Nigerian gov’t allowing religiously related violence to destabilize country

Alliance Defending Freedom, USCIRF calling upon officials to respond to building crisis
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Attorney sound bite:  Benjamin Bull

WASHINGTON — Ongoing attacks and retaliations by Muslims and Christians in Nigeria’s violent, religiously-and-ethnically-mixed Middle Belt has left more than 100 dead and dozens of properties destroyed since March of this year.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the recent Muslim-Christian violence in Plateau State exposes the Nigerian government’s failure to effectively deal with a history of religiously related violence that threatens the country’s stability.

“No one should be targeted for violence and inhumane treatment simply because of his or her Christian faith,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull. “The violent extremism committed against the minority Christian community in Nigeria is endemic of a nationwide problem. These evil acts must be stopped.”

“Religiously-related violence has led to more deaths in northern Nigeria than have Boko Haram attacks. The Nigerian government needs to end this entrenched violence and the culture of impunity,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett.

USCIRF has recommended since 2009 that Nigeria be named a “country of particular concern” due to the government’s failure to hold accountable perpetrators of religiously-related violence. While more than 14,000 persons, both Muslims and Christians, have been killed since 1999, USCIRF has been able to document that only 1 percent of the perpetrators have been prosecuted.

The Nigerian government’s failure to prosecute perpetrators of religiously related violence only encourages reprisals and intensifies local tensions and mistrust. Boko Haram uses this impunity as a recruitment tool and to justify its attacks on Christians,” Lantos Swett added.

The most recent round of fighting started on March 20 and 21 when armed men, alleged to be from the Fulani tribe, opened fire on the Christian village of Ratas while villagers slept, killing 19. That violence has led to Christian and Muslim reprisal attacks throughout Plateau State and even Kaduna State, including an Easter weekend assault that left an estimated 80 dead.

In 2012, Boko Haram, a Nigerian jihadist group, attacked more than 25 churches--primarily those in cities with a history of religiously related violence--to incite Christian reprisals and destabilize Nigeria. Additionally, the group, which has killed more Muslims than Christians over the past few years, has used Christian attacks on Muslims to justify its attacks on Christians.

In December 2012, Alliance Defending Freedom and Jubilee Campaign, together with several other concerned organizations, formally requested that the U.S. State Department designate Boko Haram as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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