his story initially was revealed by Real Clear Wire
By Susan Crabtree
Actual Clear Wire
The Biden administration has rejected suggestions from dozens of main human rights, spiritual freedom, and Christian teams to reverse course and redesignate Nigeria to its blacklist of worst offenders relating to permitting residents to apply the faith of their selection.
The State Division on Thursday launched a much-anticipated annual index of designations, sustaining all 12 nations listed on the earlier yr’s blacklist on spiritual freedom and including just one new nation – Azerbaijan – to a particular watchlist. The transfer so as to add Azerbaijan got here simply months after the nation seized back an ethnic Armenian enclave with a predominantly Christian inhabitants.
The 12 nations formally designated as “nations of specific concern,” the official U.S. time period for the worst spiritual liberty offenders, embrace Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
“Important violations of spiritual freedom happen in nations that aren’t designated,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken famous in an announcement. “Governments should finish abuses reminiscent of assaults on members of spiritual minority communities and their locations of worship, communal violence and prolonged imprisonment for peaceable expression, transnational repression, and calls to violence towards spiritual communities, amongst different violations that happen in too many locations world wide.”
The State Division additionally designated eight entities of specific concern, non-state actors participating in extreme violations of spiritual freedom. These teams embrace al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Sahel, ISIS-West Africa, al-Qaida affiliate Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban. USCIRF advisable the designation of seven of those terrorist and militant teams in its 2023 annual report.
Blinken’s determination to not designate Nigeria and India earned a direct rebuke from the U.S. Fee on Spiritual Freedom, whose leaders are appointed by Congress and make suggestions to the State Division. The fee, which has repeatedly known as for each nations to be positioned on the official blacklist, expressed “excessive disappointment” with the choice and known as on Congress to carry a listening to on the “failure” of the State Division to comply with its suggestions.
“USCIRF rejects the State Division’s determination to omit Nigeria and India as CPCs. We met with the State Division on many events to sound the alarm about these nations however not all of our suggestions have been adopted,” USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper and Vice Chair Frederick Davie mentioned in an announcement. “We is not going to be deterred and can proceed our function as a congressionally mandated watchdog to make sure the U.S. authorities prioritizes spiritual freedom as a key part of U.S. overseas coverage.”
USCIRF, nevertheless, welcomed the State Division’s inclusion of Azerbaijan on the particular watchlist.
The State Division didn’t clarify its determination towards putting Nigeria and India on the official blacklist. The Biden administration has beforehand attributed the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria to not spiritual persecution however to a battle over assets exacerbated by local weather change.
USCIRF and different main human rights organizations ardently disagree. Leaders of the fee met with Blinken final month and pressed him to designate Nigeria and India as CPCs. Blinken eliminated Nigeria from the checklist in 2021, reversing a call by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in December 2020 to blacklist the West African nation.
Primarily based on the variety of Christian deaths by the hands of terrorists and militant teams alone, the choice must be clear-cut, the advocates have argued. Greater than 5,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed for his or her religion in 2022, in accordance with a report by Open Doorways, a non secular freedom watchdog group.
Simply days earlier than Christmas, greater than 100 Christians, along with their pastor, were killed in Plateau, a religiously numerous state dealing with elevated tensions between Muslim militant herders and Christian farmers.
“That is simply the newest instance of deadly violence against religious communities in Nigeria that even the State Division has condemned,” Cooper and Davie mentioned. “The vast majority of commissioners have traveled to Nigeria and famous the threats to freedom of faith or perception and the lethal implications to non secular communities.”
Cooper and Davie additionally known as out India’s authorities for increasing transnational repression targeting religious minorities abroad and people advocating on their behalf.
Regardless of redesignating Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, the State Division issued waivers on sanctions geared toward bettering spiritual liberty in these nations. USCIRF advisable the redesignation of all 12 nations with none waivers and in addition advisable that Afghanistan, Syria, and Vietnam be positioned on the blacklist, together with Nigeria and India.
Whereas Blinken adopted USCIRF’s steerage to put Azerbaijan on the particular watchlist, it rejected the fee’s suggestion so as to add Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Uzbekistan to the identical checklist.
“USCIRF formally requests an in depth justification by the State Division as to why our coverage suggestions weren’t absolutely carried out, together with the waivers,” Cooper and Davie added.
In December, greater than two dozen main spiritual freedom and Christian advocacy teams urged lawmakers to do extra to press the administration into motion to assist cease the slaughter of harmless Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. The signatories included David Curry, president and CEO of International Christian Aid and a present USCIRF commissioner; former Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican and present USCIRF commissioner; former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who previously served because the ambassador-at-large for Worldwide Spiritual Freedom within the Trump administration; Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Basis for Human Rights & Justice, who co-chairs the annual Worldwide Spiritual Freedom Summit with Brownback; Nina Shea, a senior fellow at, and director of, the Middle for Spiritual Freedom on the Hudson Institute; and lots of different outstanding voices within the faith-based liberty neighborhood.
Moreover, Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe, the Catholic bishop who heads the Makurdi Diocese in Nigeria’s Benue state within the nation’s north-central area, instructed RealClearPolitics that he’s deeply heartened by the efforts of U.S. spiritual freedom advocates to press Washington into motion on behalf of Nigerian Christians. Benue is roughly 90% Christian and beneath relentless assault by Fulani Muslim militants.
Earlier this yr, New Jersey GOP Rep. Chris Smith introduced legislation calling on the Biden administration to designate Nigeria as a CPC and appoint a particular envoy to the nation and the Lake Chad area to watch and fight atrocities there. The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat.
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