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Muslim, Christian groups differ over U.S.’ inclusion of Nigeria on watchlist

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The Nasrul-Lahi-I-Fatih Society (NASFAT) has decried the United States (U.S.) Government’s inclusion of Nigeria on its Special Watch List of countries encouraging ‘severe violations of religious freedom’.

National Publicity Secretary of NASFAT, Alhaji Akeem Yusuf, made its position known yesterday in Lagos.

Yusuf said the society drew the U.S. Government’s attention to the narrative of Nigerians who have been enjoying religious freedom, as enshrined in the country’s constitution.

“NASFAT cited its recent 5th Biennial Conference with the theme, “Peaceful Coexistence: Panacea for Unity, Growth and Development,” which hosted a Catholic Priest as one of the panelists and walk for peace and harmony with other religious adherents.

“NASFAT recall that it had organised an international conference on peaceful co-existence among tribes and religions in Nigeria at Abuja which the U.S. supported,” he said.

Yusuf said NASFAT, however, urged the Federal Government to conduct its affairs transparently based on the rule of law and within the ambits of the Nigerian constitution and address its response with facts, stressing the sovereignty of Nigeria and the supremacy of the nation’s constitution and Sharia legislation.

But the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, Nigeria Christian Graduates Fellowship, Southern Kaduna Christian Elders Forum, Emmanuel Ogebe and 18 others, have applauded the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and the U.S. government for placing Nigeria on its watch list for religious persecution.

In their letter, the groups asked the U.S. government to fully designate Nigeria as a country of Particular Concern (CPC) due to its inability to end insecurity and the existential threats Christians face in the country.

They maintained that Christians in the Northern part of the country were targeted for violence on account of their faith and social identity, ethnicity, gender, occupation and issues of land ownership.

Specifically, the coalition recalled how two Reverend Fathers, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha were murdered along with 17 other worshippers at St. Ignatius Parish in Mbalom, Benue State on April 24, 2018.

“While we commend the placing of Nigeria on the watch list, we submit that Nigeria is eminently qualified to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

“Our assessment of the report, which recommended that the U.S. designates Nigeria a full CPC, has again shown the need for more thorough reporting, which might have otherwise convinced you of the gravity of the persecution of Christians in Nigeria,” the coalition added.


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