciation of faith to release the arrested members of religious minorities.

“Respect for religious freedom isn’t only one of the deepest held values and a fundamental right,” Blinken stated. “It’s also, from my perspective, a vital foreign policy priority.”

Last November, these four nations were among the 10 Blinken designated as countries of particular concern (CPC). A separate special watch list (SWL) listed four more: Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

But three days after the IRF report release, a terrorist attack in Nigeria highlighted its omission. Dozens of Christians were gunned down in a Catholic church on Pentecost Sunday. And one month earlier, a Christian college student was murdered by a mob over her alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Back in April, the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its own list of nonbinding CPC recommendations, reminding Blinken it was “appalled” at the omission of Nigeria.

After listing Africa’s most populous nation as a CPC for the first time in 2020, the State Department removed Nigeria’s stigma entirely in 2021, not even downgrading the nation to SWL status.

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Source: Christianity Today