Stop the genocide of Nigerian Christians by Islamists

logo Save the Persecuted Christians
Congress must vote in favor of House Resolution 82, to impose conditions on U.S. policy toward Nigeria, so that our brothers and sisters have a chance to live, and to do it with dignity.

We ask that you take two minutes to urge your congressional representatives to support the resolution in view of the terrifying evidence accumulated in the past few months.

According to figures by Open Doors, in 2023, an average of 16 Christians were murdered each day for their faith by Islamist extremists. Over 5,900 Nigerians were slaughtered by Islamists in 2023.

The majority of attacks are carried out by Fulani Muslim terrorists acting with impunity in the Christian Middle Belt while Boko Haram and its splinter group, ISIS West Africa Province, continue a decades-long deadly insurgent campaign in the northeast. Nigerian farming families are attacked as they farm, sleep, or worship. Survivors are chased away, traumatized, violated, and despoiled of their properties, left homeless, vulnerable, and displaced.

The Observatory for Religious Freedom in Africa found that, from October 2019 to September 2022, Christians in Nigeria were 7.6 times more likely than Muslims to be killed and 6 times more likely to be abducted by terrorists though some Muslims have also been killed by the same militants.

Catholic priests, evangelical pastors, and Methodist bishops are especially targeted for kidnapping by Fulani and other unidentified gunmen, typically shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they hunt their victims.

Aid to the Church in Need reports that, since early 2022 alone, 100 Nigerian Catholic priests have been abducted and not yet freed, 20 of whom were murdered. Since 2009, some 17,000 churches have been attacked and burned. Starting Christmas Eve 2023, coordinated attacks in Plateau left nearly 500 dead, and about 40 were killed at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Ondo State Pentecost Sunday 2022. Not a single case has been prosecuted.

In the first week of March 2024 alone, over 500 school children were abducted and 50 villages razed, with their harvest and fields set on fire by the terrorists acting in total impunity. The survivors join the estimated 4-6 million already internally displaced citizens, including those maimed, gravely injured, widowed and orphaned, after being made destitute from one day to the other, looking for refuge at the nearest church.

In the meantime, the US government transferred taxpayers’ money to the Nigerian government with grants for social development, weapons sales, and the corresponding extension of credits to a terror-supporting regime.

Policy considerations for inaction include claims that China will appropriate Nigeria’s assets if the US takes up these matters with the Nigerian counterparts. Nigeria is on the west coast of Africa, a relatively rich country due to its energy resources, both fossil and renewable, as well as many precious metals. In the struggle for global stability, Nigeria comes at the center of disputes among world powers to procure these resources, and Western governments suffer from “selective blindness” when it comes to rich autocrats tormenting their own people.

But the United States has a legal instrument to act. The International Religious Freedom Act mandates frank assessments in the face of such grave religious freedom violations. The Secretary of State should acknowledge that Nigeria has “engaged in or tolerated” severe religious freedom violations, the statutory criteria warranting CPC designation. This is particularly important since the United States is a major partner of Nigeria, having given it over $1 billion in foreign aid in the 2022 fiscal year alone.

Authorities also engage directly in religious persecution by enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws that have resulted in recent death sentences for Sufi musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu and two Muslim clerics, and “religious insult” laws that led to a 24-year sentence for Nigeria’s Humanist Association head, Mubarak Bala. Moreover, these laws have been accompanied by a routine grant of impunity for extrajudicial attacks against their perceived violators. Last year saw the unprosecuted mob killing of Christian student Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu and unprosecuted serious death threats against the Sultan of Sokoto, Sokoto’s Catholic bishop, and Rhoda Jatau, a Christian woman, all three of whom were targeted for expressing disapproval of Yakubu’s murder.

Nigerian Christians are almost half of the country’s population, 90 million out of 200 million Nigerians. The majority Muslim government has spent decades trying to turn their country into a model member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and, among its tactics, to make the Christians a fabricated religious minority. Rendered irrelevant politically and economically, the authorities turn a blind eye to the gruesome attacks of the Islamist extremists.

"Our research and analysis continue to support the conclusion that Nigeria clearly meets the legal standard for designation as a CPC. "

Frank R. Wolf

USCIRF Commissioner