Washington, DC – United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Frederick A. Davie along with USCIRF staff traveled to Abuja, Nigeria from June 4-11 to meet with Nigerian and U.S. government officials, religious communities, civil society representatives, and human rights defenders to assess religious freedom conditions and discuss threats facing Nigerians of a range of faiths and worldviews.
“Nigeria is home to diverse religious and belief communities, and we were fortunate to learn from an array of perspectives about the state of religious freedom in the country. Our meetings highlighted the complexity of the drivers of violence in Nigeria and the intersection of religious freedom and other security and human rights concerns,” USCIRF Commissioner Davie said. “USCIRF looks forward to incorporating the findings from this visit into our foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress relating to religious freedom in Nigeria.”
Leading up to and during USCIRF’s visit, several incidents of violence impacting Christians or Muslims took place in Nigeria. On May 12, a violent mob at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Muslim-majority Kano state stoned Christian university student Deborah Samuel to death and burned her body because they considered remarks she made in a WhatsApp thread insulting to Islam. On May 22, violent actors in the Christian-majority southeast killed pregnant Muslim Hausa woman Harira Jubril and her four children. On June 4, a violent mob in the capital city of Abuja beat, stoned, and burned Muslim local defense force member Ahmad Usman to death for alleged blasphemy. On June 5, armed assailants attacked worshippers celebrating Pentecost Sunday in a Catholic church in Owo, Ondo state, killing at least 40 people.
“USCIRF condemns these attacks and all violence that threatens religious freedom in Nigeria. These incidents were truly horrific and demonstrated the challenges facing Christians and Muslims in Nigeria,” USCIRF Commissioner Davie continued. “Our hearts go out to the families and communities impacted and we implore the Nigerian authorities to spare no expense in bringing the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice.”
Since 2009, most recently in its April 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF has recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of international religious freedom. Local authorities have imprisoned and prosecuted several Nigerians on charges of blasphemy in recent years while pursuing at most only minor charges against individuals who incite violence against those who express opposing religious views. Government officials also continue to fail to provide justice to victims of attacks on worshippers and religious communities. USCIRF also catalogued these violations in other reports on Nigeria, including in an Issue Update on Kano State, an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight podcast, and during a hearing held in June 2021.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief.