Family Research Council released an important letter this week, addressed to President Joe Biden and expressing grave concerns about an alarming and unacceptable decision made by his administration. Along with 46 interfaith international religious liberty groups and individuals, FRC signed the letter urgently calling for President Biden to re-designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Many of the concerned organizations and individuals who signed the letter have long been actively involved in assisting Nigeria's beleaguered Christians. This latest action was motivated by the shocking announcement on Friday, November 19th -- just hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched his first diplomatic outreach to Africa -- that the United States had inexplicably removed Nigeria from its State Department list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). The country was first put on the CPC list in December 2020.
On December 7, Fox News posted a link to FRC's letter, as well as releasing a lengthy news report about it, detailing its international importance and the crucial reasons it was written.
The first and foremost concern, of course, was the de-listing of Nigeria's CPC designation, which amounted to an outrageous betrayal of Nigeria's brutalized Christian community. This about-face from the U.S. opened an unobstructed path to more jihadi massacres, torched churches, homes and villages and increasing numbers of devastated homeless refugees.
In fact, the response to Biden's and Blinken's betrayal among Nigeria's struggling Christian communities, its church leaders, along with concerned American observers including FRC, has been one of shock and dismay. And they weren't alone in their displeasure. When Tony Perkins hosted Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) on "Washington Watch," Smith expressed his own alarm:
"It was an unconscionable retreat when the Secretary of State met with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari. He wanted to give goodies to a president who does not deserve it. Blinken should have been holding him to account for the ongoing and pervasive slaughter of Christians and other Muslims. Some try to say this is a fight between herdsmen and farmers. That's not what this is all about. This is about police that fail to respond, as yet another slaughter was occurring at a church or in a village. The Fulani assailants arrive on motorcycles and others means of transportation. They do a blitz command and start slaughtering people for hours. Then they leave. Police show up many, many hours later to do a casualty count. And there are no -- I'll say it again -- NO consequences. President Buhari is an ethnic Fulani, and he has unfortunately turned his back with gross callousness and indifference to this suffering."
Co-signers of FRC'S letter include Christians who have faced severe persecution in the Muslim world themselves, including Rev. Andrew Brunson, a former prisoner in Turkey; Mariam Ibraheem, who was sentenced to death for "apostasy" in Sudan; and Joy Bishara, a survivor of a Boko Haram kidnapping. Along with the many other signatories are Sam Brownback, Former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom and Co-founder and Director of Global Mobilization; Rev. Dr. Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican Bishop of Jos, Nigeria; and retired Congressman Frank Wolf. They all praised former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's initial designation of Nigeria as a CPC.
FRC president Tony Perkins, who also signed the letter, commented, "The CPC designation is the U.S. government's official 'worst of the worst' list regarding religious freedom violations. Nigeria's religious freedom problems are obvious and rapidly deteriorating even further. The Biden administration's removal of Nigeria from the CPC list defies logic and sound policymaking. This must be remedied, and Nigeria placed back on the CPC list so the full force of the federal government can be harnessed to address this crisis."
As the letter asks:
"How can it be, less than a year after that significant designation, that Nigeria's CPC designation has been dropped without a public explanation? The ongoing violence, killing, and displacement against Christians and others have only increased. In fact, during 2021, massacres happen almost nightly, while by day, young boys are killed in the fields. Pregnant women are brutally dismembered, their babies mutilated before their eyes. And now, an entire church congregation has been abducted and held captive.
For years, the Nigerian government has done virtually nothing to stop this violence. In order for Nigeria to have been removed from the key list of Countries of Particular Concern, it ought to have demonstrated substantial progress in protecting religious communities from attacks and affirming the right of all people to practice their faith freely. This did not happen, and the removal of Nigeria's CPC designation is unjustified and sends the wrong message to governments around the world who engage in or tolerate egregious violations of religious freedom."
The letter contains a sobering warning:
"If America ignores what's happening in Nigeria, it will only excuse and encourage leaders who choose to turn a blind eye to grave human rights abuses and religious persecution. International pressure is one of the most significant weapons the world has available to stop the slow-motion war unfolding in Nigeria. America's leaders simply must not turn their backs and walk away."
May we continue to pray that our leaders stand firm and stand up for religious freedom, both in Nigeria and everywhere around the world.