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Nigeria: Aid workers killed as a ‘warning’ against converting Muslims to Christianity

September 2020

Tony Perkins, vice-chairman of USCIRF
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The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has denounced the execution of five aid workers on 19 July in northeast Nigeria.

The murder was carried out by the ‘Islamic State in West Africa Province’ (ISWAP), a Boko Haram faction. ISWAP militants claimed responsibility for the killings of these workers they had abducted last month.

In a video, the fighters said that the executions were a warning to ‘all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity’.

Tony Perkins, vice-chairman of the USCIRF, commented, ‘ISWAP’s execution of aid workers is beyond reprehensible.

‘The militant Islamic group shows no remorse as it continues to target civilians based on their faith, such as Leah Sharibu who was abducted by Boko Haram over two years ago.’

Analysis conducted by the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies found that African militant Islamist groups like Boko Haram have demonstrated a decade of ‘nearly uninterrupted growth’ in activity, including a 31 percent jump in violent events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa just in the last years.

Frederick A. Davie, USCIRF commissioner, said the militant groups ‘must be countered by strong, inclusive partnerships between African nations and the international community, including the US government’.

In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the US Department of State designate Nigeria as a country of particular concern, after a study put the number of Christians killed by Islamic militants at 36,000 since 2009.

It also recommended that Boko Haram be designated an Entity of Particular Concern or EPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.

In August, former US Congressman Frank Wolf warned advocacy group In Defence of Christians that the ‘failed’ response by the US government to the religious violence being committed against Christians in Nigeria could lead to another mass genocide, as seen in Rwanda and Darfur.

Speaking on a Zoom call, along with Genocide Watch’s Greg Stanton and Nigerian bishops and other religious freedom advocates, he said, ‘When the world and the US ignored genocide in Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of people died. History, I believe, is repeating itself.’

He added that almost daily reports show increasing violence and death in Nigeria, which could cause Nigeria to ‘implode’, destabilise the surrounding countries, and send millions of refugees into Europe and beyond.