By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WASHINGTON/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) - An influential U.S.-based Christian advocacy group has urged the Biden administration to reverse its "baffling error" and add Nigeria back to its list of "Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC).
Open Doors USA appealed for the CPC status, which identifies those in severe violations of religious freedom, amid reported mass killings of Christians in Nigeria by Islamist fighters.
In one of the last known incidents, a Nigerian Christian college student, Deborah Samuel, was stoned and burned to death last week by Islamist “extremist classmates,” Open Doors USA recalled.
The killing, which Worthy News also reported, happened after she was accused of blasphemy against Islam. Open Doors' cited local sources as saying that she faced violence for writing on social media platform WhatsApp: “Jesus Christ is the greatest. He helped me pass my exams."
That “simple message led to her death,” Open Doors USA said in a statement seen by Worthy News Thursday.
Despite these and other attacks, U.S. President Joe Biden has so far refused to revise a decision to remove Nigeria’s CPC status, Worthy News established.
“Last November, as required by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken identified the ‘Countries of Particular Concern.’ Notably absent from the list was Nigeria,” Open Doors USA complained.
Nigeria ranks 7th on Open Doors' annual 2022 annual World Watch List, which ranks 50 nations where it says it is “the most dangerous” to be a Christian.
“Open Doors USA calls on the Biden Administration to reverse its "baffling error" and add Nigeria back to its CPC list. Open Doors has reported that in Nigeria alone, an average of 10 Christians a day are killed for their faith. That is driving a startling 60 percent worldwide increase in Christian martyrdom last year, based on 2021 data,” the group added.
In comments shared with Worthy News, David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, said he was “bewildered last fall when the U.S State Department removed Nigeria's designation as a CPC.” It is a decision “made even more confusing now, after news of yet another religiously-motivated murder," he added.
“The situation in Nigeria continues to deteriorate. The utter failure of the Nigerian government to reign in extremism has created an environment where extremists feel justified to attack Christians."
Under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, the president must review the status of religious freedom in every country annually.
A nation can receive the CPC status for severe “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Violations include torture, prolonged detention without charges, forced disappearance, or “other flagrant denial of life, liberty, or security of persons.”
Other countries appearing on the CPC list include Burma, the People's Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
"It was a serious mistake for the State Department to remove Nigeria from its list of Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), said former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and Open Doors USA Senior Fellow Sam Brownback. "Religious freedom in Nigeria continues to face significant challenges, highlighted by the appalling murder of Deborah Samuel. This kind of violence cannot be allowed, and the Nigerian government needs to send a message that these actions will not go unpunished."
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors says it works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution. It also aims “to mobilize the Western church to pray and advocate for the persecuted.”
Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries, according to Open Doors and the Hungarian government, which supports persecuted Christians.
Hungary has set up a state secretariat to support Christians facing persecution in several areas, including the Middle East and Africa.