21Wilberforce joined sixty-seven groups and experts from around the world in signing a letter to Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, calling for Nigeria to be reinstated as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Nigeria as a CPC in 2020, but Secretary Blinken removed the designation in 2021 without explanation.
The letter raises concerns over the increase in violence targeting “Christians and Muslims who reject extremism” from terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State – West Africa Province (ISWAP), as well as other militia groups. Further, the letter asks the Secretary to appoint a Special Envoy in the region to investigate the religious freedom situation and make recommendations in consultation with local experts.
Randel Everett, founding president of 21Wilberforce, said the findings detailed in the letter and also those highlighted in a recent report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USICRF) on Nigeria are consistent with what 21Wilberforce discovered several years ago, and he lamented that “violence and the rising risk for atrocity has increased significantly.”
“Six years ago, 21Wilberforce’s executive team traveled to Nigeria to document the impact of violence and marginalization on religious freedom and human rights in northern and central Nigeria, and to listen to and learn from a wide range of actors pointing to approaches that could build reconciliation and reverse trends that threatened to fracture Nigeria along religious fault lines,” said Everett, former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
“Our team traveled to multiple sites in four states and met with representatives from seven other states. We traveled past dozens of villages that had been burned to the ground and met with both Christian and Muslim victims of massacres perpetrated by Boko Haram and Fulani militants. Upon our return, we released the report ‘Nigeria: Fractured and Forgotten.’ Since that initial trip in 2016, 21Wilberforce remains actively engaged with local and international partners to seek solutions to the problems that face Nigeria and to help those who are suffering.
“The situation in Nigeria was complex and multi-faceted then and tragically, the violence and rising risk for atrocity has increased significantly.
“We strongly support recommendations presented in USCIRF’s policy update on violence in Nigeria, including a call to redesignate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern.”
Key recommendations made in USCIRF’s report are: