The Oasis Reporters
December 11, 2020
News of the US State Department finally designating Nigeria along with Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging in systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations, has been overdue. This should be a wake up call to the Muslim power elite and those who perpetually live in denial about the persecution of Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the far north.
Systemic and systematic persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria is real. Frontal attacks against Christians due to the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism, has been on for decades since the ‘80s. Boko Haram has been more brutal and deadly. Armed Fulani Herdsmen are helping Boko Haram in this deadly mission.
It is a denial of reality to characterize what they are doing merely as criminality. That is the language of escapism. That Christians in Nigeria are being killed because of their faith is no longer in doubt. It is proven reality. Yet, there is an official policy of denial similar to ‘don’t hear, don’t tell’ and in fact don’t even show when you see the evidence.’ Just pretend it doesn’t exist while letting the killings continue with impunity.
Victimization of Christians by powerful Muslim elements in government is also real. If the civil and public servants in government, in the Military, Police and others security outfits are to be bold and honest; as well as allowed to speak their minds, you will be shocked at what they are going through. I know what some Christians have gone through and what others are going through right now.
A few months back, the frontline nominee to have been appointed as Chairman of the National Population Commission, a former Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State, had his name replaced simply because he is a Christian. The President of Nigeria instead announced a Muslim to that position. When people react the Government always denies and comes up with cop out reasons which convinces only those who enjoy such injustice.
The impunity which has greeted the continuous killing of Christians tells the story even more. Yet, we pretend that it is not costly to be a Christian in the country when your interest as an employee clashes with that of the government. You experience this systemic demonization first hand.
Yet some say such doesn’t exist? Tell that to the unsophisticated and politically jaundiced minds but not to the discerning minds. Those who challenge this status quo are branded subversive elements and security risks to the nation when in fact they are not. No country will thrive on tissues of complicated conspiratorial lies and unhealthy dominance by one group at all costs – who always desire a win win situation for themselves.
They are in fact now using unbridled population bulge as an unjust weapon of democratic control hence democracy they claim is a game of numbers. Lest, I am perceived to be too personal on the point just being made above, the point I really want to make is that Nigeria has for too long condoned social injustice against Christians.
The government should wake up and allow true freedom of religion to reign in Nigeria, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
So, I commend the decision of the US Government.
To the Nigerian government and the political power elite: I will say, it is time to show, rather than just tell, that religious freedom for all in Nigeria is real. I will state categorically that as a nation, we are just not there yet. Maybe tomorrow but it wasn’t so yesterday and right now – today. My hope is that tomorrow will be better.
This is my prayer that the advocacy is worthy of sustenance, until all Nigerians irrespective of their religious persuasion are free to practice their faith without any ‘big’ evil brother watching over their backs in intimidating ways.
The fight for religious freedom should be for all Nigerians fair and square. It is their fundamental human right. The right and choice to believe!
The Revd Dr. Gideon Para-Mallam
President & CEO, Para-Mallam Peace Foundation
Global Mission Leader
Peace and Social Justice Advocate