Swept under the rug for more than a year, one of the Biden administration's "sins of omission" are making headlines again.
On November 17, 2021, the State Department inexplicably removed Nigeria from its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC list). These are nations that either engage in, or tolerate, violations of religious freedom. The Biden State Department removed Nigeria from the list despite strong objections from several human rights organizations, many of which insist that Christians are even undergoing a genocide in Nigeria.
"The State Department's decision to de-list a country where thousands of Christians are killed every year reveals Washington's true priorities.... Removing this largely symbolic sign of concern is a brazen denial of reality and indicates that the U.S. intends to pursue its interests in western Africa through an alliance with Nigeria's security elite, at the expense of Christians and other victims of widespread sectarian violence.... If the U.S. CPC list means anything at all—an open question at this point—Nigeria belongs on it."
Even for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal commission that monitors and reports on religious freedom to the U.S. government and Congress, the Biden administration's decision to delist Nigeria was "inexplicable," a reflection of "turning a blind eye" to "particularly severe religious freedom violations."
The reason many were shocked is that in Nigeria, Christians are being butchered — purged — at an alarming rate.
According to an August 2021 report, since the Islamic insurgency began in earnest in July 2009 — first at the hands of Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist organization, and later by the Fulani, Muslim herdsmen also motivated by jihadist ideology — 43,000 Christians were murdered, and 18,500 were abducted (never to be seen again and assumed to be dead). During the same time-frame, approximately 17,500 churches and 2,000 Christian schools were torched and destroyed.
Since the publication of that August 2021 report, things have only gotten worse. According to the latest figures, in 2022 alone, 90% of all Christians killed for their faith around the world — 5,014 Christians to be exact — were slaughtered in Nigeria. On average, that is 14 Christians in Nigeria killed for their faith every day — at least one Christian every two hours.
Little has changed with the new year. In January 2023 alone, Muslims slaughtered approximately 60 Christians in Nigeria, raided churches, and kidnapped women and children (based on reports here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).
During one of these raids on a church, on Sunday, January 15, Muslims terrorists burned Fr. Isaac Achi, a Catholic priest, alive. They also shot and wounded his assistant priest. Discussing another massacre of Christians, on January 19, a clergyman said:
"The images of the attack are horrifying, and I keep saying that not even ISIS is capable of such brutality. After killing, these guys decapitated some and took the parts away as proof to whoever is the sponsor."
Such sadism is not exceptional. In another recent attack on a Christian village, the jihadists cut off the breast of a Christian woman.
Recently, however, in response to this unabated assault on Christians, on January 31, 2023, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for not only the return of Nigeria to the State Department's CPC list, but for the appointment of a special ambassador to monitor the situation.
The eight-page resolution is worth reading in its entirety. Some of its most noteworthy revelations include the purely Islamic motives of those terrorizing Christians in Nigeria.
Although the Fulani — the one Muslim demographic most responsible for the butchery of Christians — are regularly portrayed in the West as impoverished and non-ideologically motivated herdsmen merely competing for scarce resources, the resolution correctly notes that the Fulani are working to reestablish a "caliphate." The resolution adds:
"[The Fulani] demonstrated a clear intent to target Christians and symbols of Christian identity such as churches, and, during attacks, shouted 'Allah u Akbar,' 'destroy the infidels,' and 'wipe out the infidels.'... [Despite this] the Department of State mischaracterizes or incompletely characterizes the increasing incidents of large scale violence in Nigeria's northern and central rural regions as 'communal clashes' between Muslim herders and Christian farmers, solely attributable to competition for scarce natural resources resulting from climate change."
This is no exaggeration. Just last summer, after Muslim Fulani massacred more than 40 Christians as they peacefully worshipped inside their church on Pentecost Sunday (June 5, 2022), the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, issued a statement exonerating the Fulani and blaming the weather.
However, as a Nigerian nun, Sister Monica Chikwe, once observed:
"It's tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn't a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting 'Allahu Akbar!' and screaming 'Death to Christians.'"
