The Catholic bishop of Yola, Stephen Dami Mamza has offered a harrowing account of religious persecution in Nigeria,even as he and called on the U.S. State Department to explain its decision for delisting the country as one that merited “particular concern” on religious freedom. “Since the United States has delisted Nigeria from countries of particular concern, what we would like to hear from the United States now is for them to explain to us, give us the data,’ said Bishop Dami Mamza.
“How is it that Nigeria is different from Nigeria of two years ago? Because we that are living in Nigeria, when it comes to discrimination, when it comes to persecution of Christians, we are still feeling it. And we are still experiencing it. How is it that Antony Blinken has not had any contact with us.”He has not met us and asked us questions. We have not interacted and just of a sudden we hear that Nigeria has been delisted.
I think that this is really disheartening and all Christians in Nigeria are feeling very bad about it so we want to know … they can’t just delist without explaining. If they have statistics, we want to hear. But as far as we are concerned here now in Nigeria, the persecution is more intense now than ever.”
His comments were aired during an event with the Religious Freedom Institute but were initially made in November, according to the organization. “It is difficult to find any family that has not lost at least one person,” Mamza said.
Last year, former President Trump’s State Department designated Nigeria as a country of “particular concern” as it encountered rampant violence from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.
Last month, the Biden administration removed the “particular concern” designation just before Secretary Blinken made a diplomatic visit to the African nation.
A State Department official said Blinken had “determined that the state of religious freedom in Nigeria did not meet the legal threshold to justify Nigeria’s continued designation as a country of particular concern.”
The department pointed to provisions within the International Religious Freedom Act, but declined to specify how it no longer met that legal threshold.
“Pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended (IRF Act), the secretary designates countries that have engaged in or tolerated ‘particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ as ‘countries of particular concern’ (CPCs).”
“The IRF Act defines particularly severe violations as ‘systematic, ongoing egregious violations of religious freedom,’ including violations such as: (1) torture; (2) prolonged detention without charges; (3) forced disappearance; or (4) other flagrant denial of life, liberty or security of persons.”