Nigeria is in danger of becoming one of the world’s deadliest places to live. The country is “consistently ranking at or near the top of the list of countries with extreme social hostilities to religion,” warns “Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter: Genocide in Nigeria and the Implications for the International Community.” This is a new analysis by two nonprofit organizations devoted to promoting peace, social justice and government accountability in one of Africa’s largest but most unequal economies.
Researched and issued in August by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) and the International Organization for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ), the report lists more than a dozen reasons it considers Nigeria a “regional epicenter for terrorism and religious persecution of Christians and at-risk non-Muslim minorities.”
These factors include spiraling violence; atrocities against targeted religious groups and innocent civilians; kidnappings and arbitrary arrests; detention; torture; inhumane incarceration; denial of fair and open trials; restrictions on free speech; freedom of assembly; censorship and restrictions on a free press; and government corruption.
“Nigeria is experiencing what could be seen as targeted religious genocide, or what at the very least is widespread and often coordinated religious persecution campaigns being conducted against Christians.”
Two of the world’s five deadliest Islamist terrorist groups—Boko Haram and Fulani extremists—have unleashed such widespread terror that 2 to 3 million people have been displaced in Nigeria or fled the country in recent years.
Both Muslims and Christians have sizable populations in Nigeria, a country of more than 270 ethnic groups who speak some 370 languages, according to Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project.
Although Muslims and other religious communities are affected by the violence and human rights abuses, the report emphasizes that Christians are disproportionately victimized because of “intentional targeting by Muslim terrorists and militant groups.” It states “There is strong evidence and a compelling legal argument that over the past decade or so … Nigeria is experiencing what could be seen as targeted religious genocide, or what at the very least is widespread and often coordinated religious persecution campaigns being conducted against Christians.”
The report quotes a 2018 article published in the Jerusalem Post by Lela Gilbert, a fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute:
“We now have situations where many communities are raided at night by Fulani herdsmen who immediately take over and settle in those communities, dispossessing the inhabitants of their ancestral homes and farmlands,” says the report.“In all of these atrocities, there is overwhelming evidence of state collaboration with the insurgents.”
The report goes on to explain a deadly confluence of religious terror rooted in the 2015 splintering of Boko Haram and the creation of a new group aligned with the Islamic State terrorist group, called the ISIS West African Province (ISWAP).
“The reality now is that Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani ethnic militia share a common objective of coordinated violence with the primary aim of eliminating people, particularly Christians, from their ancestral homes, accompanied by the occupation of their land,” says the report.“The ultimate goal is the establishment of emirates, or a caliphate.”
In a letter that serves as an introduction to the report, former U.S. Congressman Frank R. Wolf expressed his concern that these forces could cause the country to implode which would “destabilize the surrounding countries and send millions of refugees into Europe and beyond.”
The report recommends that the United States and other major world powers set up a neutral and impartial international commission of inquiry into the causes of Nigeria’s recurring violence, identify the perpetrators and make appropriate recommendations for immediate action under Articles 33 and 39 of the Charter of the United Nations.
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