Or as the Christian Association of Nigeria once asked:
"How can it be a [secular or economic] clash when one group [Muslims] is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying, and the other group [Christians] is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed?"
The new resolution also, rather refreshingly, calls out Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari — himself a Fulani, who "has favored and promoted fellow Fulani and other northern Muslim ethnic groups," while others, chief among them Christians, "are denied equal rights." There is reason to believe that the Nigerian president has done much worse than discriminate, with several leading Christians in Nigeria accusing him of being complicit in their persecution.
Smith's resolution concludes:
"(1) the Secretary of State should immediately designate Nigeria a 'country of particular concern' for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as mandated by the International Religious Freedom 7 Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6401 et seq.); and
(2) in order to ensure that the Secretary of State receives more complete and accurate reporting and analysis, the President should promptly appoint a person of recognized distinction in the fields of religious freedom and human rights as 'Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region' with the rank of Ambassador, who reports directly to the Secretary of State and coordinates United States Government efforts to monitor and combat atrocities there."
Although this resolution makes a strong case to return Nigeria to the CPC list, based on precedent, there is reason to doubt it will have the desired effect.
For a start, by removing Nigeria from the CPC list in November, 2021, the Biden administration was simply returning to the status quo. Although jihadists had slaughtered and terrorized Nigeria's Christians all during President Barack Obama's eight-year tenure, when Biden was his Vice President (2009-2017), and although the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom had, beginning in 2009 and every year afterwards, repeatedly urged that Nigeria be designated as a Country of Particular Concern, the Obama administration had obstinately refused to comply.
It was only in 2020, under the Trump administration, that Nigeria was first designated as a CPC — only to be removed the following year under Biden.
To his credit, President Donald Trump had also forthrightly asked the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari — whom many Nigerian officials insist Obama helped bring to power — "Why are you killing Christians?"
Not only did the Obama State Department refuse to designate Nigeria as a CPC for eight years; during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State (2009-2013), she went so far as to refuse to designate Boko Haram in Nigeria as a "terrorist" organization — even though Boko Haram (which roughly translates as "Western education is forbidden") is a notorious jihadist group that has slaughtered more Christians and bombed more churches than the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria combined.
As is happening now under Biden's State Department, Clinton's refusal had persisted despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and more than a dozen Senators and House Representatives for her to designate Boko Haram. Hillary Clinton's husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, insisted in 2012 that "inequality" and "poverty" are "what's fueling all this stuff" — a reference to ideologically driven Muslims slaughtering thousands of Christians. This callousness is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's response to the murders of Americans in Benghazi, Libya: "What difference at this point does it make?"
In 2014, Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria. It was an incident that made headlines and therefore required a response. Publicly, Clinton bemoaned the lot of the kidnapped girls: "The seizure of these young women by this radical extremist group, Boko Haram, is abominable, it's criminal, it's an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible." Meanwhile, as a 2014 report pointed out,
"The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years. And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government's ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls."
Indeed, two years earlier, in 2012, when Clinton was actively shielding Boko Haram from the terrorist label, a spokesman for the group announced that they were planning on doing something just like they did at Chibok—to "strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women" — though that too was ignored by Clinton. Notably, although news media initially presented the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls as Muslims, it later came out that they were Christians, at which point the media quickly lost interest.
Recently, former Rep. Frank Wolf (R- Va), rhetorically asked,
"Does anyone remember hashtag BringBackOurGirls? Well, whatever happened, where're all those guys who went on television and [posted] the hashtag... 50% of the girls did not return. I met with some of the Chibok parents. They wonder what in the name is the world doing."
Once again, the Biden Administration seems to be prioritizing yet another ruthless dictatorship as more important than a genocide – this time, one persecuting Christians, not Uyghurs. What other reason could there be not to rename Nigeria a "country of particular concern"?
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West, Sword and Scimitar, Crucified Again, and The Al Qaeda Reader, is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.