DAILY SIGNAL EXCLUSIVE: Religious Freedom Advocates Demand Answers on State Department’s Exclusion of Nigeria, India From Persecution List

By Mary Margaret Olohan Published on January 18, 2024

FIRST IN DAILY SIGNAL: A group of international religious freedom experts are calling for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to testify before a congressional hearing about the State Department’s decision to exclude Nigeria and India from a list of nations with severe violations of religious freedom.

In a letter sent Wednesday, first obtained by The Daily Signal, more than 40 religious freedom experts and organizations pointed out that since 2009, more than 50,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria, and 18,000 churches and 2,500 Christian schools attacked. They also cited India, where they say that between 200 and 400 churches and 3,500 Christian homes have been attacked just since last May.

“As human rights and international religious freedom leaders, we stand in support of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in their call for a congressional hearing into the State Department’s exclusion of Nigeria and India from the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list,” the letter states.

Nigeria and India have been rocked by alarming instances of religious violence and persecution,” the religious freedom advocates insisted. “Pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act, both countries meet the statutory definition of ‘engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ to be designated as CPC. They should be designated as such.”

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A “Country of Particular Concern” can be so designated by the secretary of state if a nation is engaged in such severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.

Under then-President Donald Trump’s administration, Nigeria was designated as a CPC. President Joe Biden’s administration removed that designation, and it’s not clear why.

The religious freedom experts emphasized that “it is imperative for the United States to actively address these issues and ensure that the principles of religious freedom are upheld globally.”

“Accountability and transparency are essential to understanding the State Department’s rationale for declining to designate Nigeria and India as CPCs,” the letter continued. “We urge the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to convene hearings to thoroughly examine the reasons behind the exclusion of Nigeria and India from the CPC list. Secretary of State Antony Blinken must answer to Congress and the American people.”

Signers of the letter include International Christian Concern’s McKenna Wendt; former Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Dan Burton, R-Ind.; International Religious Freedom Secretariat President Nadine Maenza; the Family Research Council’s Lela Gilbert; William Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, and others.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Signal.

 

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