Washington D.C., May 14, 2021 / 17:00 pm
Escalating bloodshed in Nigeria is fueled in part by religious extremism – and the United States must recognize this in order to achieve peace, says the former U.S. religious freedom ambassador.
“This thing’s going to blow up on us, as we would say, ‘bigger than Dallas,’ if we don’t get into there and really start taking this seriously at this point,” Sam Brownback, former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, told CNA on Wednesday of violence in Nigeria.
Due to the scope of violence against civilians in Nigeria, the State Department in December designated Nigeria a “country of particular concern (CPC)” for the first time ever—a listing reserved for the countries with the worst records on religious freedom, such as China, Iran, and North Korea.
In addition, the agency’s annual religious freedom report published on Wednesday cited numerous terror attacks on civilians in Nigeria in the past year in the country’s northeast, including attacks on churches and mosques.
“Terrorist groups including Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) attacked population centers and religious targets,” the report noted, targeting “the local civilian population, including churches and mosques.”
In the country’s north central region, a long-standing conflict “between predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and predominantly Christian farmers” continued in 2020, the State Department said.
The report cited “[s]ome religious groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)” who said “this conflict had religious undertones.”
“Some domestic and international Christian groups stated that Muslim Fulani herdsman were targeting Christian farmers because of their religion. Local Muslim and herder organizations said unaffiliated Fulani were the targets of Christian revenge killings,” the report said.