Nigerian Christians are living in constant fear as attacks have escalated against them since 2009.
According to a 13-page dossier compiled by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, headquartered in eastern Nigeria, more than 2,200 Nigerian Christians were killed because of their religion in 2020, making the total death count since 2009 nearly 34,400.
The report also claimed not enough is being done by the government to protect Christians, and called on the international community to pray.
This came as Islamist militants executed five Christians in Nigeria over Christmas, videoing their deaths as a ‘message to all Christians worldwide’.
The terrorist group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed it carried out the killings after kidnapping eleven Christians on Christmas Day in north-east Nigeria.
In December, the US Department of State’s Mike Pompeo designated Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.
Samuel Brownback, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said of the terrorist activity, ‘You’ve got a lot of it associated around religious affiliations, and the government’s response has been minimal to not happening at all. The government really needs to act.’
This has placed Nigeria – which is a US ally – for the first time alongside nations that include China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
According to news reports, Mr Pompeo did not elaborate on the reasons for including Nigeria, but the US law requires such designations for nations that either engage in or tolerate ‘systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom’.
But according to the North Africa Journal, senior government ministers have denied that there is an endemic problem; rather the issues are terrorism.
The news wire quoted a statement from information minister Lai Mohammed, who said, ‘Nigeria does not engage in religious freedom violation, neither does it have a policy of religious persecution.’