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US removes Nigeria from list of ‘religious freedom violators’

The United States government has removed Nigeria from the list of countries blacklisted for “engaging in violation of religious freedom”.

Recall that in December 2020, the US had listed Nigeria among countries blacklisted for “violating religious freedom”.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, announced 10 countries “of particular concern”, with Nigeria now missing from the list.

The statement reads in part: “The United States will not waver in its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country. In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs.

“This Administration is committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violators and abusers of this human right.

“Each year the Secretary of State has the responsibility to identify governments and non-state actors, who, because of their religious freedom violations, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act.

“I am designating Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

“I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”

“Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

“The challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched. They exist in every country. They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo. They require the international community’s urgent attention.”

Blinken added that the US government remains committed to ensuring that countries ensure that abuses on the basis of religion are discouraged.

“We will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices, and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses.

“The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe,” he added.

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Chuka Francis

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